Beware of Unauthorized Immigration Law Services
The process of obtaining residency in the U.S. is quite complicated. Yet immigrants face many other problems, in addition to the denial of grant of status. Whether you are seeking permanent or temporary residency in the U.S., you need the service of a Columbus immigration attorney to help you with the process.
Immigrants face many challenges. Getting residency is one of them. Other problems may include getting used to a new climate. There might also be a language barrier, making it difficult to communicate in daily life. In short, there are many differences between a foreigner’s homeland and its civic traditions, and life here in the U.S. These differences have made many immigrants fall victim to unscrupulous personalities who prey on everyday people. Some might even claim to be a Columbus immigration attorney, usually promising legal and immigration assistance. But usually, they engage in the unauthorized practice of law.
In this post, we will teach you the warning signs to look for when choosing the person to trust with your immigration process and how to avoid the unauthorized practice of immigration law. You need to protect your money, your personal information, and your time. The knowledgeable attorneys at Sam Shihab & Associates can provide you with the peace of mind knowing your case is in trustworthy hands.
Practice of Law
During the practice of law, a qualified and licensed attorney gives you all the professional services she has in her capacity. These include providing legal advice, preparing legal documents for her client, and representing her client in court during proceedings. If you meet a Columbus immigration attorney, her professional services will be related to the immigration process and issues attorneys help you to resolve.
At times, the services provided by an agent (real estate, banking, etc.) can appear similar to the services provided by an attorney. But despite the similarities, agents must not be confused with attorneys.
What is “Unauthorized Practice of Law?”
In each state of the U.S., there are legal requirements for anyone who wants to practice law. The process looks like this: 1) the lawyer must have completed law school, 2) been successful in the bar exam, and 3) collected a license to practice from the attorney-licensing organization of her state. It is illegal to practice law without successfully meeting all three requirements. If one of the requirements is missing and the person practices law, this is “unauthorized practice of law.”
The Supreme Court in Ohio has the capability and jurisdiction to identify when a person is practicing illegally and is guilty of “unauthorized practice of law.” On this Supreme Court’s website, immigrants can see two cases illustrating the danger of being a victim of such a practice.
In 2012, a man from Sierra Leone wanted to become a citizen of the U.S., so he asked for assistance from a company in Columbus, Ohio named Immigration Associates, LLC. The company promised to assist in every way possible for a certain fee which was paid. None of the owners of the organization were lawyers. In the end, the filing made on behalf of the man was full of errors.
In 2014, a woman was caught distributing business cards, telling people around the Cincinnati area that she was an immigration lawyer. She also claimed she had contacts with high-level government officials who could help her “client” become a citizen. It was discovered that she was never a lawyer. The Supreme Court in Ohio ended up levying heavy fines on her.
How to Avoid and Report the Unauthorized Practice of Law
There are many reason why some immigrants trust people with no legal accreditation, yet who represent themselves as immigration attorneys. Usually, the fraudulent organization or person seems to be interested in fighting for the rights of immigrants. They may even understand the language of the immigrant, and thus seem legitimate to unsuspecting clients.
Before working with an attorney, you should contact the local bar association of your city or town. There, you can find qualified and accredited immigration lawyers.
Alternatively, to find out if the immigration lawyer you found is truly licensed to practice, you can check their name on the attorney directory of the Supreme Court in Ohio. Those who are licensed are on the list on this website. If their name is not on the list, it means the person should not be practicing law in Ohio.
If you’ve already begun working with a person who is not a licensed attorney, you can file a grievance with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. The instruction for the process of filing such grievances is available in the following languages: Russian, English, Spanish, French, Somali, Chinese, and Arabic.
Consequences for the Unauthorized Practice of Law
It is a crime to act as, or perform the duties of, a licensed Columbus immigration attorney when you do not meet the qualifications stated above. The punishment for this crime depends on the laws of the state in which it occurs. The punishment in New York might be different than in Ohio. But generally, each state treats each case as a felony or a misdemeanor.
Make Sure Your Lawyer Has Experience
It is important that your immigration attorney has at least some, or better yet a lot of experience helping people with immigration issues. Contact us today to learn how Sam Shihab & Associates can help you make the immigration process easier.