How to choose an immigration attorney?

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how to choose an immigration attorney

     Once you decide to consult with an immigration attorney, you will face a challenge of selecting an attorney who is right for you.

     If you are not living in a big city, there may be few immigration attorneys to choose from. You may go for a phone consultation with an immigration attorney if you just have a few questions and your case is not pending in immigration court.

     You may send your papers by e-mail to an immigration attorney in San Francisco for review. Immigration attorneys in San Francisco give consultations by phone or skype, accept credit card payments over the phone.

Stay away from notarios and do not hire a person who practices law without a license

abogados de inmigracion en San Francisco en contra de fraude

     Please keep in mind that not all the people who will try to help you with immigration issues are in fact immigration attorneys. There is a lot of immigration fraud in the Russian and Hispanic communities in big cities all over the United States.

     Notarios, paralegals, and translators are not immigration attorneys, they are not qualified to give immigration advice. At the very beginning ask the person if he or she is a member of the Bar, and get the immigration attorney’s Bar number. Check the status of the attorney’s license on the website of the State Bar Association that issued the license. The website of California Bar Association is
     If you care about the outcome of your case, do not want to lose your money and get a denial, avoid unqualified legal aid. You can learn about immigration fraud and how not to become a victim on the USCIS website here
     Listen to advice of friends and family, look up immigration attorneys in yellow pages or online. Try to find an immigration attorney who speaks your language. This will make communication with the immigration attorney easier, you will not need an interpreter, the facts and details of your case will not get lost because of errors in interpretation.
     If you are a Russian speaker, find an immigration attorney who speaks Russian. However, some Russian speaking immigration attorneys may take advantage of your poor knowledge of English and may quote you unreasonably high. Get quotes from several Russian-speaking attorneys in the area or get a telephonic consultation with a Russian-speaking immigration attorney in another city or state.
     Visit the website of the immigration attorney, read about his or her experience and education. Check out the immigration attorney’s record of disciplinary actions on the website of your State Bar Association. The website of California Bar Association is

Education of an immigration attorney

educacion de abogado de inmigracion en San Francisco

     Immigration attorney Lena Korial-Yonan in her article 6 Tips on How to Choose the Best US Immigration Lawyer for Your Case says that you should pay attention primarily to the immigration attorney’s education. She goes on to say “How can you tell the best from the average immigration lawyer? You must first look at their education. Specifically, you need to find out when comparing lawyers which law school he or she graduated from and whether they had any special accomplishments in law school.”

     Immigration attorney Lena Korial-Yonan argues that it is better to deal with an immigration attorney who graduated from a top law school. It is harder to get into a top law school and, consequently, the top students get selected. Lena Korial-Yonan does not advise hiring immigration attorneys who graduated from private law schools with low ranking.

     One can compare U.S. law schools by their ranking in U.S. NewsU.S. News updates the rankings every year. Law schools constantly compete for better U.S. News rankings. The U.S. News 2015 ranking of selected Northern California Law Schools is provided in the table below.

The name of law school: ranking:
Stanford 2
Berkeley Law 8
UC Davis School of Law 31
UC Hastings School of Law 59
Santa Clara Law School 94
University of San Francisco 138
McGeorge Law School no ranking
Golden Gate University no ranking
San Francisco Law School no ranking


State Bar License of your immigration attorney

immigration attorney California state bar license     After law students graduate from law school they take a licensing exam also called Bar exam. The requirements and difficulty of the bar exam differ from state to state. It is believed that the California bar exam is the hardest in the United States. In July of 2012 only 55% of students passed California bar exam, while in Missouri 90% of exam takers passed. The ranking of states’ bar exams by difficulty can be found here.

     Immigration laws in the United States are federal. It is widely believed that an attorney licensed in one state can practice immigration law in another state. An attorney licensed in Missouri, for example, where it is relatively easy to pass the bar exam will argue that he may practice immigration law in California. In reality it us unlawful and unethical to practice immigration law in California without the California state bar license. CAL. BUS. & PROF. CODE § 6125(2008); Charles H. Kuck & Olesia Gorinshteyn, Immigration Law: Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law in the Context of Supreme Court’s Decision in Sperry v. Florida, 35 WM. MITCHELL L. REV. 340 (2008).

Hire an immigration attorney who received his or her JD in the United States

     Graduating from law school with JD in the United States is not required for becoming an attorney in California. Foreign attorneys who studied abroad may do one year in a U.S. law school, receive an LLM, pass the California bar examination and get their attorney’s license in California. The academic courses in foreign law schools and requirements for graduating differ significantly from those in the United States. In many foreign countries one can practice law with a BA degree. It is best if the attorney you hire has graduated with JD from an American law school and has a license of the state where he practices immigration law.

“about us” page on the website of an immigration attorney

     Not only the name of law school matters but also what classes the immigration attorney took, what immigration experience he had in law school and after graduation. You will find this information on the websites of immigration attorneys. Look for an immigration attorney who worked at several immigration law firms. Such immigration attorney is more likely to have worked with a number of experienced immigration attorneys. He or she is likely to have more experience than an immigration attorney who opened his own office after graduation.

Experience of an immigration attorney

     Pay close attention to the immigration attorney’s experience, how long he or she has practiced immigration law, and whether the immigration attorney specializes in immigration law or has a general practice. An immigration attorney who practices solely immigration law will have more experience in the field of immigration than the one who has a general practice.


     Immigration attorneys may specialize in employment immigration or family immigration. Determine what kind of immigration attorney you are looking for. Make sure that your immigration attorney has court experience because many immigration attorneys merely fill out applications and do not represent immigrants in removal proceedings.


     Be skeptical about attorney reviews online. Prospective clients bring immigration cases that are not equally grantable. Often times immigrants whose cases an immigration attorney wins do not spend their time on writing online reviews. They, however, recommend such immigration attorney to their friends and family. Immigrants whose case was lost tend to blame the immigration attorney and leave him bad reviews.

The first consultation with an immigration attorney

     After you select a few immigration attorneys whose experience and education suits you, give them a call, ask how much they will charge for your case. Schedule an initial consultation and select the immigration attorney who makes the best impression.

     It is likely that you will have to pay several immigration attorneys for the initial consultation. Do not save money on that, it’s better to spend some money at the beginning and meet the immigration attorney who will be honest with you and will win your case rather than hiring the first immigration attorney you meet and losing your case.

     Do not trust those who guarantee the outcome. Immigration attorney does not adjudicate the case. Moreover, it is unethical for an immigration attorney to guarantee the outcome.

Get a second opinion

     If you have doubts about your present immigration attorney, get a second opinion from another immigration attorney. It is up to you to decide how to proceed with your case. You have a right to fire your immigration attorney at any time and hire another immigration attorney.

About the author

Andrei Romanenko, abogado de inmigracion en San Francisco     Andrei Romanenko is a licensed attorney in the United States, a member of the State Bar of California. He is licensed to practice law in the State of California and can practice immigration law in all fifty states.


     Andrei received his Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD) degree from Berkeley Law, one of the most prestigious law schools in the United States. At Berkeley Law Andrei majored in immigration and business law and was awarded a certificate of successful completion of the business law program.

     Andrei graduated with honors from San Francisco State University and received a BA degree in Japanese language and literature. Prior to that, he completed four academic years at the Minsk State Linguistic University in Belarus, interpreters’ department, where he studied Japanese, English, Russian, and Polish. Andrei completed a summer program of Polish language studies at Maria Curie-Sklodowska University in Lublin, Poland.


     Andrei Romanenko works as an immigration attorney, defends immigrants in removal proceedings in immigration court, represents clients at USCIS hearings, prepares cases for consular processing.

     Andrei is active in the Russian community in San Francisco and represents a large number of Russian-speaking immigrants. Previously Andrei worked as an associate immigration attorney at the Law Offices of Kerosky Purves & Bogue, at the Law Offices of Robert David Baker and the Law Offices of Dominic Capeci.

     In law school, Andrei worked as an Assistant Managing Editor of the Berkeley Journal of International Law, interned with East Bay Community Law Center, Asian Law Caucus, and California Asylum Representation Clinic. During his summer vacations, he interned with Immigrant Legal Resource Center and Contra Costa County Public Defender’s Office.


     Andrei enjoys learning foreign languages and loves to travel. He speaks the following six languages: Belarusian, Russian, English, Japanese, Spanish, and Polish. He is now learning Portuguese.



2 thoughts on “How to choose an immigration attorney?

  • Татьяна

    Могу ли я с отказом о беженство в Германии попасть в США?

    • Здравствуйте, нужно созваниваться и обсуждать ваши факты


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