The importance of correct legal advice

Recently I came across 3 clients where their lawyers did not advise them correctly and as a result, all of them have suffered severe consequences.

Case number 1, client's EB5 investor's visa had been approved but she needs to wait for the visa number.  She came to the US on B-2 visa last year with her husband and child.  The husband returned to China and she let her child enrolled in a public school.  When her 6 month B-2 stay was about to expire, her lawyer advised her to change to student visa and her child to F-2. her lawyer mailed her change of status application on the day of her I-94 expiration.  USCIS received the application 3 days after the expiration day.  In the meantime, her husband came to the US the second time one day before her I-94 expired.  At the airport, CBP officer found out his child was in a public school.  His visa was cancelled and he was forced to withdraw his application for admission.  Because of the late filing, client's change of status application will most likely be denied(USCIS is likely to deny the change of status anyway because she does not seem a bona fide student as she has been clearly here waiting for the EB5 immigration).  Facing this dire situation, client and her child had to leave the US immediately to avoid unlawful presence in the US, which will further jeopardize their chance to eventually come to the US on EB5 visas.  

Lessen from case number 1:  previous lawyer should not have advised client to stay 6 month on B2 visa, only to file change of status from B2 to F visa on the same day her I-94 expired;  should not suggest client's child to enroll in public school.  

 Case number 2:  Client applied for asylum and while she was waiting for interview, she married a US citizen.  Her previous lawyer knew client had visa fraud issue and waiver would be needed.  However, client did not have a good case for the waiver.  The best option for the client was to continue the asylum case.  However, the lawyer advised the client to withdraw her asylum case and only sought family immigrant visa option.  Now the USCIS denied the waiver and her I-485.  It was clear that client's waiver application is not strong at all.

Lesson from this case:   Client should have been advised the unlikely approval of the waiver and she should keep her asylum case going.

Case number 3: two young children came to the US under B-2 visa.  Their green card father had applied I-130 immigrant visa petition for them but the visa number was not current.  Near the I-94 expiration time, lawyer advised their mother to file change of status from B-2 to F-1; several months later, when their B-2 status expired, USCIS denied their change of status application.  Lawyer then advised them to file motion.  As of today the motion has been pending for more than 18 months.

After they filed the motion, their visa number became current and the lawyer filed I-485 for them.  A year later USCIS denied their I-485 Adjustment of Status application on the ground that when they filed I-485, they did not maintain lawful non-immigrant status.  It is without dispute when they filed I-485 their I-94 expired.  That lawyer mistakenly thought if they had a motion to reconsider a denial would somehow make their status lawful in the US.

Lesson from this case: To file I-485 you must maintain lawful status(except for immediate relatives of US citizen).  If your I-94 expired, even if you filed for extension of stay or change of status, unless your application is approved and you file I-485 before your new status expires, you may not file I-485(another exception is for employment based first to 4th preference cases, you may have less than 6 month "grace period" to file I-485.  An appeal or motion will not save you unless the appeal or motion succeeds.

One of the lawyers in these cases has been practicing immigration law law for close to 30 years.   The other two are relatively new.  

How to prevent something like this happen to you?  1.  Never blindly trust advertisement and make hiring decision on advertisement alone; 2. Always ask questions and compare at least 2 lawyers before you hire a lawyer; 3. While attorney fee is one of the very important factors, you must know in most cases a cheap or eager lawyer may have compelling reason to be like that:  lack of experience and skills (you may find very good lawyer at low or reasonable price); 4. If someone refers you to a lawyer, you should know how the previous case was handled; if the previous case is similar to yours; 5.  If you are in immigration court proceedings, you need to hire a lawyer with immigration court experiences.  Many immigration lawyers never went to court and you don't want your case to be their first one.