Why It’s Necessary to Hire an Immigration Lawyer: Our Successes and Failures with Visa Applications

Why It’s Necessary to Hire an Immigration Lawyer – planning your move abroad is a time full of excitement and inspiration. By the time you’ve committed to trying out a new life in a new place, you feel butterflies. You become enchanted by the promise of living in that new country. You read all the blogs and probably even some government websites that detail what you need to do. You might even feel confident in every step of the process. However, there are often unwritten rules or hitches that no one can predict, such as the consequences of COVID-19.

Regardless of the relative strength of your passport, the immigration process is full of bureaucracy. Through the months and sometimes years it takes to obtain a visa or residency, the process can be marred by improper research and arcane information. Everyone that has moved abroad has run into one infuriating issue after another that has delayed or even completely interrupted the process. 

By contacting an immigration lawyer, you’re committing to learn through an expert who will take you through the visa process as quickly as possible. Regardless of what your individual or family goals are in your move abroad, immigration lawyers will help you change countries and set a new path in your life. We at Expat Empire recommend reaching out to us so we can set you up with a lawyer that specializes in your destination country. 

Why It’s Necessary to Hire an Immigration Lawyer: Our Successes and Failures with Visa Applications by Expat Empire

When DIY Immigration Goes Wrong: How Not to Do It

In 2012, I was living in Prague, Czech Republic to begin my graduate studies and work as an English teacher. My maternal side of the family is all Czech and my mother was born there though she grew up in the United States. I wanted to revisit my roots and get a degree from my grandfather’s alma mater. Due to a combination of outdated online advice that I was using as a reference, my own naivete, and stereotypically cold bureaucrats, I wasted tons of money and time. I was seemingly constantly correcting the most minor details on forms and waited on my appointments for an agonizingly long time. I went through all the steps I knew to take and still made lots of avoidable mistakes. 

I began the process for my student visa nearly a year before arriving in Prague. I was accepted to a graduate program at Charles University at the tail end of 2011 pending my graduation that next May. November 2011 is when I started gathering my paperwork. With accurate online information hard to come by, I just happened to be visiting Chicago in March 2012 so I stopped by the Czech consulate. They told me I couldn’t apply for the visa without my completed undergraduate transcript. I tried to apply for an appointment but I was told I couldn’t do that either until I had all the paperwork ready to go. Since I was arriving in Prague early before the semester to get situated, I had no other option but to apply for the visa while in Prague during my 90-day visa-free stay in the Schengen Area.

When I finally arrived in late July 2012, I started the translation and notarization process because non-consular Czech agencies would not accept English paperwork. I was finally ready to apply in August, but due to appointments booked several months out, I decided to make an appointment at the Czech Embassy in Vienna, Austria. I traveled to Vienna in September with all paperwork ready to go, but due to a minor issue in one of the documents, they wouldn’t accept it. The eight hours spent on trains there and back was wasted due to a technicality. I was told to correct the error and return at another appointment, but the next available appointment date wasn’t until mid-October. I made my appointment in Vienna a second time and the paperwork was finally accepted. 

Eventually, I did receive my visa in December 2012. From the start of the process to finish it took 13 months. Unfortunately, that visa arrived two months late – I had already left back to the US to avoid overstaying my visa-free period, and I couldn’t return to claim it in time to resume the semester. 

My opportunity to continue living in Europe disappeared due to a series of mishaps and inaccurate information that delayed the process. I not only lost my chance at a graduate degree, but also quite a bit of my savings. It forced me to choose a different path in life and reassess my strategy of moving abroad

I know now to have a clear vision of all the steps before I begin the process. I know now that no one in the consular offices is being paid to help me. I know now that there is a good reason that people hire immigration lawyers to help them navigate through this process. 

Why It’s Necessary to Hire an Immigration Lawyer: Our Successes and Failures with Visa Applications by Expat Empire

Involving A Legal Professional: How to Apply for Visas the Right Way

Expat Empire’s founder, David McNeill, likewise experienced extremely difficult and nerve-wracking experiences gaining his work visa. Living in Europe since 2016, David accrued three years of residence in Germany on the EU Blue Card by 2019 when he and his wife moved to Portugal. Through the process of obtaining a new work visa, he discovered that, due to a series of frustrating technicalities, he would need to throw away the three years he accrued in Germany and restart the clock on acquiring permanent residence status in Europe with a new visa.

Later, David and his wife were applying for a visa to help her (a Japanese citizen and EU resident) stay in Portugal on a family reunification visa through their legal marriage. Keep in mind that they were working with a Portuguese immigration lawyer throughout the entire visa process. Regardless of that fact, they still encountered obstacles that at times seemed insurmountable (including dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic!) and put their future in Europe in doubt. 

Why It’s Necessary to Hire an Immigration Lawyer: Our Successes and Failures with Visa Applications by Expat Empire

Securing Your Life Abroad: Partnering Through the Bureaucracy

Both my experience in the Czech Republic in 2012 and David’s experience in Portugal in 2020 had us wishing that we knew more. As a student trying to live abroad, I made several novice miscalculations and figured the process of obtaining a Czech student visa would be far quicker and easier than it actually was. David, on the other hand, had already lived abroad in several different countries and knew the struggles he and his wife might encounter. He did the reasonable thing and hired an immigration lawyer. The big difference is how we approached the situations. I failed in 2012 and David succeeded in 2020.

You could be a model citizen from a wealthy country with noble intent and the officials at the consular offices will still likely treat you with cold indifference. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but no story is special in their eyes. They aren’t there to help you get a visa. They are there to approve or deny your visa based on official regulations. If you do not fulfill all the requirements by the time you show up for your appointment, you may be denied the visa and have to start the whole process over again.

An immigration lawyer will give you the benefit of walking you through the frustratingly long process that is obtaining your first long-stay visa abroad. They will give you a full walkthrough of the process including how much time and money you’ll spend. They will make sure you have the correct forms translated, notarized, apostilled, and organized. They will help you obtain an appointment at the consular office and show up there with you to speak to officials on your behalf. You’ll be able to breathe easy knowing that someone knowledgeable on the ins and outs of the process will be there fighting for you.

The team at Expat Empire works hard to help you avoid those situations that we experienced while moving abroad. Problems in your visa process can – at a minimum – provide a significant amount of stress and – worst-case scenario – cause you to abandon your plans to live abroad. We do not want that to happen. 

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Whether you are looking to move abroad or just country hop for a while, Expat Empire is here to assist you with those big questions. Take a look at our consulting services to see which of them will take you to the next step in your journey abroad.

I'm a writer and former Chef living in Ankara, Turkey. Originally from Evergreen, Colorado, I spent my childhood years in the mountains. I moved to Denver nearby for my education at University of Colorado Denver where I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in English - Creative Writing. After graduating in 2012, I rediscovered a passion for cooking and sought to combine that passion with travel. In 2019, I met my future wife, a teacher, in Denver. The COVID-19 Pandemic broke us apart for some time, but we reunited and married in Ankara in 2020 and we continue to live happily in this stunning culinary and cultural oasis.