Immigration Law

Andy:

Welcome to our show, law talk show, especially Agruss Law Firm. Introduce most of the lawyer, the good lawyer, and also we need to general televise to the new audience, new client. Also, we want to explain, what kind law and why should we supposed to know about the law? Please welcome lawyer and Christina and Michael, please say hello to new audience and your clients.

Michael Agruss:

Thanks and thanks for having me on. My name's Mike Agruss, I'm the managing partner at Agruss Law Firm. We handle personal injury and consumer rights. Today we have Christina Coleman joining us to talk about immigration.

Christina Coleman:

Hi, thanks so much for having me on the show today. My name is Christina Coleman and I am an immigration attorney. We focus exclusively on US immigration matters. I'm the owner and founder of RC Immigration located here in Chicago. We help individuals and companies navigate the challenges of the US immigration system, whether it be getting a temporary work visa for themselves or their employers... Employees, sorry. Getting a green card or filing for citizenship.

Michael Agruss:

Great. Congratulations, you said it's an anniversary?

Christina Coleman:

Yes, it's seven years ago today that we opened our firm.

Michael Agruss:

Awesome.

Christina Coleman:

Thank you.

Michael Agruss:

Yeah, congrats. Thank you.

Andy:

[foreign language 00:01:40]

Michael Agruss:

Great.

Christina, I don't know a lot about immigration and that's why you're here, you're our expert. The little bit, I do know having spoken with you, it seems like it's similar in the sense where we handle personal injury and that's just like an umbrella. And then there's a bazillion other categories that fall under personal injury, whether it's car accidents, medical malpractice, nursing, home abuse, dog bites, product liability. There's a lot going on. To me, it seems like immigration is the same way where you handle certain types of cases. And there are certain types of cases that you may refer out to other people to handle. So if you could let the viewers know what type of immigration cases you handle and what type of immigration cases you may refer out to one of your colleagues.

Christina Coleman:

Sure, thanks Mike. You're right. There is a huge spectrum of different types of immigration matters. We focus chiefly on the employment side and some individual cases. We do a lot of temporary work visas, including the H-1B, the L-1. We do a lot of employment based green cards. We also do a lot of family based green cards, whether it's an individual marrying their spouse or US citizen filing for their brother. Then we do a lot of naturalization, that's another word for citizenship cases. The cases that we don't handle, which are highly specialized and usually require court appearances, and really practitioners who handle these cases, focus on them. And that is asylum detention and removal, otherwise known as deportation, deport and removal are the same. Those are the types of cases that we would refer out to a practitioner who focuses in that area.

Michael Agruss:

Great. You know, other lawyers though, who handle those types of cases. So if someone were to come to you with any type of immigration issue, whether you could handle it or not handle it, you would know who to refer them to.

Christina Coleman:

Exactly. We have an excellent network, actually the way that Mike and I met like-minded attorneys who deal with clients a lot and really are just looking out for the best for their clients. We're very lucky to have such amazing colleagues, but I have two in particular who are just fantastic. I went to law school with one of them, so she has my absolute trust. She does the same for me, employment based cases she'll send my way. It really works out very well and we're able to hopefully help everybody get to the attorney that works for them.

Andy:

Great, okay. Well, I had to remember everything, what you just say. Okay, I try my best [foreign language 00:05:01].

Michael Agruss:

That was a lot of information, we went over in the first question. Let's just help our viewers focus on, what your area of expertise would be. Can you give us 3, 4, 5, a handful of things that you primarily focus on.

Christina Coleman:

Sure. Sorry, and I apologize. It's occupational hazard with attorneys, they talk too much.

Michael Agruss:

It's okay [crosstalk 00:07:28]

Andy:

No, we love that because, we need to understand properly from A to Z, right.

Michael Agruss:

Yeah, right. Then we're also translating so our viewers can understand, but if we could just simplify it 3 to 5 things that are your bread and butter.

Christina Coleman:

Yes, sure. Yes. Mainly it's employment based visas. There's a whole range of those H-1Bs particularly are top of mind right now. L-1s, Os, and I can give more details on those perhaps separately, but those temporary work-based visas that you need an employer sponsor for. We also do the green card through employment with the sponsor and then green cards through a family member. Those are the chief ones and filing for citizenship.

Michael Agruss:

Got it. Employment, visas, green cards and for citizenship-

Christina Coleman:

And green cards through a family member.

Michael Agruss:

Perfect, thanks.

Andy:

[foreign language 00:08:26]

Please.

Michael Agruss:

So Christina, let's talk about what is a US visa and what's the process for applying?

Christina Coleman:

Sure. Most individuals are going to need a US visa to enter the United States. Visas are only issued at US embassy's and consulates abroad. You cannot get a visa once you're inside the United States. First you apply abroad for your visa. A lot of temporary visa statuses, you can actually apply directly to the embassy. For example, if you're going to be a student or tourist, you can just apply through the Department of State Website. They're the ones who regulate the embassy's. Others you have to file, first a petition here in the US with USCIS, which is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Agency. They, they regulate immigration inside the United States as part of the department of Homeland security. You have to follow them first. Then you can apply for your visa. Depending on what visa category, there is different process.

Michael Agruss:

Got it. From what it sounds like, that is something you want to take care of before you come to the US, correct?

Christina Coleman:

Yes. There are certain categories you can enter in and then file to maybe extend or change your status. But in general, most people, especially traveling from Asia, are going to need a visa just to get into the country. Yes, you want to plan ahead, especially now with so many backlogs at the embassy's, everything's taking a long time.

Michael Agruss:

When you say plan ahead, to me, this is something that would be very important. What would you tell someone when you say plan ahead? Are we talking three months, six months, a year?

Christina Coleman:

I think it depends on what your goals are when you get here. If you want to be a student, you're going to have to work with the university, you're hoping to attend. They'll help you with the paperwork usually, but you've got to get through their process, get the paperwork from the university and then apply. For an employer, definitely need to plan quite far in advance, for the H-1B, for example, they're only available in a specific time of year, which happens to be next month. So we're right in the thick of it right now. So yes, for most people, it's a lengthy process to get a tourist visa, not so much normally. Unfortunately we're still seeing pandemic level backlogs at most of the embassy's. So even that plan ahead.

Michael Agruss:

Got it.

Andy:

[foreign language 00:12:07]

Please continue.

Michael Agruss:

Sure, thank you.

So Christina, the next thing I want to talk about are the differences between a passport and a visa. Can you tell us what the difference is? If you have an old passport or an old visa, how do you go about getting a new one?

Christina Coleman:

Right. The visa is like your invitation from the Department of State to knock on the door of the US Embassy. You'll also need a passport issued by your home country to travel. Once you have your Vietnamese visa or... Sorry, Vietnamese passport, you would take it with you to the embassy and the Department of State will actually stick, it's a whole sticker page of your passport. That's what you'll present at the border to enter. If you have entered and your visa then expires, but you've been admitted for a longer period, say, then your visa, you can hold, hold on to that. You don't necessarily have to get when you send in your passport to be renewed, for example, you want to make sure you get that old passport back that has the visa stamp in it.

Lots of my clients wind up traveling with two passports because they have a visa that's valid beyond the expiry date of their passport. They have to show they get a renewed passport, but doesn't have a visa in it. They wind up traveling with two. That's totally fine. The main takeaway here, and we can talk about it a little more, is just be aware of when your documents expire. Make sure you make complete copies of everything. If you are going to send your passport away to be renewed, make a full copy of it before you send it. I always put a big pink or brightly colored cover sheet that says, please return old passport contains current US visa, just to make sure you get it back because you can't get a new visa inside the United States. You'd have to go out, visit an embassy abroad or consulate and come back in, so really important.

Michael Agruss:

Got it. It does seem really important. I take it your same advice, give yourself twice as much time as you need, right?

Christina Coleman:

Yes, definitely. Good record keeping.

Andy:

[foreign language 00:15:51]

So this is a very complicated, a bit complicated if you losing or you forget to get the old passport with the visa, you in trouble.

Christina Coleman:

Right. Yeah, so you need to be careful.

Michael Agruss:

Yeah. It seems like there's a lot of moving parts, right. I feel like with our clients, with personal injury cases, I always tell them, even if you don't decide not to hire me, or if it turns out you're not injured or you don't want to pursue a case, at least come to me first. Ask those questions because if you don't, so many things can go wrong that I can't fix later on. It sounds very similar here.

Andy:

Yes. That's true.

[foreign language 00:18:37]

Michael Agruss:

Got it.

I'm going to jump to another question here real quick, because I think the viewers would want to know this and I want to make sure that we've got time to go over this. It's so important, I know in my practice area, and we were just talking out your practice area. About coming to an attorney first, to ask questions and figure things out. It's much easier to figure things out than to try to fix things, right. How does your law firm work as far as consultations? What do you charge if someone, just wants to come to you and say, "Hey, here's the issue I'm having, what's the process like at your firm?" So our viewers know you, if they do want to reach out to you what the process is and what it costs.

Christina Coleman:

Sure, yes. First, just a quick note that immigration law is federal, which means it's the same through the whole country. We do have clients in New York, Florida, we were just talking about California, good old Illinois, but doesn't matter where you are in the states. I'm authorized to handle immigration cases nationwide. We charge a flat fee for most cases, we find our clients prefer it. They like to know at the outset, what kind of commitment they're looking at. Most cases are done on a flat fee basis. We do charge for consultations, but if you engage us on the matter, within 30 day, we would apply that to your legal fee. That's how we handle setting up consultations and engagements at our office.

Michael Agruss:

Got it. I know we could go through a list of all of the flat fees and I'm sure there's different costs based on how much time you have to spend and all of that. What is the initial consultation at your firm?

Christina Coleman:

So the initial consultation is $150.

Michael Agruss:

Perfect. Someone can pay you for the initial consultation and assuming they hire you within the next month, you would just apply that to the flat fee?

Christina Coleman:

Absolutely, yes.

Michael Agruss:

Yeah. That's good to know. I would imagine Andy, the viewers would want to know that, as well.

Andy:

Right, okay. [foreign language 00:21:09].

Please continue.

Michael Agruss:

Andy, for the viewers, I think something that Christina brought up, that's really important that I think we should highlight for the people who are watching. Is one, her initial consultation of $150 is extremely reasonable. When you're talking, especially when you're dealing with lawyers, things can get very expensive. No, I think that's good for the viewers to know it's extremely reasonable fee to charge. Then I think also something that's very important that I have found that not all immigration attorneys do, which I think is great as you charge people a flat fee. I think for the viewers, they would at least know, okay, this is what the consultation will cost.. This is what the flat fee is going to cost. I'm sure there're circumstances where maybe the services expand from the initial contract and whatever, but in general, I think it's really good for your clients and the viewers should know, Hey, there's a flat fee. This is what it's going to cost. This is what I'm going to do for you and there aren't any surprises.

Andy:

Right.

[foreign language 00:23:52]

Yes, thank you.

Michael Agruss:

Perfect.

Christina, we've been talking about immigration status. You were explaining with some of your beginning answers.

Can you tell the viewers what immigration status means and how you maintain it?

Christina Coleman:

Sure. When a foreign national enters the United States, there are two statuses you can enter in. One is immigrant and one is non-immigrant. If you're entering with an immigrant visa, it means you're entering already in permanent resident status. That's the same as having a green card. And we can talk a little bit about how you get approved for basically a green card abroad, typically through a family based petition. Or you're entering as a, non-immigrant such as a temporary worker, student, tourist, all of those types. As we mentioned, sometimes you can enter in one status and then either extend that status or change your status to another other status. But you want to make sure that you're always keeping track of yet another piece of paper that I will mention. But I'm going to pause here, to let Andy catch up. But it's called a I-994, and we'll talk about that maybe next. I should explain that as well.

Michael Agruss:

Okay, sounds good.

Andy:

Well, thanks so much. [foreign language 00:27:23]

Michael Agruss:

Christina, you had mentioned an I-94 at the tail end. Your last answer. So can you tell us what an I-94 is and why is it so important?

Christina Coleman:

Sure. In addition to keeping track of your visa and your passport, when you present your at the airport or the land border, or wherever you happen to be entering the country. The admitting officer will stamp your passport, but also create what's called a form I-94 and that's an arrival departure record. In the old days, they used to give you a little white card that they stapled into your passport, so you could actually look at it right away. Now its an electronic record that you have to retrieve yourself to verify. I always strongly recommend that you verify your I-94 every single time you enter the US.

Andy:

Okay, thanks. [foreign language 00:29:44]

Michael Agruss:

Sure. It looks like we have time for one more question and we didn't get through everything we wanted to. Certainly come back on the show and we'll get through the rest of our questions, but lastly, for the viewers. Once they contact you and you're having that consultation with them, if you can give the viewers some advice on what information, what documents, what do you want at that initial consultation to make things as efficient as possible?

Christina Coleman:

Sure, yeah. Well, I totally do understand that the visa process, the immigration system can be frustrating and challenging. I grew up in Canada and I actually went through the whole process myself. I came to the United States as an international student with an F-1 and I got an H-1B worker visa went through the permanent resident process and got my green card and then ultimately became a US citizen.

It's a long process, and I do understand the anxiety that it creates for a lot of people. The best thing you can do for yourself and for the immigration attorney you might be visiting is to keep good records. I know I mentioned that earlier, but print out your I-94, make cop visa of all your visas, all your passports, any documentation you either get from USCIS or any agency like the Department of State. Also anything you file. If you file something with the government yourself, keep a full copy. Don't just plan that you could put it back together later. Please go to FedEx or Staples and make a photocopy and bring that when you come to visit me, that is something that I strongly recommend every talk I do. I always, I always give that suggestions. We went through so fast, it was such a pleasure to talk with you both. We'll have to do this again.

Andy:

Yeah, sure.

Christina Coleman:

That was great.

Andy:

[Foreign language 00:33:08] Yes. My like visa, citizen information, make a copy.

Excuse me, I need to clear my throat. Okay. Anyway, it's my pleasure to have you in our shows and we hope will see you next time. There's a lot of question we need to talk about, immigration. Because it's very frustrating as you mentioned, right. Again, thank to Mike. This is the Law [inaudible 00:35:12]. I just hope every viewers, all and new customer they can share and they can introduce to Christina law firm as well immigration LLC law firm. Our goal just help, the people if they need something or they want to understand about the immigration law. Please contact Agruss and RRC Immigration Law Firm. Before we say goodbye again, we do appreciate your time. We welcome you to our show and please say goodbye to your audience.

Christina Coleman:

Thanks so much for having us, I really appreciate. A valiant job, translating all of our attorney ramblings. Thank you so much.

Michael Agruss:

Totally, Andy makes us look great, we appreciate it. Christina, thanks for coming on, this was awesome. We'll for sure set up another time so we can get through the rest of our questions, because this is really important stuff that you talked about today.

Christina Coleman:

Great.

Michael Agruss:

So thank you.

Christina Coleman:

Thank you.

Andy:

Yeah, thank you Christina, thank you Mike. [foreign language 00:36:16]

Any question, any concern, please call Agruss Law Firm and RCC for immigration law. [foreign language 00:36:32]

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