On Jul 15 2007

Choosing Immigration Counsel to Represent Universities and Hospitals: What your law firm should be able to demonstrate to you.

Universities and hospitals retain immigration counsel for a variety of purposes including:

• General immigration counsel and advice;
• Representation of the university in PERM labor certification applications;
• Handling all nonimmigrant and/or immigrant visa matters;
• Developing institutional policies and best practices for compliance with immigration laws;
• Staffing the in-house immigration function during periods of leave or transition; and
• Handling particular types of legal matters of particular importance for professors, scholars or staff.

The task of choosing one or more immigration counsel for these purposes can often be daunting, and the consequences of a mistake in choice of counsel can be significant.

In the course of our representation of universities, we have, on occasion, been requested to provide a list of attributes a law firm committed to the representation of universities in immigration matters should have. The following Checklist is offered in the hope that other universities may find it helpful in choosing immigration counsel—especially in view of the new Department of Labor regulation requiring universities and research institutions to now retain their own immigration counsel for the labor certification application process.

If you have any questions about the new regulation or how to go about selecting immigration counsel, we would be pleased to discuss them with you.

Specific University Experience

  • A significant percentage of its practice is devoted to the representation of universities/research institutions. *
  • The firm represents at least five universities or research institutions (more preferred). *
  • The firm receives regular referrals from at least five universities or research institutions (more preferred). *
  • The firm can provide favorable references from at least five universities or research institutions (more preferred). *
  • It can describe favorable experiences its lawyers have had working with a University’s international office (preferred).
  • Multiple lawyers are active in NAFSA (preferred).
  • The firm has sufficient staff (at least three) devoted exclusively to preparing outstanding researcher/professor petitions and O-1 petitions.
  • If your university sponsors J-1 waivers for researchers, the firm should be able to demonstrate substantial experience (at least ten successful cases) obtaining research-based waivers through interested government agencies.
  • If your university has a medical facility in a shortage area, substantial experience (at least ten successful cases) in obtaining State 30 waivers.
  • The firm has experience staffing the immigration function at an institution during periods of leave or transition.
  • Attorneys and/or paralegals in the firm have experience working at a university international office (preferred).
  • Attorneys in the firm have experience working with university administrators and/or departments to develop institutional immigration policies.

Lawyers who are leaders in the field

  • At least one lawyer (more preferred) who serves or has served on the American Immigration Lawyers Association Board of Governors or as a National Officer.
  • At least one attorney, preferably more, who has had experience in a liaison capacity with the Department of Labor and/or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (preferably both).
  • Attorneys with substantial experience in immigration legislative advocacy.
  • An attorney in the firm has taught immigration law at a university law school (preferred).
  • Multiple lawyers in the firm (at least 2) have an AV Martindale-Hubbell rating.
  • At least two lawyers listed in one or more of: Best Lawyers in America or Chambers Global Client’s Guide to the World’s Leading Lawyers for Business (listing in more than one publication preferred).
  • At least two lawyers in the firm with at least ten years of experience working with employers with 100 or more employees.
  • At least two lawyers with at least ten years of experience devoted exclusively to immigration law.

Value Added Services for Universities and Hospitals

  • The firm holds (free) immigration seminars and provides clients with timely updates/newsletters/alerts on topics of importance to universities.
  • The firm provides free consultations to students and staff.
  • The firm can demonstrate that it has sufficient personnel to be able to handle a substantial volume of cases (at least five lawyers and five paralegals)—and that a partner will be responsible for every case.
  • The availability of an on-line case monitoring/tracking system to enable the university personnel to have ongoing access to the status of cases.
  • If applicable, the firm has significant experience working with employers on LCA and I-9 training and audits.
  • The firm can assure you that the turnaround time will be three days or less for fully documented routine H-1B petitions.
  • The availability of fixed fee, volume discount legal services.

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* If your university is affiliated with a hospital, the above criteria should also be applied to the representation of the hospital.