There are many elements to consider when searching for an immigration advisor. Before even asking yourself this question, it is necessary to fully-understand the specifics of your own immigration needs, personal circumstances and overall immigration goals. Do you even need to hire an immigration lawyer? Where can you find that "perfect" advisor?
Overall, just getting started and finding the right immigration support can be one of the most challenging and time-consuming aspects of getting a visa. It is also one of the most critical early-stage decisions, and will inevitably influence your global mobility processes in the future.
This article, sourced from decades of global migration experience and written by immigration experts, helps distill some of the main questions and considerations when getting started.
Do I need an Immigration Advisor to get a Visa?
This is a very fundamental, yet relevant question. Do I really need an immigration advisor to help me obtain a visa? It depends. First it is important to understand what is meant by "Immigration Advisor". For purposes of this article we refer to "Advisors" as licensed practitioners. For the most part, globally, these are immigration lawyers. While there are some exceptions, and you may be able to receive core visa support from professionals that are specifically licensed to provide this service, such as a Gyōsei shoshi in Japan, it is best to commence your search for a licensed professional -- i.e. immigration lawyers and immigration attorneys.
What are Relocation Agents and Should I Hire One?
During your search you may come across a variety of professional services for relocation and immigration. Understanding how to distinguish these, and fully understand the underlying services being provided is important. While we will not get into great detail in this article there are many countries (i.e. Vietnam, India, China, Russia, Nigeria) where relocation professionals (i.e. relocation agents) are common. These are generally unlicensed individuals or agencies that provide a variety of relocation services. Unlike immigration lawyers or law-firms, agents or agencies will typically "outsource" the legal work to a variety of professional contractors. This is not uncommon practice, and there are some valuable "on the ground" services that agents can provide (language support, administrative services, relocation planning, etc.), but use caution and do your homework when selecting/working with a relocation agent.
Processing a Visa Yourself or Working with an Immigration Lawyer
When deciding whether to manage a visa-filing yourself or retain an immigration lawyer there are several important questions you should address:
Short v. Long-Term Visas. While visa categories differ globally there are some universal trends when it comes to the duration of stay and your purposes of travel into another country.
- Visas for Travel, Tourism, Vacation, and other temporary purposes. If you are looking to travel into another country for purposes related to vacation, tourism or short-term business, you may be able to manage the visa application process yourself. Or, there may not even be a visa process required (i.e. visa-free travel -- ESTA, Schengen-Region, TN for Canadians). Also known as reciprocity, each country maintains a degree of diplomatic relations with other countries and permits short-term travel and stays without a laborious visa processes. Even if a tourist visa is required, many countries have simplified this process online, so having an immigration lawyer to support you may not always be necessary.
- Visas for Business, Employment, Investment, Residency, and Family. If your immigration goals contain more layers of complexity or consider "moving" to another country, it is best to categorize your immigration goals as more long-term. Even if you are only looking to visit a country for a temporary period for a certain purpose ( i.e. assessing an investment, surveying a property, business meetings) and have intent to return to your country, it is best to consider this as something more than just traveling for vacation. Why? Because this visit may be influential when choosing other viable visa options in the future. Or there may be practical considerations during this visit. For example, many countries and banking institutions require you to be physically present to open a bank account or sign for corporate formation documents.
While there are certainly exceptions (as discussed below), if your visit is more than purely vacation or tourism it would be wise to at least consult with an immigration advisor.
What is Your Nationality? What Passport(s) do You Hold?
As mentioned above, geopolitics define "reciprocity" amongst nations. In other words, not all countries are treated equally amongst one another when it comes to visa processing and the pathways available to each nationality. For example, if you hold a passport from Singapore v. Iraq, there are notable travel restrictions. Beyond travel restrictions, there are significant challenges to receiving even the simplest forms of visas (i.e tourism) for many nationalities.
Nations that maintain significant populations (i.e. China, India, Vietnam) will find that there are limitations on the issuance of visas per country. Furthermore, there are tangible administrative and processing backlogs within the Embassies and Consulates that can make the application processes lengthy.
Individuals from countries that are politically unstable due to civil unrest and other macro-economic and societal factors will generally find added layers of complexity when attempting to obtain a visa. This is true for short-term visas (i.e. tourism) as well as long-term visas (i.e. permanent residency). Simply put, the passport you hold has significant impact on the complexities of your visa application.
Your Individual Background will have an Impact on Your Visa Application.
Ultimately, visas can only be obtained through the respective Embassy or Consulate for the destination country. This inevitably involves an adjudication of your individual application. This means that a Consular officer will be reading through your documents and overall submission to make a determination of whether or not to issue you a visa. Therefore, your visa application is considered in isolation of all other factors. This is critical for a number of reasons:
- Demonstrating "ties" to your home Country. For many temporary visa categories it is necessary to convince a Consular officer that you maintain a connection with your home country. Specifically, that you demonstrate meaningful ties to your native country and intend to return after your visit/stay to your destination country. This can be proven in a variety of ways, including proof of residence, employment/business obligations, and family roots.
- Round-Trip Itinerary & Invitation Letters. Depending on your travel purposes, it may be important to substantiate your submission with documents that provide clarity to an officer for the purpose of your trip. This can include your overall itinerary, proof of accommodations, signed invitation letters from citizens of that country and more.
- Personal Finances, Criminal Background and Overall Accuracy of your Application. There are several critical elements that an officer reviewing your visa submission will consider. Overall, they may ask and flag any issues that provide evidence you are: (a) seeking a visa with fraudulent intent; (b) misrepresenting your identity; (c) generate national security concerns; or (d) are factually inaccurate.
Therefore, when asking the question --- Do I need an immigration attorney? -- it is absolutely necessary to consider the context of your own, individual situation. Even for a simple tourist visa there are numerous factors that can complicate an application. And having negative immigration history will only complicate future attempts to receive a visa for yourself and family.
What to Consider When Finding an Immigration Lawyer
In this article we provide an overview of some of the major considerations when searching for an immigration advisor. Some of these may seem obvious, but it is worth emphasizing in order to know you're on the right path.
What are your immigration objectives?
Understanding your immigration goals are important to narrowing down the search for an immigration lawyer. Immigration, while a specific niche in the overall legal services industry, is also a very broad term. From refugee law to investor-based visas, the regulations and requirements within immigration categories demand even further specialisation for immigration practitioners.
If you are looking for an immigration lawyer, you may find that there are a range of immigration professionals. Some may come from larger general practices, where you will find a full-scope of legal services being provided to clients. On the other side of the spectrum, you may encounter "solo-practitioners", that have their own legal practice and specialize in one area of law. There are advantages and disadvantages to each form of practice, and therefore, understanding your specific immigration needs makes this keyword search even more significant. Below, we breakdown some of these overarching considerations:
Choosing a Law Firm and Lawyer for Immigration Purposes. For the most part, the legal practice requires lawyers to operate within a firm. So even if a lawyer is "solo", they will still have a firm to operate within. When deciding who to represent you through the visa-process, it is necessary to understand the levels and scope of service you will receive.
- Full-Service Law Firms. For many law firms, immigration services may be just one part of the overall practice. This can be advantageous for those who may need other cross-border services that are related to immigration. Some examples may include: incorporation, tax advice, corporate and contractual work, real-estate investments, employment contracts, and more. Being able to have these services provided "under one roof" is usually convenient for individuals who find the right trusted-advisor. Furthermore, full-service law firms tend be larger with more resources -- so if you are looking to collaborate with a law firm that can support multiple visa needs, or advise on cross-border operations and transactional work for your company, it might be better to engage firms that provides a range of services.
- Immigration-Focused Law Firms and Lawyers. As mentioned above, the legal services industry is far-reaching. Engaging a law firm and lawyer that focuses specifically on immigration matters can have substantial benefits, as you have comfort in knowing that their services and expertise does not blend into other areas. Furthermore, there are core-areas of practice within immigration law. For example, some immigration lawyers may focus on family-visa matters vs. business-visa matters. Some may focus on working solely with start-ups and entrepreneurs for investor-based visas. Some may focus on specific industry-sectors, like the technology-sector, or work only with a specific nationality and have valuable experience filing visas in that respective Embassy. Being able to further filter and drill-down your search based on these immigration keywords and pathways will be instrumental to ultimately finding the perfect immigration advisor.
Where Are You Immigrating? What's your Destination?
A seemingly obvious way to focus your search for an immigration lawyer will be based on your destination. Yet, this is only obvious if you know your destination.
Nowadays, this question might not always be so obvious. In fact, recent studies demonstrate that migration patterns have shifted dramatically in the last five-years, and individuals and families are now more open to comparing and deciding on a destinations based on various parameters such as quality of life, passport strength, economic opportunities, and more. This is particularly true for digital nomads, retirees & pensioners, as well as mid-level professionals who do not need to rely on a local economy for employment.
So, if you are comparing destinations, and trying to get a big-picture idea of where you want to emigrate, you may need to consult with several immigration lawyers along the way. While rare, there are certainly a growing amount of reputable immigration law firms that have a multinational presence, and can provide you with resources to make this decision. However, it is important to take into consideration your personal objectives -- as many of these multinational law firms and global mobility providers tend to cater to high-net worth individuals or companies.
Therefore, if you are comparing destinations for immigration, it is important to know where that immigration lawyer focuses his/her practice and if you find a trusted advisor, ask if they have references within other countries of interest.
What Are Your Purposes for immigrating?
As emphasized throughout this article, understanding the reason(s) and objectives for immigrating are critical in finding the perfect advisor. Someone immigrating for humanitarian purposes will need a fully-qualified refugee and asylum lawyer. Those seeking to obtain work-authorization and have an employer sponsor will want to engage a practitioner that has experience working with individuals and employers on employer-based visas. Individuals purchasing property, starting or investing into a business will likely want to find an immigration lawyer that has proven experience with investor and start-up based visas. The list goes on, but immigration laws and regulations for obtaining a specific visa are nuanced. Finding an immigration lawyer that has this specific expertise, and proven success with previous clients as part of their practice is valuable.
Therefore, it is essential to target your keyword search and find immigration lawyers that showcase a core-area of practice that matches your needs.
Where Can I Search for Immigration Advisors
There is no shortage of channels to find an immigration advisor. A simple google-search will generally get you going. There are also various country-specific lawyer associations that provide a directory of licensed lawyers with their general contact details. You may have personal references from friends or family that have used a particular advisor or firm -- so this can be helpful if you have similar situations and immigration goals.
Overall, there is not one, exact formula for finding and engaging the perfect advisor. However, we do hope that this article has provided some context for getting started.
Using Relocate to Find the Perfect Immigration Advisor
Relocate is an independent marketplace for global migration. Through our platform you can dig-deeper into core-topics about relocation; read timely articles related to immigration written by the experts; and browse, connect and get answers from qualified, licensed immigration advisors....all in one place.
Get Started. Get Going. Transcend Borders.