I really think that Express Entry is simple enough for the average person to navigate, and that you are better off just doing it without an immigration attorney. However, if you have a more complicated case (maybe you have some deportations, or a record of some sort), I can understand wanting to use a lawyer. I have received a few emails from you inquiring about the lawyers we used, and for a recommendation. Unfortunately, we had a pretty bad experience with our firm, so I have no recommendations to give. What I can help you with is a good list of not-so-obvious questions I wished I would have asked before engaging a law firm.
1. What are the fees and what do they cover?
OK, maybe this one is pretty obvious, but there is a lot to this question . You want to find out if you will be charged a flat fee or an hourly rate. You also want to find out exactly what you are paying for. In our case, they charged us $1,500 each to submit our online profile. Once we got picked, we had to pay an additional $1,500 each for them to submit our application for Permanent Residence. There is also usually a consulting fee that ranges from $150 to $200, and you will need to pay this up-front just to talk them. This to me is what made shopping around for an attorney very hard, since every time you want to talk to a new firm you have to shell out money. On the plus side, usually firms will put the consulting fee towards your total bill if you do decide to sign on with them.
2. Who will be my main contact at your firm?
When you are having your consultation it is important to remember that you are not actually speaking to an attorney, but rather a sort of sales person. They will tell you that once you become a client you will be assigned a “team” along with a “legal representative”. Make sure you ask what “legal representative” means — one would think it means an attorney, but often times it doesn’t. Also, in our case we mostly had to deal with “legal assistants”, which are interns that haven’t even graduated a 4 year college yet… Needless to say, they were not the most professional. So make sure you understand exactly what people you will be dealing with on a day to day basis.
3. What happens if my attorney or “legal representative” leaves the firm midway though my application?
This happened to us twice, and not once were we informed. Instead we just spent days emailing unattended mailboxes until we would get fed up and call the main number to complain. So find out if the firm you are considering has a formal process to address this.
4. What happens if the firm misses your application deadline (assuming it is not your fault)?
This almost happened to us, even though they had all the documents to submit weeks before the deadline. So make sure that if this does happen you are covered.
These are all the questions I have for now, but if I think of any others I will add them later. They might not all be applicable to the firm you choose, but it probably doesn’t hurt to ask. Based on our experience, I would also suggest maybe going with a smaller firm. We chose one of the biggest and highest rated firms we could find, thinking that it would translate into quality service. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the opposite. At some point, I looked them up on Glassdoor, and it sounds like people hate working there, and they have very high turnover (which explains why we had so many people work on our application). So anyhow, if I had to do it again (assuming I used a lawyer, which I wouldn’t) I would try a smaller firm, somewhere where my case actually matters to them.
Finally, if you used a lawyer for your immigration process and had a good experience, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment below so that others may benefit from it. Thank you in advance!