It is generally understood that an attorney must be licensed in the state he or she practices law, and failure to do practice in your own state is a crime. For example, a North Carolina attorney is the only attorney who can assist in speeding tickets, draft wills and contracts, stand up in small claims court, etc. However, this general rule has some limited exceptions, such as Patent Law, Military Law, Federal Criminal Law, and Immigration Law. Basically, law that is considered “federal practice.”
Under CFR § 292.1, an attorney may practice immigration law anywhere in the United States, as long as the attorney is licensed in a U.S. state/possession/territory, in good standing, and observes the limitations when outside the respective area of admittance. After all, immigration law is a creature of executive regulations, with the federal government being granted absolute control of immigration to the U.S. through the United States Constitution.
However, an immigration attorney should be a registered attorney within the district he or she practices. Registration is mandatory if the attorney wishes to have the ability to practice before an Immigration Court or at the Board of Immigration Appeals; however, registration is not required for merely filing with agencies like USCIS and the Department of State.
On December 10, 2013, immigration law created the registration requirement for attorneys to serve two functions.
- First, to aid the court in quickly determining whether an attorney was truly an attorney, which can get pretty complicated if the attorney is from out-of-state and his or her identification/law license looks different or fake.
- Second, to help prevent “Notario” fraud on the public, which occurs when a United States Notary Public advertises in Spanish and has his or her position misinterpreted as a “lawyer-equivalent” or “attorney-equivalent.” For reference, a notary public is only a 7 hour course in North Carolina. Hardly enough time to become as smart as a lawyer in the practice of law.
As a small glimpse in the registration process, to become registered, a professional must physically appear at the Immigration Court and prove their identity and qualifications. This is the most reliable verification process.
So, by registering at the local immigration court, qualified professionals are permitted to practice both immigration litigation and form-filing.
Unfortunately, there is no central system in which someone from the public can verify whether an individual is registered at the immigration court in the region; however, an individual can ask the Immigration Attorney or Qualified Representative if they are “EOIR Registered” and if they have been issued an identification number. Moreover, if someone is stating that they are an attorney, you should verify this by checking the “state bar’s” lawyer directory online. At least this is true for North Carolina, a lawyer directory search can search any state for a law license.
*EOIR means “Executive Office of Immigration Review.”
Note: Attorney Franchesco Fickey Martinez became a registered immigration lawyer on December 9, 2015 at Charlotte, NC Immigration Court. He is licensed in North Carolina and his law license can be verified in NC’s Online Lawyer Directory.
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