The subject of immigration is of high importance in the sport of jiu-jitsu as the majority of this sport/martial art’s top competitors are born in Brazil, yet, the main professional and amateur events take place in the United States. Events such as the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s (IBJJF) World and Pan American Championships, the ADCC, as well as pro-events like Fight 2 Win, Third Coast Grappling, Who’s Number One to name a few.
These unusual dynamics force Brazilian athletes to travel to the U.S. on a regular basis, and there lies a big problem for many athletes. To enter the country, Brazilians require a visa, a process that can be extremely complicated to get through. Even more intricate is the process of establishing an athlete visa or a green card, for those athletes who wish to compete in North America full-time or who want to open an academy on American soil.
To get through all these obstacles, a competitor needs the correct documentation, all the requirements outlined by the American government, and a good lawyer. The latter can be often overlooked in its importance, but it is indeed the key to a successful application.
As we have outlined during our coverage of Roosevelt Sousa‘s denied entrance in the US story (read here), the main culprit of the Home Office’s disastrous decision could be attributed to Sousa’s previous choice in immigration attorney and legal advice. For that reason, we reached out to Catherine Brown (soon to be Catherine Leoni), a licensed attorney in the State of Florida and the 11 Circuit Court of Appeals, to learn more and inform our readers on how to look for a suitable representative when handling these aforementioned hurdles.
Not only a successful attorney, but Catherine is also a jiu-jitsu enthusiast who worked with jiu-jitsu athletes on their visa applications in the past. Leoni handles all areas of immigration on a daily basis, including green cards, asylums, deportation defense, extraordinary person visas, investor visas, employment visas, and so on. Given her extensive expertise in the field, we requested Catherine to write a short piece, directed for our audience, which might help athletes understand how to choose the correct attorney when applying for anything related to immigration in the US, which she gracefully accepted. Therefore, we are publishing here Catherine’s important pointers on this topic, hoping this may help the community. So without further ado:
Being an immigration attorney is a tough job but choosing an immigration attorney to represent you can seem like an even harder task. As an immigration attorney, I have the honor of hearing my client’s stories; stories of bravery, perseverance, and compassion, but also stories of great loss and tragedy. Many immigration attorneys take our jobs very seriously and will fight vigorously for our clients but unfortunately, this is not always the case.
So you may be asking, how does one choose the “right” immigration attorney?
There is no foolproof formula to guarantee that you make the “right choice”, but there are a few simple ways to make sure you have the best possible experience and outcome for your immigration case.
First and most importantly, make sure that whoever represents you is an actual attorney. The unlicensed practice of law is a very big problem here in the United States, especially in immigration law. An unlicensed person may assist you in filling out immigration forms and organizing the required documentation, but they may NOT give any legal advice. This includes answering any questions or preparing any evidence that requires legal interpretation or legal strategy. A notary, paralegal, or attorney licensed in another country does NOT have the authority to practice law in the United States or give legal advice. If you do choose to utilize someone other than an attorney to assist you in your immigration case, please remember, normally such individuals lack formal training, schooling and have no direct governing authority that will hold them. accountable for any mistakes, misrepresentation, or acts of fraud. If you believe you were a victim of the unlicensed practice of law please, contact the Bar organization of the state in which your case was handled.
Attorneys are individuals who are licensed by the Supreme Court and Bar organization of their state to practice law. The Bar organization of each state has the power to regulate, punish, suspend and investigate an attorney. As attorneys, we are held to a very high standard and ethical code. Normally an attorney will have a minimum of 7 years of education, 3 of which include law school. Attorneys are also required to take a licensing exam (bar exam), which can take months or even years to pass due to its difficulty. Normally, an attorney can only practice in the state they are licensed or have reciprocity, but immigration attorneys are unique. Immigration resides under federal law, meaning an attorney can practice immigration in any state as long as they hold a license in good standing.
Attorneys are held to a high standard, but this does not mean all attorneys take such a responsibility seriously. To make sure you are choosing the correct attorney for your case, remember to do these 5 things.
1) Prepare a list of questions before the consultations and take notes. Most attorneys will not let you record a consultation, but you should always be able to take notes.
2) Ask where the attorney is licensed and if they are in good standing or if they have any bar complaints.
3) Ask how long the attorney has been practicing (specifically) immigration law.
4) Ask the attorney to please explain your potential process step by step, this will help evidence if he or she has any experience regarding your issue.
5) Lastly, do not lie. It is beneficial for you to be open and honest with your attorney no matter what.
During your immigration process, your attorney should always keep you updated on your case in a reasonable manner, return your calls or emails in a reasonable amount of time, allow you to review the final product before it is sent to any government agency, and promptly give you a copy of your case upon request. Regardless of your current immigration status, if you believe you are a victim of malpractice please contact your state Bar organization.
Remember there is no magic formula that will ensure your case is approved. Even with the best representation, because of current laws or policies, cases are rejected. But, by taking these few precautions above you help protect yourself from an immigration nightmare and get the proper legal representation you deserve.
Catherine Brown Esq.
Attorney at Law
Leoni Law P.A.
+1 (305) 434 4667 [WhatsApp]
7300 Biscayne Blvd Suite #200
Miami, FL 33138