During a recent LACBA seminar one of the speakers said something that resonates some of my beliefs, which I have shared with colleagues and clients alike: Immigration law is not just about obtaining a visa or green card. It’s also about a working knowledge of human resources, employment and tax law as well.

It is not sufficient for legal counsel to only obtain and secure the appropriate papers for their clients. It is also important that lawyers guide their clients through the steps necessary to ensure that the visa is implemented in a proper way. Should the client be on a W2 or a 1099? In the case of treaty traders, who is the actual employer and how should the trading relationship be established? If there is off-sight employment, should the client be treated as an independent contractor or an employee? For L and E visas, how should the relationship with the foreign corporation be set up and what are the relevant corporate/tax issues in making that decision?

LAWYERS: These are issues that any immigration counsel must address with their clients – before, during and even after getting visa approval. Your lawyer-client relationships are rarely a “one shot deal” as, more often than not, the clients will be back in several years time for an extension or change of status. If you don’t have the expertise to address such matters, be prepared to collaborate with an employment and/or tax professional in creating the right employment/tax situation for the benefit of your clients.

CLIENTS: Be sure to ask questions about setting your employment contracts, payroll, and/or corporate setup correctly. Together with your immigration lawyer, you should contact a tax professional upon moving to the US. An effective immigration lawyer should provide that advice to you or refer you to the appropriate professionals. If you don’t take these necessary steps you run the risk of being found to be in illegal status by USCIS, and thereafter be subject to a 3 or 10 year ban from the United States.

Remember, everything is related! Ask all the right questions now and you’ll have smooth sailing in the long run.

By: Zoe Kevork. Principal Attorney.