Please study our Retainer Agreement document very carefully as it represents our terms of engagement. We have drafted our Retainer Agreement with the utmost care, with clarity and transparency in mind so there are never any unexpected surprises.
If you have any questions about our Retainer Agreement please let us know so we can explain things to your satisfaction. The terms in our Retainer Agreement are not negotiable as it's important that everything we do applies equally and fairly to all of our valued clients.
(1) Law Firm Credentials:
This will confirm the terms on which you have retained Attorney Christopher M. Ingram, LL.M., ESQ., hereinafter referred to as the “Law Firm”, to represent you in connection with the preparation and submission of the above-mentioned immigration matter. The named Client to be represented in this matter will be hereinafter referred to as the "Client", "you" or “your”. The Law Firm is licensed by the State of New York (State Bar ID Number 615487 - admitted 2003), and is thereby able to practice immigration law across America, as immigration law is not a State-regulated matter but a Federal (national) matter. The Law Firm is also a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (ID number 19557 – member since 2004).
(2) Law Firm Retained:
The Law Firm is hereby retained to act on your behalf pursuant to your above-mentioned immigration case. This agreement grants authority to the Law Firm to request whatever documents are necessary from you, your family, friends, associates, business educational institutions, government agencies, or any organization for the preparation and submission of your immigration case.
(3) Day-To-Day Communication:
The Law Firm will exercise due diligence to ensure that all communications received will be dealt with in a timely manner.
With so many spam blockers in place these days it's very important that you check your spam folders regularly to make sure you are not missing any day-to-day communications from the law firm, especially during the initial email interactions with staff members. Also, make sure you are quickly able to access your online case file as all emails to and from clients will be filed there for your kind perusal at any time.
If you feel at any time you are not getting timely answers to your questions you must let us know by telephone right away so we can make sure there are no breakdowns in communication.
(4) Payment of Attorney Fees:
All Attorney fees are payable in three payments:
First Payment: 50% of total Attorney fee payable at the commencement of the case
Second Payment: 25% of total Attorney fee payable when more than 50% of the required documents are received
Third Payment: 25% of the total Attorney fee payable when more than 75% of the required documents are received
(5) Please Note:
If the total attorney fees are under $1,500 then there will be no installment payment option and the full amount will be drawn down at the commencement of the case.
(6) Documents Requested
A 'Table of Contents' of the case to be filed, as identified by the Law Firm in due course, listing all the required documents, is posted online at the start of the case, and as each document is received the online case file is updated. When 50% or 75% of the required documents are received this will automatically trigger the drawdown of the second or third payment. Clients will be notified in advance each time a payment is due.
The client agrees that should the Law Firm not receive the second or third payments as they fall due, the Law Firm is no longer obliged to continue working on the case and the case will be "parked" pending further activity.
(8) Payment Security
Clients are encouraged to pay all fees via their credit card as this provides an additional layer of consumer protection in the event of a dispute between the Client and the Law Firm. Please note that no credit card processing fee is charged when paying Attorney fees.
(9) Payment of Disbursements (out-of-office expenses):
The agreed Attorney fee as stated above is a flat fee to cover all the legal work involved in the preparation and submission of your immigration matter to the proper Embassy, Consulate, US-based immigration authority, or department. It is also agreed that the Law Firm will be reimbursed for all out-of-office expenses such as, but not limited to, photocopying and the mailing/postage of all documents.
(10) Out of Pocket Expenses
At the commencement of your case, the Law Firm will debit your credit card $150.00 and hold these monies on account to cover the aforementioned out-of-pocket expenses. An additional handling fee of 5% will also be charged to cover credit card/administrative processing fees. If further monies are required on account we'll notify you accordingly.
(11) Photocopying and Tabulating Cases (Case Packaging) for Filing to USCIS and or Client:
A: There will be a flat fee of $250 for photocopying and tabulating an original copy of the case and your copy of the filed case for your records. Both copies will be presented in binders.
B: In addition, you will be charged for all shipping costs associated with your case.
These case production fees are not included in the Attorney’s flat fee. It is Law Firm policy that you must be sent a duplicate of the filed case for your records, this will discharge any lingering duty for the Law Firm to provide, on-demand, a copy of your documents at some future date. You hereby authorize the Law Firm to recoup these expenses. Should you require any additional copies of your case at the time of filing your case, these can be produced with 30 days prior notice. The fees will be $250 per 500 pages plus S&H. (Generally, all law firms have an obligation to keep your records for 7 years and after such time they can be destroyed).
(11B) Requesting a Copy of Your Entire File
At any time and for any reason, a client (you) can access their (your) entire file. e.g., all emails, correspondence, copy documents, everything you have or we have uploaded to your online case file. If you require a copy of your entire file you have two options: -
A: All clients are free to download their entire file at will and at any time for up to 7 years. You hereby agree in this contract you waive any obligation for this law firm to print out a copy of your entire case since you already have full access and this capability yourself 24/7. You therefore hereby agree that you accept that it will be your sole responsibility to download your digital case file, in part or in full at any time if needed.
B: If you would like for the Law Firm to digitally download your entire file e.g., all emails, correspondence, copy documents, everything we have uploaded to your online case file, you will be required to pay a fee in advance of $250.00 per 500 pages, plus an administration fee of $350.00, plus any and all Shipping and Handling fees to ship the package at your desired speed. You will need to allow 30 days from the date of payment for this to be prepared and shipped out to you.
(12) Payment of Filing Fees:
It is our preference that all filing fees are paid directly by the Client – the Client mails in the required check (cashier's check or money order made payable to the “The Department of Homeland Security” or as otherwise directed by this Law Firm). In the alternative, if the Client cannot make these arrangements and requires the Law Firm to draw these funds from their credit card and make the payment on their behalf, then there will be an administration fee of $25 per check, plus a credit card handling fee of 5% – see below.
(13) Credit Card Handling Fee for Filing Fees:
Because filing fees are paid to the Law Firm by credit card to be forwarded in full to US Immigration, the Law Firm will incur credit card processing fees. An additional handling fee of 5% of the total filing fee will be charged to your account to cover this expense. Filing fees, once paid to US Immigration, are never refundable regardless of the outcome of the case.
(14) Advance Notice:
The Law Firm will notify you in advance and seek approval for all disbursements for all matters, except in the case of photocopying and mailing/postage of your legal documents (as delays in mailing/postage could adversely affect your case), and those charges are outlined above. You agree that once you have provided credit card details, the Law Firm is authorized to debit your credit card for such disbursements and report the same to you as quickly as possible.
The Law Firm makes no guarantee whatsoever that any immigration matter petitioned or applied for will be approved, as all such decisions rest solely with the US immigration authorities.
(16) Potential Additional Fees Relating to Aliens of Extraordinary Ability Cases EB1 and O1 Petitions:
For these types of cases, we usually prepare evidence for three categories and draft a very detailed cover letter often in the region of 100 pages with approximately 200 - 300 pages of supporting evidence. The cover letter will also require a summation statement called a Final Merits argument. EB1 and O1 cases are built-in components: -
Components / Arguments
1st Category of Extraordinary Ability Argument e.g., Memberships
2nd Category of Extraordinary Ability Argument e.g., Leading /Critical Role
3rd Category of Extraordinary Ability Argument e.g., High Salary
Final Merits Arguments - Summation of Overall Merits of the Case.
Upon USCIS adjudication, the Officer will examine each category in turn and decide the case affirmatively if all components are deemed to have met the required standard. Please note that due to the subjective nature of many of the categories, Officers may draw their own individual conclusions as to whether the evidence meets their personal interpretation of the governing regulations. Clients should be prepared for and expect that some Officers will require additional evidence to be certain the category has been met. The Law Firm will tackle any such requests as outlined below: -
If the case is approved -
1. the Client takes their case to the Embassy so their visa can be stamped into their passport
2. If the Client is currently in the US, their status will be updated with their Approval Notice
1. After receipt of the Approval Notice, the Client then moves on to the Green Card processing and issuance phase
2. The Client will then be required to pay the Attorney and filing fees for that portion of their overall case
(16a) Case Preparation Issues:
Your case will be written one category at a time, so as each category is completed and approved by Counsel, we'll then move on to the next category until the entire case is done.
Dealing With New Evidence After a Category Has Been Completed / Drafted by Counsel:
It's quite possible that after a category has been completed/drafted by Counsel, a Client may gather new evidence, perhaps even better evidence, and want that category re-written so that the new evidence can be incorporated. There will be an additional fee: -
$375 per re-draft, per category
(16b) Re-Doing Forms Due to a Change in Client Circumstances:
The preparation of your immigration forms can be quite time-consuming but is a very important aspect of your case, and thus we expect to only complete them once. If we make an error due to a typographical error on our part, then, of course, we will fix this without any charge. However, some Clients may move location or present other circumstances after the forms have been completed, and as a result, the forms will need to be re-done. Where changes are required on the forms due to the Client’s actions there will be an additional flat fee: -
$150 Each Form
If the case is not immediately approved -
Potential Additional Fees:
Winning cases, especially O1 and EB1 cases, can be very challenging. It’s not always the case that an Officer will just issue a Green Card or O1 visa without challenging it. Because a Green Card is for life, the Officer wants to make sure he makes the right decision. You need to be prepared for this. However, if your case is not immediately approved, we have a number of effective options we can choose from.
(17) Potential Additional Attorney Fees – Request For Further Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID):
It is extremely unusual for USCIS to deny any Petition or Application outright. Instead, USCIS will request submission of additional evidence and this is called an RFE / NOID.
(17a) An RFE / NOID:
This Law Firm endeavors to submit comprehensive and extensive documentation to minimize the likelihood of an RFE, but this cannot be avoided in 100% of the cases submitted. If an RFE / NOID arises, this Law Firm will notify you immediately and seek your further instructions on this matter. Tackling RFEs are NOT included in the standard retainer fee quoted at the start of your case - see fee scale below. Ignoring an RFE will result in the case being denied. An RFE must be responded to within 30 – 87 days.
Attorney Fees for Very Minor Case Adjustment =
Typically, this is a request for a single document, such as a clearer copy of a birth certificate.
Attorney Fees Requiring Additional Evidence and a Category Re-draft
$1,500 Per Argument to be Re-drafted.
$1,500 for a new Final Merits Argument if required.
$1,500 for a 4 argument / category case
No filing fees for responding to an RFE/NOID.
Typically, an Officer may have an issue with one or more categories and thus we only charge the additional work according to what category or categories the USCIS Officer requires additional work on.
In most cases, these issues can be resolved by re-drafting the argument and by providing any additional evidence that could help the Officer reconsider their original decision, and approve the case.
(18) Potential Additional Attorney Fees – withdrawing a case after it has been filed:
If for any reason the Client decides to withdraw the case after it has been filed, (in order to submit new or better evidence), then this Law Firm will charge a further $250 to instruct USCIS to withdraw the case.
(19) Re-filing a Case:
In certain instances after filing a case, depending on the USCIS Officer’s initial assessment, it may be prudent to withdraw the application and re-file the case in the hope that another Officer will look at the case afresh and take a completely different view on the merits of the case. Sometimes, we may withdraw a case where the Client suddenly gets news of new and more powerful evidence becoming available shortly. For example, they had just won a big award of they recently got published in a major publication as this evidence since it came to light after their case was filed cannot now be included in the case after it has been filed. Finally, if after having an unfavorable initial adjudication, we may decide to take on board some of the comments and re-draft elements of the case to address and then decide to re-file the case. A re-file can be triggered upon receipt of an RFE/NOID or after an initial denial. Re-filing the case can at times be highly effective and thus should be considered along with Counsel's advice.
$1,500 per argument to be re-drafted prior to re-file
$1,500 for a new Final Merits argument if required
$950 to re-package the entire case, including but not limited to, re-doing all forms
Note - Clauses 16A and 16B above apply
New filing fees will need to be paid as it is a new submission.
(20) Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) Research:
In order to overcome a USCIS Officer’s objections, sometimes it’s not enough to merely present better evidence, especially when the evidence is already self-evident. Sometimes, you have to research and cite more AAO decisions that specifically match / or closely match the fact pattern in hand. USCIS holds a library of AAO decisions, that does not index by category, only by date. So, in order to find a match or close match, one has to research typically for many hours hoping to find a decision we can use and there is no guarantee that a match or close match will be found. Where it is felt necessary that research needs to be done to find supportive AAO decisions is warranted, we bill this work out at $150 per hour which is less than 50% of our regular hourly rate of $350 per hour. Our research rate is based on a fixed fee four-hour block of time - $600 per block. If additional blocks are needed, we will let the Client know in advance so that they can authorize further blocks until we find the closest match case or the effort is abandoned.
$600 per 4-hour block
(21) Potential Additional Attorney Fees – filing a ‘Motion to Reopen and Reconsider’:
If for any reason your application is denied and it is mutually agreed by Client and Law Firm to file a Motion to Reopen and Reconsider, an additional Attorney Fee to prepare such a Motion will become payable. The amount will be as follows: -
$1,500 per argument to be re-drafted
$1,500 for a new Final Merits argument if required
Typically, an Officer may have an issue with one or more categories, and thus the Law Firm will only charge for the additional work according to the category or categories the USCIS Officer had a problem with. In most cases, these issues can be resolved by re-drafting the argument and by providing any additional evidence that could help the Officer reconsider their original decision to deny this application.
To be advised as these are subject to change by USCIS
(22) Potential Additional Attorney Fees – filing an Appeal:
If for any reason your application is denied and it is mutually agreed by Client and Law Firm to file an Appeal, an additional Attorney Fee to prepare such Appeal will become payable.
$1,500 per argument to be re-drafted
$1,500 for a new Final Merits argument if required
To be advised as these are subject to change by USCIS
In an Appeal situation, we only have a very limited amount of time to respond, typically less than 30 days. With Appeal cases, we argue that the Officer was wrong in law and thus we may have to do an extensive amount of research to find case law pertinent to the stated reasons for the denial, which is why the ‘Per Argument’ fee is higher for Appeal cases.
(23) High Salary Issues on EB1/O1 Cases:
In recent months we have seen USCIS take an inconsistent view as to what is regarded as a high salary, even though their own Practice Memorandum 602-0005.1. cites the Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net, and the Online Foreign Labor Certification Data Center as being determinative. Meaning, that if the Client is able to earn above the 90th percentile, the alien is usually considered as having satisfied the High Salary category.
Faced with inconsistent adjudication, and in the absence of clarity from USCIS as to what can be reliably considered a satisfactory high salary, this Law Firm has now taken the position that any Client whose income is 25% above the Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net and the Online Foreign Labor Certification Data Center's 90th percentile has a strong standing in this category.
However, if the Client's income is above the 90th percentile of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net and the Online Foreign Labor Certification Data Center, but not 25% above the 90th percentile of the same, then our advice to prospective and active Clients moving forward is to consider an alternative to the High Salary category or keep the High Salary category in the case, but add a fourth category to your case. Adding the fourth category will incur a higher fee than the standard free quoted for EB1 cases, where we only submit three categories.
We do get cases approved on a regular basis where the Client's income is marginally above the Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net, and the Online Foreign Labor Certification Data Centers 90th percentile, but the results are very inconsistent so we'd like to err on the side of caution. Ultimately, it’s the Client's choice to make the final decision. Being as transparent as possible about what has become a highly inconsistent area of adjudication is our practice.
(24) Fourth Category Argument:
Our EB1/O1 fees cover the cost of the Law Firm drafting a three-category case with a final merits argument as outlined above.
Whilst three categories are typically sufficient, the Officer may feel inclined for whatever reason to query one category. He then cannot approve the case and will issue a Request for Further Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), which then has to be addressed and will trigger additional Attorney fees.
In many cases, the Client can only satisfy three categories really well but does not have the option to file a four-category case. However, where Clients can satisfy three categories really well, it’s possible to build in some redundancy into the case by adding a fourth category. Upgrading to a four-category case, which by any definition is a stronger case, is a good option.
If the Officer has a problem with one out of the four categories, he can still approve the case and may do so. However, if the Officer has an issue with two or more categories then he still has the option to issue an RFE / NOID, and we deal with that as outlined above, but the fight is from a stronger standpoint.
$1,500 4th Category
(25) Using an Expert Witness Service:
In some cases where the Client's expertise is highly specialized or highly technical and where it's difficult for a layperson to appreciate the significance of the Client's abilities, it's advisable to request an Expert Witness letter. In many legal matters, experts need to be called in to give evidence as to the merits of the issues at hand, based on the expert having advanced knowledge in the area. We use Morningside Evaluations to provide these reports. They are expensive but have often proven themselves as being the game changers, especially if we experience difficulties persuading the USCIS Officer (often a layperson) to fully appreciate the skills our Client possesses.
If you do need a Morningside Evaluation Expert letter, the Law Firm will prepare a copy of your case for the expert to review, and provide the expert with a requirements letter outlining particular areas to focus on and where we might need his/her help the most. Although there is extensive work on our part in setting this up, nevertheless, we highly recommend serious consideration in using an Expert Witness where appropriate.
Attorney Evaluation Preparation Fees:
Morningside Evaluation Fees:
$1,750 - $2,250 (NB: subject to change by Morningside)
S&H: To be advised
(26) Potential Fees for Other Types of Cases:
Where a situation arises where US Immigration requires substantial new and additional evidence following an official Request for Further Evidence (RFE) there will be a flat rate Attorney fee of 50% of the original Attorney fee for the case. Please note, that working RFE cases are extremely difficult and requires a substantial amount of time to ensure to the very best of the firm's ability that every single element of the RFE is fully dealt with to ensure the best chances of success. If the RFE requires only a very minimal amount of work e.g., a clearer birth or marriage certificate, or more recent bank statements: -
(27) Disclaimer Business Immigration:
Where the US visa immigration case is related to some form of commercial investment, it is understood and agreed by the Client(s) that the Law Firm is in no way engaged in or accepts any engagement from the Client to be a party to or in any way involved in the Client's final decision to purchase, start-up any business, or open any branch of an existing business of any nature. Whilst the Law Firm will advise and assist the Client generally with regards to the suitability of any business opportunity as it may relate to the satisfaction of the requirements for a US Immigration visa, it is further agreed and understood by the Client that the Law Firm cannot be held liable, responsible in any way, nor guarantee that any investment in a commercial enterprise will result in the issuance of any visa.
The Client is therefore strongly encouraged to exercise all due diligence independently of this Law Firm before entering into any undertaking involving the making of any commercial investment. In the event that the Client(s) has cause to litigate against a business broker, seller, seller's agent, or any third party in connection with sale, purchase, or start-up of any business and the Law Firm is joined in the action by a third-party, the Client agrees to fully indemnify the Law Firm for any loss and costs incurred due to defending any third-party action against the Law Firm.
(28) Abandoning A Case Once Started:
The Client may abandon their case, in writing, at any time. In addition, the Client should note that the Law Firm relies on the full cooperation of the Client to send in the required documents in a timely manner. At the start of the case, as aforementioned, an online worksheet will be provided listing all the required documents. The documents requested are essential to enable the Law Firm to compile, review and submit as appropriate to US Immigration, along with any other Attorney work product drafted by this Law Firm. Therefore, if the Client fails to submit requested documents then the case cannot progress, and ultimately this Law Firm must determine if such case is deemed abandoned.
Moreover, this Law Firm does not entertain tardy cases dragging on indefinitely over many months or years. Clients are hereby notified that they are given six months to submit all the required documents from the date the case is commenced. If all the documents are not received within this time frame, the Law Firm reserves the right to close the case and consider all Attorney fees made to date as earned fees. There will be no refunds to any Client under such circumstances. If the Client wishes a reasonable extension of time then the option to grant an extension rests solely at the discretion of this Law Firm.
(29) Loss of Communication With Client:
The Law Firm will endeavor to maintain good open lines of communication with you at all times with regular progress reports and requests for documentation needed to progress your case and also provide you with any and all guidance needed. It is therefore important that should your contact information change at any time, you immediately notify the Law Firm. If we lose contact with you, despite our repeated attempts to get any response from you and receive no response within 28 days of our efforts to establish contact, your case will be suspended. After said 28 days the Law Firm will send a ‘Case Suspension’ notification by mail to your last known address. The Law Firm will consider all Attorney fees made to date as earned fees. If no further communication is received thereafter for an additional 5 months making the total time without contact for six months, your case will be formally closed.
(30) Attorney Fee Refund Policy
This Law Firm does not bill Clients by the hour for all work done on their case. Hourly billing could easily result in the amount initially quoted being grossly underestimated leaving the Client with a much higher bill than anticipated. Instead, this Law Firm operates on a fixed fee billing system. Therefore, once each payment is made these fees will reflect full payment for the work done up to that point in the case.
The case is considered commenced on submission of this agreement online or signed scanned/emailed/mailed whichever arrives first. Billing commences from this point onwards.
(31) Calculation of Return of Attorney Fees Paid on Termination of this Contract
Once the client communicates to the Law Firm in writing that no further work should be done on their case, and requests any available refund, the Fixe-Fee financial arrangement of this retainer agreement is deemed broken since the case will not be worked through to completion. The Law Firm will therefore revert to an hourly billing structure in order to calculate the total time spent on the case up to the aforementioned notification from the client that work should be ceased.
The calculation of time spent on the case will be from the date of submission of the retainer agreement to the client's notification to cease work on the case.
Please Note: Typically, if the case is abandoned shortly after work has commenced, there should be some Attorney Fees that could be refunded. However, under an hourly billing fee structure, the longer the case has had a chance to progress these costs when calculated escalates very quickly indeed, hence the advantage of having a fixed-fee structure.
The Law Firm's hourly rate for the purposes of calculating a potential refund is $350.00 per hour. All the "Time Spent" on this case, regardless of actual progress made, will be based on this hourly rate.
Time Spent shall include, the review of all emails sent and received, all phone calls outbound and inbound, review of all materials sent for consideration, time spent developing legal arguments and submissions for the case, time spent preparing and developing the case in any way, including but not limited to internal case conferences to discuss strategies on how best to present the evidence.
In many instances, where the case has been active for some time, the hourly calculation can easily exceed the initial or subsequent payments made by the client up to the point of termination, and where this is calculated to be the case, no refund will be due.
(32) Attorney Hourly Rate:
The Law Firm’s hourly rate is $350 and this is to be charged should the Client want any additional work done outside preparing US immigration work the Law Firm is hereby retained to do. A typical example might be to hire the Law Firm to advise, report or assist on another legal matter or undertake legal research on behalf of the Client. No hourly rate is charged for preparing the case for which the Law Firm is hereby being retained to do, as such work is covered in the flat fee agreement unless the case is terminated by the client prematurely.
(33) Return of Documents:
Generally speaking, we do not require any original documents, (except passport photos). If these are sent to the Law Firm, we will copy and return them in due course. The Law Firm shall not return any photocopied documents unless specifically requested. All documents are returned at the Client's expense. In some instances, original documents will be required to be sent to the National Visa Center. Where this applies, Clients should not expect these documents to be returned.
(34) Shipping Documents:
The Law Firm will use its best endeavors to ensure that documents are sent securely and swiftly, (since most Clients need their documents to arrive at their destination as quickly as possible). The Law Firm will typically use FedEx, UPS, or United States Priority Mail and always with a tracking number. The Client will be emailed the tracking number whenever these services are used. The use of these services is deemed Law Firm’s 'out-of-office expenses'.
(35) Signature Copies of Agreement:
If the above terms are acceptable to you, please hit the submit button.
Please Note: Upon online submission of this agreement it is agreed that a binding contract has been entered into.
[Last Updated April, 3rd, 2021]