Know Your Rights
When you need help with an immigration matter, you do not have the absolute right to a lawyer at government expense. If you can afford a private attorney, many are available to assist you. If you cannot afford a private attorney, there are many nonprofit agencies with experienced immigration attorneys who may be able to help you for free or for low fees. Nonprofit agencies can also choose to apply for “recognition” by the Board of Immigration Appeals. This recognition indicates that the agency is competent to handle immigration matters. A recognized agency can request that non-attorneys on their staff be “accredited” to represent individuals (in the same way that an attorney can) before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service [USCIS]. See links below for finding reliable legal help.
Do not use “immigration consultants” or “notarios.” Typically they are not lawyers and are breaking the law by taking money to do immigration paperwork. Again, many nonprofit agencies will help you properly prepare and file immigration applications on your own, if there are no legal complications with the case. If there are any legal complications, you should have an experienced immigration attorney, or an accredited representative from a recognized agency, represent you. Your representative must file a “Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative” form (Form G-28) with any application or petition.
Find competent legal help
Get a list of free or low-fee legal resources with immigration expertise. (If you don't see your state listed, try looking under a neighboring state. For example Maine and New Hampshire resources are listed under Massachusetts.)
A broader list of nonprofit organizations with immigration expertise - although not all accredited. (This is an interactive map that works using Internet Explorer but not with a Firefox browser.)
List of accredited organizations and individuals who handle immigration cases.
For a list of attorneys who have been suspended or expelled and should not be hired to do an immigration case.
Go here for information about how to protect yourself from unscrupulous “immigration consultants” or notarios.
Updated July 2018, May 2020