Natty Shafer Law

Utah lawyer for criminal and immigration cases


A Story Too Good to Be True

Con artists find the most vulnerable people in society and take advantage of them. The vulnerable need help and they need hope. Immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, are among the most vulnerable people in society. Most undocumented immigrants are unwilling to call the police and report crimes for fear of being deported.

A potential client told me of one such scam recently. She paid another woman $3,000 to fix her daughter’s immigration status. The con artist claimed to work for immigration (USCIS), and said she would be able to get her daughter a green card. They communicated regularly for several weeks, and during that time, my client recommend several other people to the con artist. Altogether, she thinks about 30 people in her Utah community paid, and they probably all paid $3,000. Allegedly, the green card was going to come in the mail several weeks ago. Now my client can’t get the con artist to answer the phone.

As I heard the story, I recognized immediately that she was the victim of a con artist, even as she held out hope that this was all legitimate. A real USCIS employee could not accept cash payments to fix someone’s status. Also, there are specific guidelines USCIS must follow. They can’t just wave a wand and fix someone’s immigration status.

While immigration lawyers often ask for money up-front, they are also going to have a permanent office where you can reach them. Also, immigration lawyers know that USCIS rarely acts quickly and would never promise you a green card “next week.” It breaks my heart to see anyone taken advantage of in this way. If you are at all in doubt, ask to see your lawyer’s bar card. Every state bar association will let you know if a lawyer is in good standing. No legitimate lawyer is going to be offended if you ask for their credentials.

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Answer All of Your Lawyer’s Questions Thoroughly

Regardless of the reason you hire a lawyer, you want to answer his or her questions thoroughly. Whether you are hiring a divorce attorney, someone to take care of your will and trust, or a Utah criminal and immigration lawyer like me, every question has a purpose. You want your lawyer to do the best job possible because you’re paying good money for legal services.

Many of the questions your lawyer asks may seem simple or unnecessary. One of the most common complaints people have about their lawyer is that they don’t communicate enough about the status of the case. And yet clients are often reluctant to give out personal information like cell phone numbers or email addresses. From a lawyer’s perspective, it’s frustrating to call a house during business hours, leave a message with a child, and then never hear back from you. Lawyers tend to work long hours, but we have no idea when you’re going to be home so make sure your lawyer knows the best way and best time to get a hold of you.

There’s also the subject of embarrassing or damaging information. No matter how unflattering, it’s important for your lawyer to know everything about your case. Answer questions as honestly as you can. Your lawyer is sworn to keep your information confidential, but they can only prepare for stuff they know about.

Alternatively, you could have a great piece of information that would really help your case if your lawyer only knew about it. In my experience working as an attorney in Utah, clients frequently have no idea which facts will help or hurt their case. There have been times when I’ve talked to a client several times before a key piece of information comes out because the client mistakenly believes it will hurt the case. Since most lawyers charge by the hour, you are wasting money if you don’t give the information up front.

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Getting Citizenship or a Green Card through the Armed Services

Obtaining United States citizenship is easier for someone who has served in the military, regardless of whether or not the U.S. was legally in any “hostilities.” When the U.S. is in hostilities, anyone serving can petition for immediate U.S. citizenship, and as an added bonus, the military pays for the filing fees with USCIS. Currently, the U.S. is engaged in legally defined hostilities, and has been since September 11, 2001. That means that anyone who honorably serves in the military right now, even for one day, is eligible. A person can go straight from undocumented immigrant status to citizenship fairly quickly. However, the armed services are not supposed to allow undocumented immigrants to enlist, but immigrants with green cards are allowed to enlist.

For anyone who served in the armed services more than 10 years ago, it is still possible to get citizenship, even if the U.S. was not in hostilities. For service during peacetime, an immigrant needs to have served at least one year and have been honorably discharged. Also, the applicant must have lived in the U.S. for at least 30 months out of the previous five years.

It is possible to get a green card through military service, but it’s fairly rare. To qualify, an applicant must enlist in the U.S. armed services outside the U.S, and their home country’s armed services must recommend them for this immigrant status or they must be a citizen of a country that has a treaty arrangement with the U.S. Only the Philippines, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands currently have a treaty with the U.S. allowing their citizens this green card status.