Question about green card application / legal procedures in general
Hi everyone! I know that there are some lawyers here so I thought it might be a good place to ask this question. Here goes: I'm an expat living and working in the US on a visa, and my employer just told me he can sponsor a green card for me. There are a bunch of fees, some of them to be paid by the employer, the rest (the bulk in fact) by either employer or employee and my boss wants me to pay the latter. I'm fine with paying. However, my boss refuses to use my immigration lawyer to handle the process even though I'm paying the fees. He wants me to use his lawyer, won't even give me the latter's contact information, and basically has not provided me with any information about the application despite repeated requests. All he's told me is a very vague, "oh it costs x grand + fees, should take a year or two". I asked him to ask his lawyer to send a contract detailing the fees, which services she will provide in exchange and in what time frame. Just so that I can have legal recourse to protect the thousands of dollars I'm paying in case his lawyer steals or misuses my money! But my boss is not cooperating.
My question is: He cannot legally withhold this information from me, right? The lawyer is obligated to draft a contract for me since she's undertaking the procedure in my name, no? How can they ask me to just hand over thousands of dollars on good faith that they will carry out the application properly? He says he doesn't want to call the lawyer too much because she charges for the calls. How can she charge for a call if the purpose of the call is to ask her for information which she should have provided us anyway?
Basically I'm worried that my boss is trying to drag the application procedure out as long as possible to keep me working at his crappy company for as long as possible I've wanted a green card for a very long time but now I'm so disappointed because the whole thing is developing in a way which really makes me doubt my boss's good faith and/or that he and the lawyer will rip me off. Somebody told me I can hire a lawyer of my own who can act as a counsel and check up on my boss's lawyer for me, since she's carrying out the procedure in my name - is that true?
Any advice is appreciated.
First off, I recommend you do not pay any fees unless you have an itemized invoice in your hands. The invoice should include all the contact information.
Second, do you have the attorney's name? Or do you just know the attorney is female (you mentioned "she")? If you have her name, you can research her through the state licensing board.
I do know her name and I found her website... but I'm baffled at the fact that my boss wouldn't even provide that when I asked. Well, not baffled, more like super suspicious of his intentions. And I don't see why he's being so reluctant to get me an itemized invoice like you mentioned, unless he has shady motives.
Originally Posted by Rogue
- Rep Power
Whatever you do, don't hand over any $$ to this employer. Any monetary transactions that take place should be between you and whichever lawyer winds up handling this. This situation stinks, like your employer is going to use you to make a quick buck.
I'm not personally familiar with the process, but it sounds like your employer is offering to seek an employment-based Green Card. It is my understanding that usually, in such instances, the employer is the one seeking the immigration status and pays the bills. In such instances, the employer would probably be the "client" and would have the right to choose the attorney.
It seems very odd for you to be the one to pay the attorneys' fees, but not have any right to contact the attorney or otherwise be involved in the selection. From an ethical standpoint, I would assume the attorney has some obligations to the employee, but also to the employer, creating some type of joint representation. There are different factors that would be examined in deciding if an attorney-client relationship exists, but paying the attorneys' fees is a significant factor in that analysis. It seems odd that you would be expected to pay a lump sum for attorneys' fees without ever signing a retainer agreement or something that points out the possibility of conflicts with your employer.
The joint representation can be very problematic if, for example, the employee reveals to the attorney that he or she doesn't intend to stay long with the employer. (The attorney may have to reveal that to the employer.) What also can be tricky is that, in some cases, if an employee gets an employment-based Green Card, he or she is expected to remain working for the employer for some period of time. Sometimes, if the employee leaves employment, the employer will try to recover the cost of the Green Card application (assuming the employer paid the costs). Also, employees who leave shortly after receiving the Green Card may be suspected by immigration officials of using fraudulent means to obtain the Green Card, which can affect an attempt to become a citizen.
I would recommend that you contact the American Immigration Lawyers Association and see if they have any resources that can help you figure out what your rights are. Your immigration attorney may also be able to help you figure this out.
I was under that impression too, but I've consulted two other lawyers and a bunch of friends who also have green cards, and they all said that it's totally legit if the employee pays those specific fees. But you're right that in that circumstance, I should be able to exert more control over the situation. Right now they're just expecting me to hand over thousands of dollars on good faith with no guarantees whatsoever and that is so, so sketchy
Originally Posted by reckless
My husband's employer paid all fees - so we didn't see the contract.
However, we did see the final application, since we have to sign it - or sgn that the lawyer can sign or something. It would be strange if you didn't see the final application.
Taking 1-2 years is not unheard of, unfortunatly.
Wow. I had written an email to my boss explaining why I'm insisting on a contract, basically saying that I'm legally entitled to this information but have not been provided it, and also that I want legal protection to my money, and that surely the lawyer will not find this unusual. I asked him specifically to contact the lawyer or to let me contact her. In his response, which leaves me speechless, he has made no moves to contact the lawyer, says that he finds my request unusual, and he thinks there shouldn't be a problem cos the company's worked with her for a decade with no contract, but that he can forward me the information she sent him (so once again, I'm not allowed to contact the lawyer).
Excuse my French, but WTF?? He finds it unusual that I want to know all the information about an expensive process whose outcome will shape my whole future????? He is fine with handing over thousands of dollars to a lawyer without a contract????? I am so frustrated right now I just wanna march in there and yell at him. Talk about abusing your power and your leverage, what an asshole.
I smell a rat! He can't tell you which lawyer to use, the lawyer should represent you and your best interests, and if that conflicts with the company, they should not act for you.
Originally Posted by Ajax
I don't know about the US since I'm based in the UK but over here lawyers are legally obliged to enter into an engagement letter with their clients that sets out the contract bewteen you and your lawyer, including the rates they charge, a specific breakdown of the work they have been instructed to carry out. They always specify who can give instructions to the lawyers, who's liable for the bills etc.
I would not part with any money until you have a contract with the lawyer, and I'd go as far as to say you select the lawyer you want to use. If you are paying, it's your choice. If your employer is choosing which lawyer then the employer should pay.
If you have the attorney's name and her contact information from her website, I don't see why you can't attempt to contact her directly, even without your employer's permission. Also, I would definitely check her out with the state licensing board to make sure there have been no complaints about her.
- Rep Power
Trust your gut. You don't feel comfortable handing over all that money without any contract -- don't do it.
I would agree to your employer's terms (no direct contact with the lawyer, etc.) only if he was the one footing the (entire) bill.
It's also strange that in the US someone is insisting on doing things like that without any contracts. Is the company you're working at an established, reputable business? Your boss' behavior is weird.
I don't think I would do it if I were you. If they're legit and they could really get you the green card, you might only end up overpaying (slightly to horribly). If they're not legit, you might end up without the green card and without the money.
antmanb, in the case of the green card, apparently it is possible for the lawyer to represent both employer and employee if the employee is paying the fees. I got retainer agreements from two other lawyers and both state that they will represent us equally and inform both parties in case of potential conflicts of interest.
Rogue, I could definitely contact the lawyer myself. But that'd be going behind my boss's back and I don't want to give him any reasons to reproach me or to withdraw his sponsorship offer.
WindSpirit, my company is legit, it's existed for a long time and I've worked here for five years now. I should say it's legit on the surface, maybe they're doing something that's not above-board and that's why they're being so sketchy about the green card. The company has to provide tax returns for the application. I guess it could be that their tax returns are not on the up-and-up and the lawyer has agreed to camouflage this or something.
Basically, my boss is withholding information which I am legally entitled to. Whether he thinks my asking for this information is unusual shouldn't matter and I shouldn't even have to write a him long emails to justify why I want this information, isn't that correct? He or his lawyer should provide the information, and the fact that they are withholding it totally makes me doubt their good faith.
Can anybody suggest where I can obtain info about my legal rights in such a situation? Better Business Bureau maybe?
You should be able to contact the state or local bar association. They may have someone you can speak with.
You also could go to your boss and say that you are confused by the situation. You understand he wants to help and you understand he has his attorney, but he also should understand that the attorney is representing you as well as the company. Therefore, he should recognize that you want to be comfortable with the people representing you. Since you are being asked to pay a significant amount of money to the attorney, your boss should be sympathetic to the idea that you would like to know where that money is going.