For all immigration issues, it is essential to have an experienced and knowledgeable immigration lawyer who knows your rights inside and out. In this article, Mr. Sung-Ho Hwang, a leading Immigration lawyer, talks about the Dos and Don’ts of getting legal status in the US. And why it is always better to get the help of an immigration lawyer for a smooth flow in getting the legal formalities completed.
Here’s an excerpt from a virtual interview with Mr. Sung-Ho Hwang.
Why Hire an Immigration Lawyer?
Many people think they can do the immigration formalities on their own, but it’s such a complex area of the law.
It’s just a huge risk. If you make a mistake, USCIS, a governing body for these applications, has zero tolerance for any mistake. So once it gets denied, it’s denied. So you may save a little bit of money, but you’re risking not being able to work in the United States. And that’s being penny wise, pound foolish.
So what does an immigration lawyer do?
We generally help:
- people by obtaining visas, green cards, or citizenship.
- corporations recruit people internationally and allow them to work in the United States. So there are lots of things.
Immigration law itself has lots of different areas. And I mentioned before there’s Court. So people who are getting deported, people looking for political asylum, refugees coming from, say, Afghanistan. Yes. A slew of immigration attorneys helping these people through the process.
There are many things, but generally, the thread connecting everybody in immigration law is to try to bring somebody who’s not a US citizen into the United States.
Most common mistakes that you see people make in DIY immigration law?
There’s no one specific mistake because there are so many different areas of immigration law, from H1Bs to family-based like somebody getting married to a US citizen. There are so many different areas that there’s no specific mistake.
The fundamental mistake, is they haven’t hired an immigration attorney.
And I see so many times when they try not to do it on their own and come to me when it’s too late. It’s already been rejected, and I can’t do anything. I can’t help. I see that all the time.
And the biggest mistake is just believing things on the internet.
Everybody thinks it must be true if it’s written and on the internet. So they look at these things and then try it on their own.
And then sometimes, you know, you can get away with it. I know people who have successfully filed applications on their own, but do you want to take that chance?
Is it really worth a few thousand dollars in savings to take that chance that you might not get to live here and get deported?
Is it harder now to work in the United States?
It is. The last administration was very restrictive. The idea was to try to keep people out.
Now, with the new administration, things are slowly starting to swing back to being a bit more Pro-immigrant.
But, the problem is that the United States hasn’t addressed the fundamental issue. They need to have comprehensive immigration reform. And, because the system is just not working.
The Issue with Immigration Politics
The biggest surprise is that we still haven’t come up with comprehensive immigration reforms. So we’ve had this problem for a long, long time.
Since I’ve been practicing the law, and 15 years ago, we were close to having it with George W. Bush. It’s just something that I don’t know why we don’t have the political will to make these changes. That’s the biggest surprise.
With the new administration opening things up, I think it’s going in the right direction though I don’t think it’s going enough in the right direction. But unfortunately, the Senate still has a filibuster. So even though the Democrats control, they can stop any comprehensive immigration bill. And they’ve pretty much said that nothing is going to go through.
What advice do you have for the family that is dealing with immigration law issues?
They need to do their research, and look at who they feel comfortable with in terms of somebody representing them.
If you’re a first-generation immigrant, you understand what people have to go through. And I wasn’t a citizen until I was 16 years old. And I remember that happening. It’s important. This is a great country, and we really do need to have talented, hard-working people.
And if we have this xenophobia and continue to exclude these people, we will no longer be the best country in the world.
Stopping Legal Immigrants from Coming to the US – Is That Smart?
If you stop people from coming to the United States, you stop the best people from coming to the United States. Because I think immigration is self-selecting. The hardest-working people are the ones that leave their homes, travel here, and learn a new language. Those are the people that you really want.
They make America great. And if you’ve got somebody walking 2000 miles to get here, they’re not going to be lazy. You know, they’re going to work hard.
The First Day I Became a US Citizen
I specifically remember getting the passport so that allowed me to travel. Actually, the first thing I did was I went to Korea, which I hadn’t been to since I was four. But it’s really empowering. You realize that you’re part of this nation, and you have lots of opportunities now available to you that somebody who doesn’t have legal status has, and I became an attorney.
Why I Chose Immigration Law
I was born in South Korea. Then, I immigrated to the United States. I went to school here, and I started practicing law here.
The important thing was that I’m a first-generation immigrant. I came to the United States, a great country, and wanted to do something that allowed other people the same opportunities I had.
And that’s why I chose immigration.
Why am I proud to be an American?
Because it’s really the greatest country on earth, it really is. So anybody who’s a first-generation immigrant, as long as they work hard, really can be successful.
I remember the very first time that I was able to handle a very tough immigration case. And I was successful at getting this woman her green card. It was like, you know, she actually started crying and hugging. It was like a, a point where it was like, truly changed her life.
Oh, that’s why I do this. That’s why I come to work. That’s why I work
Is an attorney a great orator with high command over English?
It’s just a very small percentage of the law. And even in terms of litigators, the vast majority of litigators don’t show up to Court. Even litigators that do show up to Court, the vast majority of their time, are not in Court but doing paperwork.
The need for command over the English language is a hindrance because the law generally is language. However, whether you’re a litigator or not, you still have to have a good command of English because statutes and regulations are all written in English, contracts are written in English, and everything in the law revolves around English.
So, I think that’s one of the reasons why first-generation immigrants don’t practice law because of the language barrier. Now you see the second-generation immigrants born here are fluent in English, becoming lawyers.
So it’s great. It’s a positive thing.
My most challenging case in the last 30 years.
I would say that there was one case I was involved with in an immigration court. I think it was the right thing to do to keep him in the country because he was from a very dangerous country in Africa where many people are killed.
There wasn’t anything I could do. The judge ordered him back to that country; that was tough. That was maybe about seven years ago. So recently, that was probably the most challenging case I have had to handle lately.
Is AI Going to Replace Lawyers?
Technology – it’s one of the few areas where you see technology affecting the practice of law, and eventually, you’ll see AI replace many lawyers or augment the legal profession; that’s the future.
I still think that you need lawyers to oversee the process in our lifetimes.
And there are certain things that you can’t do with AI. Like you need somebody to show up in Court. In immigration, we have immigration courts, hearings, and trials. You can’t have some AI show up to an immigration hearing or interview for somebody’s citizenship.
So there are certain things that you can’t replace, but yes, it’s changing.
Young Asian Americans considering a career in law – What things do they have to do? What things should they be thinking about?
When I started the law practice, I was basically the only Asian attorney. And when I started my law practice, I was a litigator. I mainly did trial work. So I would just show up in Court as the only Asian person there. And you have state Marshalls or clerks there asking me if I’m the interpreter. So that’s what I was facing. But I think it’s started to change now. You see that in areas like Connecticut, where Asians are not the primary group.
So it’s a little bit of an uphill battle. I think you have to work harder. And I think Asians have that work ethic to just work harder. So there’s a great opportunity. And now, a lot of my clientele are Asian. They feel more comfortable with somebody who speaks the same language.
There’re lots of opportunities as an Asian.
For more on related topics, see: How I got my US passport replaced in only 75 minutes for $237.72