Self-Help in Immigration Can Be Tragic

The immigration laws of the United States are very complex and are constantly changing. Recent debate on Capitol Hill Regarding proposed legislation in Congress attests to this fact. With this in mind it always astounds me when I am approached by Filipinos who have utterly destroyed their family’s chances of resettling or obtaining a green card in the United States through their attempts to solve immigration matters “cheaply” through self-help relying on the advice of friends or neighbors.

Let me give you a case in point: A gentleman from the Philippines, came into my office a few weeks ago with a “small problem.” You see, this person had obtained his permanent residence (“green card”) through the petition of his son in 1989. This person had a daughter residing in the Philippines at that time, who was just 15 years of age. Relying on the advice of a “helpful friend” this person decided that he could save himself some money by taking matters into his own hands, and file his own petition with I.N.S. after he was naturalized to obtain a green card for his daughter. Based on this advice he decided to wait until he became naturalized (5 years later), and then file for his children when he became a citizen. Simple right? WRONG!

When this man entered my office, he had already been waiting ten months for his naturalization interview, and could not understand why it was taking so long. I told him that the processing time for citizenship is now over one year in Los Angeles. This person had not filed a petition for his daughter, who incidently will turn 21 years old in just two weeks. The Filipino had been informed that he should first become a citizen then petition for his daughter. This ignorance has cost his daughter any chance of reuniting in the United States through his family petition for the next several years. I told this gentleman if he had filed a petition for his daughter when he was just a permanent resident in 1989, she would have been here already. Now, this person will have to file a petition for his daughter, withdraw his Naturalization Application, and wait at least five years (assuming his daughter has no desire to marry) before she may enter the United States.

The horrible result that happened to this family and perpetual separation of father from daughter could have been avoided at very little expense had this Filipino sought the advice of a qualified and experienced immigration attorney in the first instance. An immigration problem is a family problem, and as such should be taken very seriously. As with a health problem, one should never rely on the advice of “consultants,” friends or neighbors who are not legally qualified and experienced enough to render such advice. Just as you would not operate on yourself with the advice of a friend, you should never entrust your family’s immigration and future to anyone other than an expert immigration lawyer who has the proper training and experience. While you may save money now, the heartache is just not worth the savings.