The 3 Things Your Team Should Know About Immigration Law, But Doesn’t

Part 1

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Transcript of Video 1

Welcome to this free training on the 3 things that your staff needs to know, but doesn’t.

This is a training for you, the busy, stressed, and overworked lawyer who doesn’t have time to train your staff. The point is for you to be able to bring them to this training so that way they can get a lay of the land so you don’t have to teach it to them. This training is also for you, the new immigration lawyer. The idea is for you to have an overview of what types of immigration relief are out there, that way you have a starting point to be able to educate yourself further on the “how” it is that you do any type of relief that you may want to use to serve your clients.

And here’s my why…. For years I worked in law firms that hired the youngest, cheapest person as a legal assistant and threw them into the job with no training but with high expectations. In one law firm that I worked at, the average length of time that a legal assistant stayed with us was 3 months… and I can understand why. They had no idea what was going on, and they had no idea what they were doing, yet they were expected to understand everything and know everything on the spot. It was stressful, overwhelming, and burnout was all too real.

Fast forward to when I started my own firm and made my first hire. There was so much that I needed done by my legal assistant that I didn’t know where to start. I threw her into the fire, just like my bosses had done before me (though I do like to think that I was a bit kinder and more benevolent when she made mistakes). I did not know where to start when it came to training her- I had tons of forms that needed filling, clients that needed calling, and cases that needed submitting. So I felt like I just needed her to get down to doing those things and we would figure it out as she went.

Fortunately, my assistant learned quickly, but when she was about 6 months in or so, I asked her a question…. “what is the difference between consular processing and adjustment of status?” The color drained from her face. She started to trip over her words. Ummm, well, ummmmm…. She stammered something that I couldn’t understand. Then I said, “Okay, let’s forget that question for a moment—what’s the point of consular processing and adjustment of status? If you win, what do you win?” She paused for a moment and said, “Ummmm…. A waiver right? I think it’s a waiver. Yep. That’s it.”

She was wrong and it made me realize that it was my fault. She was working on all sorts of things in a piecemeal fashion—she was doing an I-130 here, an I-765 there, but she did not know how all of the pieces fit into one big picture. And that’s when it dawned on me… if she was the main person communicating with clients, and she didn’t understand that the purpose of AOS and CP were to gain a green card, then the clients likely didn’t understand either—both because I clearly wasn’t making it understood and also because my assistant didn’t have a clue.

I know that this situation is not unique, and that is why I wanted to create a training. I tried to use a paralegal training book from another immigration publication and it recited the law and regs throughout the entire thing—which in my opinion, is completely pointless for a legal assistant and paralegal. They don’t need to know the law because they don’t practice the law. Rather, what they need to know is (1) what it is that you are doing, (2) what it is they need to do to support the lawyer to make sure everything is done right, and (3) what the objective is of what you are doing.

For example, if you are applying for a U visa, once it is approved, all you’ll get is a work permit. If you are applying for adjustment of status, once it’s approved, you will get a green card. Understanding the outcomes is extremely important. Understanding the processes are important as well… for example, how long does it take to have a decision on the U Visa? This is a question that legal assistants and attorneys are asked all of the time. Your legal assistant and you as the lawyer need to be able to know the processing times. And the processes.

So this free 3-part training is going to begin to scratch the surface of this.

Part 1- Acronyms

Part 2- Overview of Government Agencies

Part 3- Introduction to Adjustment of Status and Consular Processing

I want you to save this training so that way it’s something you and your team can always go back to, whether they need a refresher or whether you are bringing on someone new.

Let’s get started:


Immigration law is basically an alphabet soup of acronyms. Every immigration lawyer uses them. It is important to know them because most of us attorneys don’t even realize we are using them since they are so common place. For example, if an attorney says, “File this with the BIA,” you need to know what the BIA is to understand what the attorney is talking about and what needs to get done.

Knowing every immigration-related acronym, understanding what they mean, and even better- being able to use them- is what every legal assistant needs to know to be successful. It helps for better communication with the lawyer and other staff. Also, your team needs to know the meaning of the acronyms so they can “translate” them into client-speak when you as the lawyer accidentally uses acronyms when talking with clients, and your legal assistant can explain to them what you mean.

For example, If you as the lawyer tell a client that you are going to “file a motion with EOIR,” the client likely won’t understand what the heck it is that you are going to do. They don’t know what EOIR is. And you likely didn’t use this acronym on purpose, it’s just something that is really common place to you. So when your legal assistant talks with your client, they may ask “what is it that we are doing again?” The legal assistant needs to be able to “translate” your legalese and say, “We are filing a motion with the immigration court.”

Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the most important acronyms within immigration law:


A Number- Alien Number

AOS- Adjustment of Status

CAT- Convention Against Torture

BIA- Board of Immigration Appeals

CBP- Customs and Border Protection

DHS- Department of Homeland Security

DOJ- Department of Justice

E-42B- Cancellation of Removal for Non-Lawful Permanent Residents, which is prepared on the form EOIR-42B

EAC or EAD- Employment Authorization Card, commonly known as a work permit or employment authorization

EOIR- Executive Office for Immigration Review

ICE- Immigration and Customs Enforcements

ICH- Individual Calendar Hearing

IJ- Immigration Judge

LPR- Lawful Permanent Resident

MCH- Master Calendar Hearing

NTA- Notice to Appear

NVC- National Visa Center

OCC- Office of Chief Counsel

OIL- Office of Immigration Litigation

PHS- Pre-Hearing Statement

RFE- Request for Evidence

TA-Trial Attorneys

USC- United States Citizen

USCIS- United States and Immigration Services

VAWA- Violence Against Women Act (Form I-360)

Take this list and keep it handy. You will want to refer to it. Heck, you may want to carry it around with you all day in case you’re grabbing a glass of water and the lawyer says to you, “Hey have you prepared that RFE response yet?” that way you can look down and see what she’s talking about. Okay, I jest, maybe you don’t need to carry it with you every moment, but you do certainly need it for reference.

This will help make everything else go much more smoothly as you, the assistant, learn more about immigration law, and for you, the attorney, as you train your new team.

Tune in tomorrow for information on an overview of all of the agencies that we work with so that you understand how it all fits together.

Then in our final training, we will get into some types of immigration relief and what you need to know!