What’s the Cost? Video 1: Three Categories

Here it is: the first video in “What’s the Cost?” — the first video series presented by IMI Law. Stay informed, and stay tuned for the next video. Give the Facebook page a like so you don’t miss it!

Ask any lawyer a broad question and there’s a good chance the answer will be “it depends.” In immigration law, with the question “what’s the cost,” we’re not safe from the same unhelpful answer. Since it all depends, we’ll review the general answers, one topic per video. 

Welcome to the first video in the series “What’s the Cost?”

When we talk about the cost of an immigration case, there are three categories of costs: attorneys fees, for those hiring an attorney; government fees, mostly in the form of filing fees; and the general category of miscellaneous expenses. 

First, attorneys fees. These vary greatly, depending on what part of the country (or world) you’re in, whether you live in a city like Los Angeles or in a more rural area. It depends on the type of case you have and on how quickly or how slowly that particular process moves. 

It varies depending on the type of lawyer you have as well. That is, if you are represented by a nonprofit organization, it is likely your case will be taken free of charge, known as pro bono. If you’re represented by a private firm, it is very unlikely that your case will be taken pro bono, and even within the category of private practice, the costs can vary greatly as well. It is not a bad idea to speak with more than one immigration attorney before hiring an attorney. On the one hand, this allows you to see who you feel most comfortable with, and it also allows you to get a sense of how much it will cost to have that office represent you. 

Now, the second category: government fees. Again, this primarily consists of filing fees. Filing fees vary depending on the type of application you want to file, and you can expect them to increase over time. This is important to note because perhaps you know one person who paid a certain amount five years ago, and now you’re being told that the same application costs more. There are few waivers available for some applications, but not all of them, and in certain cases it might negatively impact your case to request these waivers. 

The third category is of miscellaneous expenses. This includes transportation costs to get to the lawyers office, or to the immigration office. It also includes the cost to send documents, to make photocopies, to request copies of official documents, to translate documents, to notarize documents, to buy Money Orders or certified checks, to send money, etc. etc.

In many immigration processes, you will need to get a medical exam, and this price varies greatly depending on the country in which you are located. For people who are in the United States, you already know that everything that has to do with physical health is expensive.

This category also includes expenses such as buying formal clothes to wear to an interview, as well as the economic effect of requesting a day off from work to be able to attend to the different aspects of your case. Certain aspects of the process require you to bring your own interpreter, and using a family member is often prohibited. In these cases there are many people who end up having to hire an interpreter, and that represents an additional expense. 

At the end of the day, when we talk about how much an immigration case costs, it is not simply a matter of how much the government charges to receive and review the application, nor is it limited to what the lawyer charges, nor to what is explicitly enumerated in the contract. There are many additional expenses, several of which can’t always be predicted with precision, and you are in a better position if you anticipate some of these possible expenses.

Thank you for your attention. Send us any questions, and stay tuned for the next video.