While I was in Juarez with a client, I came across another young man who had been in Juarez for over two months waiting for a visa. I thought that was odd, as with the new provisional waiver process for Mexican family-based immigrants, it generally should only take a few weeks. I talked to him and asked him about his case. Apparently he had a problem with the medical exam and they asked him to do some additional testing which delayed his visa.
I asked him about his immigration history and his family. He told me that he had been married before, and several years ago his prior wife had filed an I-130 petition for him. From what he told me, it was clear that he was grandfathered under 245(i) based on his prior petition. This was a very important fact that he did not understand or appreciate, as will be illustrated below.
I asked him who assisted him with his immigration paperwork. He told me that it was an office who did taxes, and that an attorney was not involved.
I asked him this because since he was protected under 245(i) with a I-130 petition filed on or before April 30, 2001, it appeared he was eligible to remain in the United States and adjust status, instead of leaving the United States to process through the consulate. I have not yet come across a client who would not be better off adjusting status within the United States rather than leaving the United States to process through the consulate.
Adjustment of status is a much quicker process. For example, right now in the Salt Lake City area, it is taking about 3 to 5 months for a one-step adjustment of status. Consular process is a much more lengthy process. The first step in that process is the I-130, and recently the processing time for that application was 9 months. Then comes the rest of the process which is several months. Even as adjustment of status begins to take longer due to a change in administrations, there are still advantages to having an attorney.
With an adjustment of status, the attorney can accompany the client throughout pretty much the entire process. Attorneys are not permitted inside the Juarez consulate with their clients. Thus the clients are on their own.
An adjustment of status normally does not trigger a waiver requirement. The filing fee for a 601 waiver is currently over $600. The attorneys fees for drafting the waiver are much more. This waiver is generally unnecessary in an adjustment of status process.
This young man ended up paying to a non-lawyer in fees and filing fees more than he would have paid a reputable lawyer to adjust his status in the United States! He would not have lost two months of work, and would have saved money, using an informed and competent attorney. Beware of going to offices that simply prepare forms, and are not equipped to make legal assessments. Visiting a lawyer will actually save you money and time and potential heartache when you factor in the errors made by non-attorneys.