Below please find answers to clients’ most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about collaborating with our law firm.
- 1. What is the purpose of the representation agreement?
- 2. What is the case plan? What if it needs to be changed?
- 3. What work does the lawyer do on my case? What about the case manager?
- 4. What can I do with the client portal?
- 5. What’s the best way to format documents provided to the firm?
- 6. How can I convert documents to PDF format and edit them?
- 7. How quickly will the firm respond to my calls and other communications?
- 8. Are my communications with the firm confidential?
- 9. How long will the firm need to review my documents?
- 10. Why is it important to tell the truth to our law firm and the government?
- 11. Can the firm guarantee my case will be approved?
- 12. Should I contact the government directly about my case?
- 13. Will immigration officials monitor my social media?
- 14. Should I notify the firm if my address, phone number, or other relevant details change?
- 15. I’m a busy executive. Can the firm work with my executive assistant?
- 16. How should I provide feedback to the firm about the quality of services I’ve received?
- 17. Does the law firm appreciate client referrals?
1. What is the purpose of the representation agreement?
Our firm will enter into a written representation agreement with you explaining the specific legal matters you are hiring our law firm to work on, the legal fees, and our responsibilities as your lawyer.
2. What is the case plan? What if it needs to be changed?
For each case, our firm will draft a plan designed to meet your goals. The case plan is a roadmap for the case, covering topics such as:
- Case schedule
- Advice about the requirements and procedures for the case
- Key issues in the case and strategy for each issue
- List of documents and other evidence needed in the case
- List of stakeholders and contacts in the case
- Budget for expenses (for example, translations and government filing fees)
We will share the plan with you and fine tune it through discussion with you. President Eisenhower famously said something like, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” Planning is “everything” because it’s intended to bring clarity and allows us to work together towards your stated goals. But plans are “nothing” because we need to be flexible enough to change them to accommodate changes in the facts, the law, or your goals. Please feel free to discuss proposed changes with us.
3. What work does the lawyer do on my case? What about the case manager?
The core team for each case is a lawyer and a case manager. The lawyer has overall responsibility for the case. The lawyer is responsible for working with the clients to make the case plan (and later change it if necessary). The lawyer will make sure that all packets filed with the government are complete and as persuasive as possible. The lawyer is responsible for representing clients in government hearings, where allowed. And the lawyer is responsible for preparing clients and witnesses to testify at hearings. The case manager is responsible for working under the lawyer’s supervision and according to the case plan to collect information from the client, to gather and review the clients’ documents, prepare application forms and materials, and advise clients regarding routine application procedures.
4. What can I do with the client portal?
Our firm keeps digital files. Our client portal makes it simple to securely and confidentially share documents and communications with the firm over the internet. Ask us for a login invitation if you haven’t received one yet.
You can upload documents for the firm to review or download documents prepared by the firm.
You and the firm can send and receive secure messages to each other.
5. What’s the best way to format documents provided to the firm?
- PDF: This is our preferred format for most documents (e.g., passports, marriage and birth certificates, etc.). For each document, please combine all pages into a single PDF.
- Microsoft Word (DOCX): For declarations and other text documents that you draft and send to us for editing.
6. How can I convert documents to PDF format and edit them?
Low-Tech Solution: Bring your paper documents to a local copy shop. They can scan and save documents to PDF format.
Adobe Acrobat (Mac or Windows): This industry-standard, paid software can convert documents to PDF format and edit PDFs.
Other Software: Other free or commonly available software has limited PDF-related features:
|Convert documents to PDF||Commenting on PDF documents||Save filled PDF forms||Scan paper documents to PDF format||Add your signature||Edit text or images||Merge/split documents, rearrange pages|
|Adobe Acrobat Reader DC (free: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android): Download it from the Adobe website, Google Play, or the Apple store.||No||Yes||Yes||Yes (mobile device version only)||Yes||No||No|
|Google Chrome (free: Windows, Mac)||Webpages, images||No||Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Microsoft Office (paid: Windows, Mac)||Webpages, images, Office documents||No||Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Preview (included with Mac OSX)||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Add text and shapes only||Yes|
|Mail (included with iOS)||No||No||No||No||Yes||Add text and drawing markups only||No|
|PDFsam Basic (free: Windows, Mac)||No||No||No||No||No||No||Yes|
7. How quickly will the firm respond to my calls and other communications?
Our policy is to communicate clearly, concisely, and on a timely basis. To be responsive to clients. If we can’t take your call immediately, you can expect that a telephone message left in the morning will be returned by the end of the business day, or one left in the afternoon will be returned by the following business morning. The same is true for other types of communication. You can also make an appointment to discuss your case face-to-face or over the phone, Skype, FaceTime, or WeChat call.
8. Are my communications with the firm confidential?
Our law firm has a legal responsibility to preserve the confidentiality of each client’s communications. We will not disclose your confidences to the government or anyone else without your permission. There are a few very narrow exceptions to this legal responsibility. See California Rule of Professional Conduct 3-100. Because these exceptions are so narrow, we have never had to disclose a client’s confidences.
9. How long will the firm need to review my documents?
We will review your documents on a rolling basis, so you can provide them in batches rather than waiting until you have all documents. When you have provided all documents we’ve requested, tell us, “my documents are complete.” We’ll reply to let you know how long it will take us to review them. Even if we need to review hundreds of documents, we’ll do so in a week or less.
10. Why is it important to tell the truth to our law firm and the government?
In order for our law firm to be able to give accurate advice to help you reach your goals, we need to know the true facts. This means both the good and the bad. In our years of practicing law, we’ve heard nearly everything. We won’t be surprised, or shocked, or think less of you. But if you give our firm inaccurate information, we will be unable to represent you well, and you’ll have to live with the outcome. So tell us the truth. We will respect your courage and do a better job on your case. The same goes doubly true for what you tell the government. It is a crime to willfully misrepresent relevant facts of your case to the government. It is also a ground of inadmissibility (i.e., a reason to prohibit you permanently from being granted immigration benefits) and a ground of deportability.
11. Can the firm guarantee my case will be approved?
We guarantee that we will advocate zealously on your behalf.
Still, no law firm can guarantee that you will receive a visa or other immigration benefit. Government immigration agencies have the sole power to make such decisions. Nor can any law firm guarantee when the government will decide your case. The government has the power to investigate cases without specific time limits. But the case plan includes a schedule showing the firm’s best timing estimates based on our experience and knowledge of the facts of your case.
We recommend that no client purchase nonrefundable air tickets, make nonrefundable hotel reservations, quit a job, sell real estate, or make any other irrevocable commitments before actually receiving the visa or other immigration benefit.
12. Should I contact the government directly about my case?
From time to time, our firm may need to inquire with the government about your case, such as asking about the case status. It’s important that you not make inquiries on your own without consulting our firm in advance. In the past, a few clients have inadvertently told the agency information that hurt their cases. Also, some government officials who receive multiple inquiries from both a law firm and clients may be annoyed and be unwilling to cooperate. So we ask that you not contact government agencies regarding your case without specifically discussing it first with our firm.
Immigration investigators do sometimes monitor Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networking sites, including foreign language sites, to detect fraud and other ineligibilities in applications and petitions. A government memo describes how an officer can ask to become a “friend” of a social media user, thus gaining access to otherwise restricted content. The memo emphasizes that some users “accept cyber-friends they don’t even know.” See USCIS, Social Networking Sites and Their Importance to Fraud Detection and National Security (released under a Freedom of Information Act request July 20, 2010). Here are examples of how social media may be used by the government against the parties:
- In spousal immigration cases, the government may check social media “to see if petitioners and beneficiaries are in a valid relationship or are attempting to deceive USCIS about their relationship.”
- For employment-based immigration cases, the government may check to see if employees are working in accordance with the terms of their visa. Imagine if Henry, an H-1B visa holder, is directly employed by Company A but assigned to work on a project for Company A’s client, Company B. Henry posts on LinkedIn that he is working at Company B, even though he is supervised and paid by Company A. This could trigger a fraud investigation, as this information appears to contradict the terms of the H-1B. See Maxine D. Bailey, Immigration is Watching, California Lawyer (Dec. 2011).
- For nonimmigrants not authorized to work, the government may search for signs of unauthorized employment.
- For cases where work experience needs to be proved, the government may look for contradictory information.
- For any case, the government may look for any evidence of illegal behavior. For example, a pair of tourists were detained and removed from the U.S. after posting on Twitter they planned to “destroy America,” which apparently the investigator didn’t recognize as British slang meaning they intended to “party hard” during their visit. See Richard Hartley-Parkinson, British Pair Arrested in U.S. on Terror Charges over Twitter Jokes, Mail Online (Jan. 31, 2012).
- For cases where the government has wide discretion (e.g., good moral character for naturalization), even casual remarks could negatively impact the discretionary decision.
What should you do?
- Please review both your own social media history as well as what others have posted about you online.
- Employers should caution employees to make sure their employment information on social media websites is accurate and consistent with petitions they filed with USCIS.
- Let our firm know if any potentially damaging information is found.
- Be cautious about accepting “friends” on any site where you post private information.
- In some cases, it may be helpful to delete potentially harmful posts, or even to delete an account entirely.
14. Should I notify the firm if my address, phone number, or other relevant details change?
Clients should be sure to notify the firm of any change of address. That’s because foreign nationals may be required to notify immigration officials of their current address, and because it may be necessary to notify the government of the new address in order to forward notices regarding a pending case to that address. Similarly, clients shoudl notify our firm about any change in telephone number, email address, marital status, and any other change that may be relevant to the case.
15. I’m a busy executive. Can the firm work with my executive assistant?
Some of our clients are busy executives. We know that your assistant is a key member of your team. And we are happy to collaborate with your assistant on this case, if you request. Please note:
- You should personally review written materials before they are provided to the government. The government will hold you personally responsible for the accuracy and completeness of the information provided in such materials. Failure to provide accurate and complete information is a basis for refusal of a visa or other immigration benefit. The worst case scenario is that you may be permanently barred from receiving immigration benefits if the mateirals include fraudulent statements or willful misrepresentations.
- Our firm will rely on information communicated by your assistant to make strategy decisions and understand your preferences, such as where and when the interview should be scheduled and what your travel itinerary will include. We will also provide your assistant with advice about your case. Make sure to communicate with your assistant about these issues.
- The application for a visa or other immigration benefit may include confidential information, such as your wages, family information, any arrest history, and sensitive ID numbers. Since we cannot anticipate in advance which information if any you may wish to keep confidential, we will presume that if you have asked us to work with your assistant then we can share with your assistant any information about your case. Of course, if there is specific information you want us to keep confidential, we will do so. Please specifically notify us in writing.
16. How should I provide feedback to the firm about the quality of services I’ve received?
Our firm welcomes feedback from clients about the quality of services we have provided. The easiest way to provide feedback is to take a moment to complete our feedback form. In the alternative, feel free to contact your case manager or Gary Chodorow at any time with comments, criticism, or compliments. Your feedback helps us to continuously improve our services.
17. Does the law firm appreciate client referrals?
Yes. Referrals from clients are our main source of new business. We appreciate referrals because it’s been our experience that colleagues, relatives, and friends of our clients make the best clients. By relying on referrals we reduce the expenses and time that we need to devote to marketing, so we can pass on the savings to our clients and devote our time to serving our clients. Referrals also help the people you refer because they get high quality help, they don’t have to go through a trial and error process to find a good immigration attorney, and they don’t risk making a bad choice. Potential clients you refer can use this form to schedule a consultation and can tell us that they were referred by you.