Breath. Relax. It can get expensive.
You may have dealt with lawyers before, but Dominican Immigration Law is an entirely different horse. Much of it has to do with the fact that the current immigration rules are in flux and requirements change all the time, as do fees, expectations and laws.
Because of this, dealing with a Dominican immigration lawyer has proven at times difficult, because what the law (and by extension the lawyer) can actually deliver does not always meet our expectations or even budget.
Why So Expensive?
If it feels like everyone is trying to get some money out of you, then you’re correct: the DR government has made things a lot more difficult for foreigners to move into the country by giving preference to those with more cash.
Discriminatory? Probably — but to be fair, most countries in Europe and North America play the same game: getting a U.S. Green Card through a lawyer for example can run up to $5,000US to $15,000US per applicant.
A country that develops needs investors, and so preference is given to those who are willing (and able) to invest in it. Of course, us hard-working low-income schnooks are then left to suffer the costly consequences.
As a result, the punching bags in this paperwork battle have become the Dominican Immigration Lawyers, who are left to pass the bill (plus their fees) to the prospective and now thoroughly shocked immigrant.
Few are the ones that managed to get their documents without a hitch and at low costs. Mostly this had to do with patience, good preparation and more often than not, luck.
Dealing With A Dominican Immigration Lawyer
This may go without saying, but don’t ever expect to get things at once. Remember that drafting legal papers and contracts takes time. So does submitting them, checking on them, re-submitting them, etc. A lot of us complain about the bureaucracy in the States or Europe, but there is nothing like the slug-like bureaucrazy of the D.R.. Not to mention its confusing requirements. While they’ve gotten better, it still is a herculean task, and one of the things lawyers charge for is for their almost daily trips to the labyrinthine government offices.
Get In Line
Even if you were to have your lawyer work exclusively for you, never forget that they have a long queue of things to do. Doubly so if you are not the only one, as is usually the case with immigration lawyers. So while the lawyer may have taken your case, there may still be other clients ahead of you.
It’s always a good idea to discuss costs and fees upfront. If possible get an agreement as to what the costs will be. While it is possible that the lawyer may not feel inclined or able to settle on a fixed price because of the fluctuating costs and requirements, at least ask your lawyer to draft you a worst case scenario.
Forearmed is forewarned — be prepared with having to deal with unexpected surprises.
That is because you are unique –just like everyone else. At times the requirements for you may be different than the ones others may have had — so don’t be surprised if things suddenly change, as do the expenses. A lot of it has to do with your reported income, bank statements, family situation, property ownership, etc.
In general the same principles apply as in getting a US residency or citizenship: the better off your financial situation is, the easier and possibly cheaper it is for you to get the DR residency.
If things depend on you and not the lawyer – such as getting a certain information or a document – try to be as prompt and quick about it as you can. If not, the immigration lawyer may fall out of the loop and will have to review your case to remember what it was all about, since they literally have dozens of other cases in the pipelines at all times.
Use Of Contacts
A lawyer has a lot of good contacts. You may be able to use those to help in your case or other dealings, so keep them as friends in need. Networking is the key to a lot of things, even just living here. Making contacts and friends can help you out of a lot of binds.
By The Hour Expert
Remember that some lawyers charge by the hour, so if you want to keep your budget low, use their time efficiently. Again, establish beforehand the costs.
Memos & Agendas
Keep everything in writing. What you will need to do, what is required, what will be done, when, where and how. Be organized about it. Being a tad OCD about keeping records may actually be a good thing.
Don’t Be Cheap
Sometimes we feel there are certain things we can do without a lawyer, just to keep the expenses down. However, unless you know exactly what it is and how to deal with it you may be in for a nasty surprise.
Keep Your Lawyer Up To Date
Unless you let your Dominican Immigration Lawyer know what exactly is going on, he may not be able to give you the right advice, so keep them informed of everything important by sending them updates and memos. Particularly in an ongoing case it is important to also meet with your lawyer once in awhile to keep them in the loop of your dealings. This may help them be clear about what it is that’s going on.