If you’re looking to help a family member immigrate to the United States, you know it’s a stressful and sometimes costly process. That’s one of the reasons Texas Legal decided to add an immigration benefit to our list of covered issues for our premium plans. If you have a spouse, child, parent or sibling who would like to immigrate to the U.S., here’s how Texas Legal may be able to help.
Texas Legal’s immigration benefit covers legal fees for a I-130, the Petition for Alien Relative, for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Who is eligible for the I-130 and why might you need a lawyer’s help? We talked to Austin immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle, one of Texas Legal’s network attorneys, to get you the best answers:
Who is eligible for an I-130?
To submit an I-130, you yourself have to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Permanent residents are people who have permission to live and work in the U.S., so they are required to pay taxes and spend the majority of their time in this country, but they cannot vote and can be deported if they commit a crime.
U.S. citizens and permanent residents can apply to have a family member who is currently living in another country join them here. Eligible family members include spouses, children, step-children, parents and siblings. If you are a citizen or permanent resident, you can use an I-130 to get permission for one of these family members to join you here in the U.S..
How do I go about submitting the I-130 to help my loved one immigrate? Do I need a lawyer?
One of the most misleading parts of the I-130 is how short the form is, says Daniella Lyttle.
“You think it’s just a two-page form that says, ‘Give me your name and social security number, and that’s it,’, but it’s deceptive,” says Lyttle. “The truth about immigration is that the petitions require more information than that, but they don’t tell you the format that it has to be submitted.”
People who submit the I-130 on their own, without a lawyer’s help, have a high rate of rejection, Lyttle says, because they don’t realize that there’s a lot more work to be done than just filling out the form. And since you have to pay $420 to submit the form, doing it on your own is akin to throwing that money in the garbage can. Most likely, your petition will be rejected, and you’ll have no idea why.
People who want to submit an I-130 petition really need a lawyer, Lyttle says.
“It’s not the type of process is where you can fill out the paperwork and that’s it. Preparing the case, collecting the evidence, reviewing the evidence making sure it’s in order, correct, indexed prepared in a way – that’s an immigration attorney’s job,” says Lyttle.
It’s also important to have an attorney’s advice on how to make your best case and avoid common mistakes. For example, says Lyttle, it’s a good idea not to travel out of the country while your petition is being processed.
“The role of the attorney is to advise the client while the case is pending so that they don’t make any mistakes that suddenly make them ineligible,” says Lyttle.
In addition, a good immigration attorney helps you prepare for the I-130 interview.
“The forms don’t prepare you for the interview, and guess what happens if you give the wrong answer,” says Lyttle. “In immigration, the consequences of making a mistake equals the denial of your case, which means you don’t get to be with your loved one.”
A rejection of an I-130 means starting the process over or appealing the decision, which can mean months and months of time, greater levels of anxiety and more legal fees.
“When you hire an attorney after you’ve had a denial, my rate is typically double what it would have been. Now, I have to fix the mess, and some messes can’t be fixed,” says Lyttle.
How Can Texas Legal Help Me With My I-130?
A Texas Legal membership to one of our premium plans has an immigration benefit which covers legal fees for the I-130 petition. You can choose an attorney near you who specializes in immigration law and get your legal fees covered, as long as you are eligible for the petition.
Being a Texas Legal member can save you thousands on the legal fees for the I-130. The petition process for the I-130 can cost on average between $1600 and $4000, depending on the complexity of the case. By contrast, a Texas Legal membership costs between $195 and $312 a year, depending on how you pay and what plan you are eligible for. Even for the simplest I-130 petition and the most expensive plan, that’s a savings of almost $1300.
The immigration benefit is only available to the named policy holder, meaning that if you have a family plan, your spouse and children are not able to use the plan to help file an I-130 for one of their immediate relatives. However, they are able to get their own plan and obtain benefits that way.
It’s important to take advantage of Texas Legal’s immigration benefit the first time you file an I-130 petition. The benefit does not cover an I-130 appeal, and the cost for legal services for an appeal range from $2,500 to $5,000, depending on the grounds for denial. Don’t go it alone and then seek a lawyer’s help. Get Texas Legal and have an attorney on your side the first time.
How Do I Join Texas Legal?
Texas Legal’s benefits are available to any resident of Texas. If you work for an employer or belong to an association that offers Texas Legal as a benefit, you can take advantage of our lowest group rates. But Texas Legal is also available as an independent plan with very affordable rates for families and individuals.Our immigration benefit is only available under our premium plans, the Preferred or Secure plan.
In addition to immigration coverage, you’ll also receive coverage for over 35 other legal services, as well as free financial counseling and identity theft monitoring and protection. That’s an incredible deal from a trustworthy nonprofit available only to Texans. Sign up today and begin taking advantage of these great benefits, knowing you have a lawyer on your side to help you with your legal needs.