May 13, 2013


Questions & Answers

Thousands of students, families, and employers in the U.S. will hire an immigration attorney this upcoming year but many will devote more time researching the latest tech-gadget purchase than spending time to find a qualified immigration attorney. Although there are no guarantees that your case will be without hurdles, you can improve your odds of success by choosing a competent immigration attorney.  We strongly recommend that you consider the following questions of your prospective attorney before hiring and placing your future in his or her hands.


How do I increase my chances of getting the right help?

Your odds are increased by choosing an Immigration Attorney that is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law. Four states (California, Florida, North Carolina and Texas) make it easy for you to select an immigration attorney. Board certified means he or she has been designated as an expert in his or her field. Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law in Texas means he or she has at least five years of experience in the field, has received favorable ratings by judges and other Board Certified Attorneys and has passed a rigorous examination. That is usually an excellent indicator of quality.

There are plenty of “jack of all trades” lawyers who add immigration law to his or her list of business, family, criminal, etc., so that he or she can increase their client base but further dilute their expertise. There are also many lawyers who claim to be experts in immigration law but who have little experience or very bad records.   

You should choose a lawyer that focus on your needs and gives you advice that is understandable and realistic. Your lawyer should inform you of any obstacles or constraints prior to accepting your case in an honest and open fashion. At Tidwell, Swaim & Associates (TSA), we do not accept cases unless there is a clear legal option available which gives us a chance to win. Strategies are always discussed in detail, in advance with a full explanation of the options, risks and chances of success.


My Lawyer is part of American Immigration Lawyers’ Association (AILA); does that make him or her competent?

No, there are no entrance requirements to join AILA for an attorney. All that is required is paying the monetary dues. In fact, AILA sponsors many seminars or conferences which are directed at “teaching” immigration law to a novice. 


How come some lawyer cost significantly less than others?

Unsuspecting clients, who are drawn by advertising and low pricing offered during the initial consultations to “new immigration lawyers” who lack proper training and experience.  If a client is basing his or her choice of attorney solely on cost they are asking for problems. Attorneys who quote a low fee compared to others have often underestimated what needs to be done and the amount of time it will take to accomplish a successful outcome. Besides, there are many qualified, experienced immigration attorneys at many different price levels.  Furthermore, what difference does cost mean when the case is so badly handled that even paying more money to fix it won’t work? Follow the old adage:  you get what you pay for. This may sound like a justification for high fees but really is true when it comes to almost any profession! Lawyers, Doctors, Accountants, etc. Expertise and experience cost more because they produce winning cases.


Why are there so many immigration attorneys out there?

Immigration attorneys rarely run into any difficulty compared to attorneys who specialize in another field, such as criminal attorneys. Immigrants rarely take any action against these attorneys so the risk to the attorney for incompetence is minimal. The clients will mostly be out of status and will certainly not pursue any action against the attorney that ruins their lives compared to a criminal attorney.

To verify your attorney’s background and credentials in Texas – go to


The lawyer speaks my language, should I hire him or her?

Having someone who speaks your native language and shares your culture can be reassuring. Unfortunately, comfort does not guarantee quality. Too many individuals let the ethnicity of their attorneys excessively influence their hiring choices. Don’t fall for comfort; go for experience and quality. Experience trumps all.


Some attorneys claim they have internal connections with USCIS and/or ICE, is that true?

Generally no. If an attorney claims some type of “connection” will help your case, do not believe it. On the other hand, over the past thirty-five years we have developed relationships which may be useful but we NEVER claim this at the start of a case.


How come some lawyers offer fast processing times?

Ethical attorneys always give estimates based on experience. No guarantees should ever be made by a lawyer.


Last but not least, be sure to ask your prospective attorney the following questions:

–        How many cases like mine have you handled?

–        What is your success rate?

–        How long have you practiced immigration law?

–        How do you stay current/expert on all the areas you practice in?

–        Do you have a written contract?


At TSA, we can proudly and confidently answer any of the questions above. If you would like to arrange a consultation with our Board Certified Managing Partner, David Swaim, please call us at 972.385.7900 or email us at