How Much Should I Pay for an Asylum Lawyer?

by Jason Dzubow on March 2, 2016

Among lawyers, there’s a certain skittishness when it comes to discussing fees. Speaking for myself, I don’t much care for the money-side of the business. We’re not trained to deal with client payments in law school, and the guidance we receive afterwards—from the bar association, for example—is related more to complying with lawyer-trust-account rules than to determining how much to charge.

If the lawyer spends more time counting your money than working on your case, you probably paid too much.

If the lawyer spends more time counting your money than working on your case, you probably paid too much.

In the field of asylum law, attorney fees vary widely. Within my little community, for an affirmative asylum case, I’ve heard about lawyers charging anywhere from $900 to $10,000 (or more). For defensive asylum cases (in court), prices are usually higher. Sometimes these fees are flat fees, meaning you pay a set fee for the entire case. Other times, fees are hourly, meaning you pay for the lawyer’s time–the more time the lawyer spends on your case, the more you pay.

In my office, we charge a flat fee of $3,000 for most affirmative cases, which is fairly competitive with those few attorneys in Washington, DC whose main practice area is asylum. Our fee for defensive cases is usually $4,000 [update 01/10/18 – please note that these fees were from 2016 and no longer apply]. What’s ironic here is that lawyers who do not specialize in asylum—and who consequently have less experience in this area of practice—are actually able to charge more for each case (I remember telling one such lawyer about my fee and she burst out laughing; I took that as a sign that I should raise my rates – maybe one day). In our firm, the bread-and-butter cases are asylum, and so we need to do a lot of such cases. Thus, we have to keep the prices down. If our main practice area was business immigration, for example, we could charge more for each asylum case, since we would not need to do a large number of such cases to make a living.

So how do you know what is a fair fee for an asylum case? And what exactly do you get in exchange for giving money to an attorney?

The first question is difficult to answer. Hiring an attorney is not like buying a new car. Whether you buy the car from one dealership or another, it’s the same car. With a lawyer, you are paying for his work. Some lawyers are brilliant, honest, and hard working; others are poorly trained, lazy, and dishonest. Paying more money for a lawyer does not mean that you are hiring a better advocate. In fact, I find that there is little relationship between the amount of the fee and the quality of the service. Indeed, lawyers who charge higher fees for asylum are sometimes more interested in earning money than in helping their clients.

I suppose the first thing you’d have to know in deciding whether an attorney’s fee is fair is the quality of the service she provides. There are certain things a good attorney should do. For example, a good attorney will listen to your story and try to evaluate the strengths and weakness of your case; she won’t sugarcoat the case in an effort to get your business. A good attorney will make sure you understand the asylum process, the problem of delay, and the possible results in your case. She should also explore any alternatives to asylum that might be available to you. A good attorney will help you put together your case, write your affidavit with you, and advise you about what supporting evidence you should obtain. This point is crucial: The affidavit (or declaration) is the heart of your case, and an asylum applicant may not know what information is legally relevant to include in that document. If the attorney does not spend significant time helping you prepare the affidavit, she is not doing her job. Without a properly prepared affidavit, the odds of success go way down.

Also, a good attorney should prepare you for your interview by discussing possible questions and answers, and by helping you think through answers to problematic portions of your story. A good attorney should be relatively easy to reach; if you call and leave a message, she should call you back (pet peeve alert: If you call and don’t leave a message–like some of my clients–the attorney likely will not call you back, as she won’t know that you’ve called her – so leave a message!). If your lawyer is not providing these services, she is not doing her job, and whether her price is a lot or a little, it is too high.

A final point, and this is key: A good attorney will never encourage you to lie or agree to represent you if you tell him that you want to lie to the U.S. government. Any attorney who does that is untrustworthy and dangerous. If they are willing to lie to the government, you can bet that they will lie to you.

If your attorney is providing all the essential services, if you feel comfortable with the attorney, and if you can afford the fee, whatever it is, you are probably getting a fair deal. Maybe that is a cop-out answer, but as I’ve said, it is quite difficult to place a monetary value on a lawyer’s services.

I truly believe that there is little relationship between price and quality among asylum lawyers. If you find an attorney that you like, but his price is too high, then look for another attorney who is more affordable. Good, reasonably-priced lawyers are out there. But remember too that these cases are a lot of work. Most asylum lawyers who are dedicated to the field don’t expect to get rich, but we do need to make a living. And you do need to pay a fair price for their work. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to earn the big money… or not.

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Sufiya December 25, 2017 at 11:30 am

My FI visa expired a year back immediately after my graduation and i overstayed for 19 months . Two things happened within this period. One i had a depression did not know what to do and now when i realise my situation, my home country in a conflict situation where young people of mu age are particularly targeted. Can I still apply for and asylum? what are the chances?

Reply

Jason Dzubow December 25, 2017 at 11:41 am

It may be possible to meet an exception to the one-year asylum filing bar, but it is not easy – the reasons you give might be able to excuse the late filing, but this is a tricky issue, and so I recommend you talk to a lawyer for help on this point. Take care, Jason

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K'd November 14, 2017 at 8:46 am

Hi, I’m from a Muslim country where being gay is a crime. I’m not there since I’ve been traveling and working abroad but I do want to move to the US, study and apply for asylum. I’ve also been diagnosed with HIV but I’m healthy and living on meds. I’m afraid when I go back home I won’t be able to find a job or get the required medical care, jobs there do HIV tests and if I’m +be I’m out! Like my life’s going down the drain you see. Am I eligible for asylum in the US or Canada? Or anywhere… :s

Reply

Jason Dzubow November 15, 2017 at 7:21 am

It may be a case for asylum (at least in the US) – I think you will need to talk to a lawyer about the specifics to determine how strong the case is. We recently did an appeal for a Mexican national where we argued that anyone with HIV in Mexico would face persecution, based on how people with HIV are generally treated in that country. We won the appeal, and now the case will go back to a judge for review. So I do think it is possible to win such a case, but it would depend on the facts about the country and about your own life, so talk to a lawyer about that. Take care, Jason

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Mostafa November 3, 2017 at 8:32 pm

Hi. I am from Iran and was arrested here in the US once I was on an F-1 visa. The case was dismissed with prejudice. The government of Iran questioned my family for 4 hours why I have been arrested and why the US government has released me. They are thinking that I have given sensitive information to the US. My family is telling me do not come to Iran. Since the Iranian government is arresting some people once they go back, I want to file for an asylum in the US. What would be my chances of approval?

Thanks for your reply.

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Jason Dzubow November 7, 2017 at 7:18 am

I think you should talk to a lawyer about the specifics of the situation, but you may have a case – maybe your category of case would be “imputed political opinion.” Remember that just because the government wants to harm you, it is not enough for asylum. They have to harm you “on account of” a protected ground, but you may fit into the political category since the government thinks you gave sensitive info to the US. It is not such a strait forward case, though, and I recommend you talk to a lawyer to help you present it. Take care, Jason

Reply

George October 12, 2017 at 12:38 pm

I wanted to know about the chances of asylum in the United States.

We live in Russia – I, my wife and my little daughter. In about 2004,
I had a growing sense of injustice and discontent with the actions of
the authorities (in those years Vladimir started to clean up all the
business and place his people in places – I think you’ve heard
Khodorkovsky case). Until 2012 there were no strong fears for my life
(and I actually didn’t care about, because I was almost single,
without family). After the protest rallies in 2012 in Russia, the
authorities started to struggle with “opposition-thinking people” very
actively. The adoption of unconstitutional laws is general. In
general, the adoption of such laws is no longer surprising –
“permanent” President Vladimir in fact usurped the power (he rules for
almost 18 years instead of just maximum 8).

I’m not an active participant in opposition groups. I’m more of an,
let’s say, “extras” on all these rallies. Until some time, I
periodically took part in rallies and processions. But recently it has
become somewhat dangerous activity. Perhaps you are already aware of
current events. We already have people who were put in jail for
“reposts” in social networks, for being present at rallies, for some
other manifestation of discontent with the current authorities. Yes, I
know, we all can just live our lives and don’t put our noses into
wrong places. But I want to be a “full-fledget” citizen. The worst
thing is – there’s probably no future for people like me. All the
politicians are growing, they’re getting old, but they already start
to place their sons and daughters to the ministries (for example, the
sons of the Prosecutor General – one is a billionaire in his 20 years,
the second is a head of a ministry).

At the moment, in connection with the birth of my daughter, there is
some anxiety that they can attract me for something and my wife and
child will stay for a long time without me. This is certainly not a
fact, but there are fears and worries.
The problem is that there are no papers proving personal persecution
of me or my family. There are only a lot of information in the media
and reports of international monitoring organizations.

Is there any chance of obtaining asylum in my case? Or does the system
work only for those with whom something terrible has already happened?

Just first googled link:
https://www.hrw.org/europe/central-asia/russia

Reply

Jason Dzubow October 12, 2017 at 5:46 pm

You have to show that there is at least a 10% chance that you will be persecuted (usually meaning physical harm) because of your political beliefs or for some other protected reason such as religion, ethnic group, etc. If you have evidence of your activities and that you have been threatened or harmed, or that many people like you are harmed, maybe you have a chance to succeed at asylum. But it is difficult to say given the facts that you describe. You may want to talk to a lawyer in the US to fully evaluate the case, and maybe give you a more informed opinion. Take care, Jason

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Arjun September 25, 2017 at 3:27 am

Hello,
I am an F1 student in US. I got married in India before 2 years. after I entered into USA my wife literally ditched me and she wants to divorce me. They have filed a “null and void” case which means the marriage is said to be invalid.
They don’t want me as a groom now because of my caste is different from my wife’s caste and they have threatened me over calls several times to kill me.
My parents are telling me not to come back to India.
What should I do?

Reply

Jason Dzubow September 25, 2017 at 9:11 am

This may be a basis for asylum, but I do not know how strong the case would be. Talk to a lawyer about whether asylum is a good option for you. Take care, Jason

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Nabil September 21, 2017 at 7:13 am

Hello , I am an Egyptian and working overseas my status is working visa in a gulf state country and I am totally against that regime in Egypt even i use to share that in social media and express my opinion in social media i was investigated not arrested in Egypt during protesting in 2011 and I left Egypt in 2013 and still working in Arabian gulf state , I honestly feeling fear to go back to Egypt after my contract is over , Meanwhile I use to receive a threat messages in FB, saying as if i return i will bee jailed and disappear but I went for visit my mother to Egypt in 2014-2016-2017 and nothing happened such harm action because I use to hide myself and not even talking to neighbors , relatives nor friends I scared that anyone will tell police am against that regime and maybe will arrested me even my family in Egypt use to warn me to stop talking against that regime or even express my opinion in social media it can cause harm for me if anyone from general Al sisi supporter , I really wanna feel safe and raise my child in peace environment without fear if i speak out and tell my opinion freely is any chance to get asylum in USA after this my story , above information is true and honest , please advise me , Thank you

Reply

Jason Dzubow September 21, 2017 at 10:32 pm

You may be able to get asylum in the US, but you face some challenges. Any time a person returns to his country, it is an issue in the asylum case, and you have done that several times. On the other hand, you have threats against you. I think if you seek asylum here, you should use a lawyer to help you present the strongest case possible and to try to overcome the fact that you returned to Egypt a few times. Take care, Jason

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Nabil September 21, 2017 at 10:47 pm

Thank you ,sir

Reply

Ola September 10, 2017 at 4:52 am

I an a F1 student here in the US. My dad who is contesting for a chiftancy title back in Nigeria has been threatened by his opponents to kidnap his children(3 of us here) when any of us goes back home. He’s been receiving strange call every full of threats which made report the case at the police station where he’s been advised to not let his children come home because it’s risky . He’s afraid we might be harmed and wants us to remain here for security reasons, that’s why even though my step siblings are green card holders, they haven’t been back home in Nigeria.

Reply

Jason Dzubow September 10, 2017 at 12:03 pm

This would potentially be a basis for asylum. You have a fear of return based on your “particular social group” (i.e., you and your siblings). You might want to talk a lawyer to fully evaluate the case, but it seems like a basis for asylum to me. Take care, Jason

Reply

Reda July 25, 2017 at 11:29 am

Hey I’m Reda, I live in Cincinnati Ohio.
I just want to ask if I can claim asylum in the USA.
I have some issues going back to my country.
Because my father’s family trying to kill me back there in my mother country.
I hope you reply to my case thank you.

Reply

Jason Dzubow July 26, 2017 at 6:39 am

If you are in the US, you can file for asylum. Whether you qualify is another story. It is possible to get asylum based on a family issue like you describe, but such cases can be a bit tricky, and I recommend you use a lawyer to help you. Take care, Jason

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ibrahim mohammed May 14, 2017 at 7:03 am

hello , I am an Egyptian and I work in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I would like to apply for asylum at a church in Canada. I will pay the fees for this fee (the fees paid to the refugee each month for a full year). I only want the letter from the church as a refugee. What are the costs of the lawyer who will be finishing the proceedings until I come to Canada and finish the asylum procedure

Reply

Jason Dzubow May 14, 2017 at 11:15 am

I am in the US. You would need to talk to a lawyer in Canada about this. Take care, Jason

Reply

ibrahim mohammed May 14, 2017 at 11:57 am

Is there a quick way to asylum in America? I am on the territory of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

thanks

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Jason Dzubow May 14, 2017 at 10:00 pm

Not really. You have be in the US to claim asylum here. That is the first step. Take care, Jason

Reply

ibrahim mohammed May 15, 2017 at 4:46 am

Okay i can go there, but can you give me your email or whats app number ? to know what should i do exactly .

thanks

rajesh kilaru April 27, 2017 at 10:51 am

i am a student here in usa .i have been here from last three years in f1 student visa. before 2 months of entering into usa we have one political clash and they killed my cousin.he was spot dead at the place. Recently the attacked my family they are safe for now. i got the information they are waiting on me when ever i enter in india they can come at me.what are the possible options for me.
Thank you

Reply

Jason Dzubow April 30, 2017 at 7:03 am

You can apply for asylum based on these facts. For cases from India, you will need to explain why you cannot relocate to another part of the country and why the government cannot protect you. If you decide to apply for asylum, I suggest you do it soon, since you can say that it was based on the “changed circumstances” when your cousin was killed (normally, you are required to file within one year of arrival in the US, but you should be alright since there are changed circumstances, and also because you are lawfully present on an F visa, which is another exception to the one-year filing rule). Take care, Jason

Reply

rajesh kilaru May 1, 2017 at 9:32 am

how much if i hire a experienced attorney who make me through the all the process if you can help me i will work with you on this case.
Thank you

Reply

Jason Dzubow May 4, 2017 at 6:02 am

Prices vary a lot. My fee for an affirmative case in the DC-area is generally $3000. If you want to contact me, my email is jdzubow@dzubowlaw.com. Take care, Jason

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Hossam April 18, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Im amuslim and i want to convert to cristianity but im from egypt where they jail and kill converted
Because islam is religion of vilonce and i don’t dare to enter church even christians would take me for suicide bomber
Is that enough to win asylum if i find a legal way to enter U.S. convert to catholic and process assylum case?
Thank for caring to read my message. Please reply ???

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Jason Dzubow April 18, 2017 at 6:06 pm

Apostasy (conversion from Islam to Christian) can be a basis for asylum. It depends on the conditions in your country and the evidence you get in support of your case. If you are in the US, you certainly can apply for asylum. Whether you win will depend on the specifics of the case, but it does sound like you have the basis of an asylum claim. Take care, Jason

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Hossam April 18, 2017 at 7:44 pm

Thanks for reply jason. Well the condition of egypt is blown up churches ..conversion into or out both ways gets jail..isis in egypt and yes muslims kill for apostasy you cant go to police to change religion part in your national id .,what worries me is that i will announce my conversion in us but im afraid to be departed after that will the us turn its back on me …will the judge think that may be i should have stayed muslim instead of creating fuss

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Jason Dzubow April 19, 2017 at 6:09 am

You will need to provide evidence that the conversion was genuine, and also evidence that you will be specifically targeted. They will not think that you should have remained Muslim – what religion you practice is your choice. Take care, Jason

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Hossam April 19, 2017 at 11:24 pm

Yes, but how to provide evidence that the conversion is genuine..i mean its something in my heart ..can it be some paperwork in church or priest testimony or specifying reason for conversion (mention advantages of christianity,disadvantages of islam and how its bad and violence) or the three ways…..
Also the proof for being targeted , how about mentioning things that happened to converted people before me in egypt . Names ,photos and cases its well known on internet but hard to get cases number in egyptian court even if got them will it be recognized in U.S. court…. Its well known that you cant convert and just walk the streets of amuslim country and go to church safely without carrying my own head in my hand or stapped to death or something , hell i will be targeted from my family but how to proof

Eric mark December 3, 2016 at 6:50 pm

This is an insightful and accurate commentary.

Reply

Adam November 23, 2016 at 8:54 pm

I have no Criminal Record and permeant Income so i qualify fore retirement Visa Residence

The FBI Back Ground Check says it can only be mailed two a USA Home address and i have none and all Documents only good 3 Months

So if i flew two the USA rented a Place 3 months then filed the forms wrong in a country they want a new back Ground check.

No agency can email it two me

A Hostel in Switzerland is 30 Dollars a knight is a lot two spend 3 months making asylum then leave all EU countries 90 days.

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Jason Dzubow April 20, 2017 at 6:29 am

You can prove it with letters from people who know about your conversion, such as members of the church who see you coming to church. As for country conditions, you can use news articles and human rights reports. We do this all the time, and if the situation is as you describe, there should be evidence about it. Take care, Jason

Reply

Jason Dzubow May 15, 2017 at 6:43 am

You can email me at Jdzubow@dzubowlaw.com, and I can give you info about consultations, but we do not have a good system for that for people who are outside the US. Take care, Jason

Reply

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