In Immigration

Ever wonder how immigration lawyers charge legal fees?

As you seek answers to your immigration questions or perhaps consider making an application for a temporary work permit or permanent residence application, you will come across a range of fees quoted by lawyers – everything from free consultations to what seem to be astronomical quotations.

How can you determine what are the right fee for services?

Fees charged by lawyers are based on the lawyer’s experience and expertise. It is obvious that lawyers who are just starting out will charge less than those who have had the breadth of experience in representing many clients. This experience allows the senior lawyer to zero in on issues rapidly and perhaps even think of more creative solutions for you based on the number of cases the lawyer has seen. Read the reviews of past clients online or tap into your own network of people who have had positive immigration experiences. That is the best guide as to the lawyer’s reputation and skill set.

Fees can be charged either at a set rate or on an hourly basis.

Set fees are usually charged when the lawyer is able to quantify the time because of previous cases completed. Once a lawyer has completed a number of similar cases which do not vary much from case to case, the lawyer is able to give a fairly accurate quotation for legal fees. This happens in simpler processes such as student, visitor, citizenship or PR renewal cases. In such cases, the client knows exactly how much they will pay without any surprises..

The hourly rate is usually charged when it is difficult for the lawyer to determine how much time will be taken because of uncertainty. Such uncertainty can result if there are several strategies being considered simultaneously for the client or if the results depend on other agencies (such as ESDC of PNP) for preliminary approval or if there are continuous government changes to forms or policies in the area of interest to the client. Also some applications, such as business, require a great deal of planning, strategizing and liaising with other professional advisors such as accountants and business lawyers, all of which increases the time taken for a comprehensive solution for the client. Also if the client is applying under a program where the immigration is making numerous changes or bringing in new avenues, the lawyer may choose an hourly rate because of the uncertainty of the path to be used.

In addition to legal fees, lawyers charge disbursements which are costs incurred as the file is being processed, Such costs can include application fees, criminal security checks, courier charges, photocopying or costs in obtaining other documents needed for the application process.

Whatever your fee arrangement with a lawyer, you should ensure that the agreement is in writing, signed by the lawyer and yourself, and that you fully understand all the terms. There is no harm in asking the lawyer specific questions about the agreement and to have all the terms clarified.