This article covers who can represent you in an immigration case and things to consider before hiring someone to represent you.
Topics on this page:
- Will I be provided with representation?
- Can I represent myself?
- Who can represent me?
- What is an immigration consultant?
- What to consider before hiring representation.
Will I be provided with representation?
While you have the right to be represented in an immigration case, the government will not provide you with representation. If you want a lawyer or accredited representative, you must find one on your own and pay for any of the costs. You should do this as soon as possible.
Can I represent myself?
You have the right to represent yourself. But immigration cases can be complex. The Department of Justice (DOJ) strongly recommends that you get representation. The immigration court will provide you with a list of pro bono (free) legal service providers in your area. The list includes information on non-profit organizations, referral services, and attorneys willing to provide pro bono legal services to individuals in immigration court. You can also access a complete list of all pro bono legal service providers nationwide on the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) website.
If you cannot get representation, or chose to represent yourself, you should use the Immigration Court Self-Help Legal Resource Center to familiarize yourself with the immigration system and understand your rights. Additional information is available at the Immigration Court Online Resource.
Who can represent me?
The law allows you to be represented in an immigration case by a licensed attorney, an accredited representative, a law student (or recent law school graduate) or a “reputable individual.” Notarios, document preparers, immigration consultants, and travel agents are NOT allowed to give you ANY legal advice.
Attorneys licensed to practice law in any U.S. state can represent clients in immigration cases. A lawyer helps you fill out immigration applications, such as an application for asylum. A lawyer may also help collect evidence, prepare you to testify in court, and present your case to the immigration judge. An attorney must be registered with the EOIR in order to appear before the immigration court.
To search for an Immigration attorney, select one of the links below:
- American Immigration Lawyers Association, 1-800-954-0254
- People's Law Library Legal Services Directory
An accredited representative is someone who has a certificate from the DOJ to practice law only in the U.S. immigration system. An accredited representative receives training in immigration law and works for an organization that is officially recognized and authorized by the DOJ to provide legal advice. Like a lawyer, an accredited representative helps you fill out immigration applications, collect evidence, and present your case to the immigration judge.
Law Student or Recent Law School Graduate
Law students and law school graduates who are not yet admitted to practice law may represent you before the immigration court if certain conditions are met and the appearance is approved by the immigration judge. Generally, these are students participating in a legal aid program or clinic by a law school or non-profit organization. Students may only appear under the direct supervision of an EOIR-registered attorney or accredited representative and cannot receive payment for their work.
In some situations, you may be represented in your immigration case by an individual with whom you have a preexisting relationship. The individual must be considered of good moral character and cannot receive payment for their appearance. A reputable individual might be a relative, neighbor, clergy, business associate, or friend.
Read the regulations: Code of Federal Regulations, Title 8, Chapter V. Subchapter B, § 1292.1
What is an immigration consultant?
An “immigration consultant” means a person that provides non-legal advice, guidance, information, or services to a client on an immigration matter for a fee.
An immigration consultant may NOT:
1. Provide any legal advice or legal services;
2. Make misrepresentations or false statements to influence, persuade, or encourage a client to use their services;
3. Make statements that he or she can or will obtain special favors from or has special influence with the government;
4. Collect any fees or other compensation for services not yet performed;
5. Refuse to return documents supplied by, prepared by, or paid for by a client, at the client's request; or
6. Represent, advertise, or communicate in any manner that he or she possesses titles or credentials that would qualify him or her to provide legal advice or legal services.
An immigration consultant must clearly state in a visible location at each place of business where he or she provides services, a sign that states “I am not an attorney licensed to practice law in Maryland, and may not provide legal forms, provide legal advice, or provide legal services”.
What to consider before hiring representation
Before hiring someone to represent you, be sure to understand the services they can provide. Always verify their credentials. Make sure the person you are speaking to during your consultation is a licensed attorney or DOJ accredited representative.
An attorney may only represent you if they are a member in good standing of a bar association. To confirm whether an attorney is in good standing in Maryland or has been disciplined for breaking the rules, visit the Maryland Attorney Listing or call the Client Protection Fund. To see if an attorney is licensed in a different state, see the American Bar Association's bar directory.
- Maryland Client Protection Fund, 410-630-8140
- Maryland Attorney Listing
- American Bar Association's Bar Directory
An accredited representative may only represent you if they have an active DOJ accreditation and they provide services through an organization with permission to practice immigration law (a “Recognized Organization”). You can review the Accredited Representative Roster and the Recognized Organization Roster to confirm a representative’s and organization’s status.
Additionally, accredited representatives can be either fully or partially accredited. A partially accredited representative may only represent individuals before Department of Homeland Security (DHS). A fully accredited representative may represent individuals before both DHS and EOIR, which includes the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals. Make sure the accredited represented can appear where your immigration case takes place.
Some attorneys and Accredited Representatives have been suspended or disbarred from practice before the immigration courts. You should review the List of Disciplined Practitioners to determine whether a practitioner is eligible to represent you.