Law Firm FAQs

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Law Firm Information & Policies

Q1. Why do I need to schedule a consultation?

A1. The initial investment in achieving your immigration or citizenship goals in America is for a first meeting with the attorney. We gather and analyze the individual facts of your case.  We also listen to you and your priorities or concerns for family unification, work and travel needs, timing, budget and any cultural needs. We often need to ask many questions and review a number of documents that are just not evident in a short email or phone inquiry. Often we discover something about a person’s immigration history that would change the procedure, strategy, or require a waiver of some sort. Sometimes, people start out wanting one thing and end up needing or wanting something else based on new information they learn from us. We usually spend at least an hour learning all we can about the prospective client’s situation, making a plan, explaining the procedures and estimated timing, what will be required, and answering all of your questions. Sometimes we have to do some additional research after we meet with you the first time.

See our Consultations page to learn more about our consultation options.

Q2. Why should I hire the Law Firm of Bonnie Stern Wasser?

A2. Great question! See a detailed answer here.

Q3. Do you provide a written fee agreement?

A3. Yes, we do! It spells out specifically what we will do for you, what we expect from you, how the fees will be determined and paid, and the estimated costs. We also spell out what is and is not covered by the scope of representation, and other firm policies.

Q. 4. How can I pay and can I make payments?

A. 4. We accept cash, checks drawn on US banks, Visa, Mastercard, Discover card, eCheck or regular check, mobile/text bank transfers (your bank needs to participate in ClearXChange) and wire transfers. Most of our flat fee cases are billed in stages of the case or based on benchmarks or milestones. In some situations where there is a lengthy period between milestones, we may accept installment payments. Payment plans may be more expensive than fees paid up front or at milestones. Hourly billed cases require an initial deposit into our client trust account, and may require monthly payments or periodic replenishment payments to trust. For hourly cases, you will receive monthly invoices detailing work performed.  We will discuss fees and payment plans at your initial consultation, once we know more about your case and have decided what we will do for you. Every case is different and may take different amounts of time.

Q. 5. How does your firm communicate with me?

A. 5. First, we ask you how you want to communicate with us. Email? Phone? In-person? Snail mail? Most of our clients prefer email because it is quicker and more efficient, but we will make accommodations for you. We use an online client portal, MyCase, to facilitate transmission of documents and for efficiency. You can access it from your phone or tablet as well.  How we communicate is up to you, as we know not everyone has access to a computer or the internet or likes to communicate electronically. For out of town clients, we typically use phone or web-based teleconferencing programs and MyCase to speak with you and exchange documents. You always have access to talk with your attorney. It can be more productive if you make lists of your questions.  If you are billed hourly, of course, we are billing for our time regardless of the method of communication.  Once we are retained, we WILL provide you with homework and hope that you will provide us with the information we need as soon as possible.  (See below). If you run in to trouble getting what we need, it is important to let us know right away so that we can discuss alternatives or otherwise help you out. We do charge extra if we have to repeatedly ask you for information.

Q. 6. What do you expect of clients and prospective clients?

A. 6. We will let you know what to bring to the first appointment. You will need to pre-pay your initial consultation investment fee at least 24 hours before the appointment. We expect at least 24 hours notice to cancel or change your appointment as we hold the spot open just for you. We expect you to be truthful and forthcoming at the consultation so that we can come up with the best strategy for your case. The estimated fees and costs that we give you at the consultation will be based on the information we know about at that point in time. Once we begin working on the case, if we learn new or different information that would affect the strategy or process of the case, the fee and cost estimates may change. Assuming you file for an immigration or citizenship benefit, you will sign documents “under penalty of perjury” certifying that you have told the truth. When you hire us, we will expect you to:

  • Keep your contact information up to date with us, including any dependents immigrating with you. Employers need to keep us up to date about document signers and any decision maker’s contact information. We expect you to have voice mail set up on the phone number(s) you provide to us, that you check your emails and snail mailbox if you tell us that is preferred communication method.
  • Notify us promptly of any changes in facts that could affect the outcome of your case, e.g., changes to job duties, location, employer changes; marriages, divorces, births or deaths, and address changes; arrests, citations, trips abroad, etc.
  • Send us documents or information requested as soon as possible. Most of the delays we see are due to clients’ busyness with work, family, travel or other reasons, making it hard for us to do our part without the documents or information we need. If we have to make repeated requests for information, we will charge you.  We are partners in this project and we expect you to be engaged, helpful and interested in your own case.
  • Pay us on time and in full as agreed/requested/invoiced.
  • Show up on time for any appointments, appearances, etc.
  • Ask us to clarify any points or information you do not understand or are unsure about. Open lines of communication are very, very important to our relationship, and we want you to know and understand what is being done for you.
  • Acknowledge our emails/calls or requests so that we know you received them.

Q. 7. What if I cannot afford a lawyer?

A. 7. See our fees and costs page if you would like to consider limited representation or unbundled services.  If you cannot afford a lawyer at all, contact the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.   NWIRP has both BIA accredited representatives and licensed attorneys on staff. However, because they are so busy, you may need to wait awhile. See also the weekly King County Bar Association Neighborhood Immigration Clinic on Wednesday evenings downtown. (Make an appointment with them first.)  (NWIRP generally requires that you visit the KCBA clinic first.) See also the Eastside immigration clinic and the Latino/a Bar Association  weekly clinics. There are other bar association clinics throughout Washington and in most states. See also our links page. Also, there are periodic naturalization and DACA related workshops around the state that might be free. We post these events on our Facebook page. Please follow and share widely! These workshops are great for people with very clean cases (no law enforcement activity, no ICE/CBP encounters, and no other legal issues).

The Washington State Bar Association recently approved a new “low bono” section for people who can pay a minimal to moderate amount of money for a lawyer. This is a new group just getting underway. You will most likely have a very inexperienced but excited new lawyer who can help for little cost. See www.wsba.org.

Please know that the only people allowed to give advice about or make appearances on your behalf (in person, as preparer or as your representative on the forms) either in immigration court or before the DHS agencies, are licensed attorneys, Board of Immigration Appeals “accredited representatives” who work for accredited nonprofit organizations, friends or neighbors who help you without charging a fee, and law students working under supervision of a professor or licensed attorney. See, Find Legal Services. Notarios, immigration assistants, consultants, tax preparers, or other people who do not meet the categories above by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) may not represent you or advise or prepare forms for you other than writing down what you tell them is the information for the form (commonly referred to as scrivener services or translators). See www.stopnotariofraud.org.

Because immigration law is so complicated and more than just “filling out forms,” it is best to deal with someone who has a lot of experience in the field and is licensed or authorized by the BIA to provide advice and assistance. While it may be cheaper to save money by spending little to nothing to hire a “friend,””notario,” or do-it-yourself, as the saying goes, sometimes “you get what you pay for.” In fact, some notarios and consultants charge way more than an attorney would.  A case that is poorly prepared initially can result in drastic consequences or more fees later on to fix the case. At this firm, we are often hired to try to fix DIY cases that became too complicated or were denied.  Beware of scams, and always ask for the credentials or license of the person you want to work with. You can check on attorney status with any state bar association (www.wsba.org here in Washington). Likewise, you should check with the BIA for authorized representatives as well as the list of disciplined attorneys and accredited representatives.

Finally, a word of caution about do-it-yourself online automated form preparing. I have tested a few of these out with sample client facts and have found the results dismaying in terms of the advice given from artificial intelligence bots.  Immigration law or status is not only about the forms.  Selecting the right forms requires knowledge of the law and analysis of your eligibility. The questions on the form have very specific legal meanings beyond the yes/no answers. The evidence submitted in support of the forms can make or break a case. And, finally, there are government adjudicators’ idiosyncrasies who may or may not issue “requests for evidence,” “notices of intent to deny” or denials based on their own bizarre assessment of the the information you provided. This is increasingly common in 2017 with the “new sheriff in town.” Be very, very careful when using these services.  A bad mistake can result in removal or deportation hearings if you don’t know what you are doing. And, don’t forget, all the forms are free on the government websites.

If you still want to DIY, here are Top 10 Tips for Do-it-yourselfers.