Carnegie Mellon University

Legal Resources and Immigration Attorneys

Locating a good immigration attorney is important. You may spend considerable time and money working with your attorney. As with any important decision, do your research, and make an educated choice.

Immigration law is complex and changes frequently. Attorneys, also called lawyers, are licensed by states to practice law. Most attorneys select an area of specialization - when looking for an attorney, you should be looking for an immigration attorney, as they will have experience in the specifics of immigration law. An immigration lawyer should have a thorough understanding of laws and procedures that pertain to non-U.S. citizens. A good attorney who specializes in immigration law will present you with the legal options that are available to you and can correctly prepare and file immigration petitions.

Hiring a competent immigration attorney can help you avoid unnecessary processing delays and many hours of work interpreting Department of Homeland Security procedures and preparing paperwork and petitions. Attorneys are regularly involved in H-1B petitions for "special occupation workers," O applications for "persons of extraordinary ability," and employment-based permanent residency ("green card") applications. A lawyer should also be consulted if you have a complicated situation that is beyond the regular scope of your OIE advisor, are considering starting a business in the U.S., or have a legal issue that may impact your immigration status.

There are many situations where a person can successfully file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) without the help of an immigration attorney. A family-based permanent residency application (i.e., based on marriage to a U.S. citizen) is one such example. If you decide to file a petition on your own, you may want to pay for an initial consultation with a qualified lawyer to get you started. You must become completely informed about the procedures and requirements of your particular petition type and be prepared to begin early to allow ample time for each step of the process. Begin by visiting the USCIS website to find forms and general information.

  1. American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Immigration Lawyer Search service.
  2. Allegheny County Bar Association. The Allegheny County Bar Association offers a lawyer referral service.
  3. American Bar Association (ABA). Their website offers general information about the U.S. legal system and hiring an attorney.
  4. Friends and Colleagues. As an international student or scholar, you may know someone who previously used the services of an immigration attorney. Seek out the informed opinions of friends and colleagues to obtain the attorney’s name and contact information, the type of petition filed, and your friend’s level of satisfaction.
  • Foreign nationals who are employed by CMU in H-1B or O status or who are (or will be) permanent residents of the U.S. may need to consult an attorney. OIE processes H-1B applications for many international researchers, professors, scholars, and staff and an attorney is not involved. However, H-1B employees who work for certain departments - Computer Science, Robotics, Software Engineering Institute, Mechanical Engineering and the Tepper School - as well as all persons seeking O status or permanent residency must consult with their departments and use an attorney who has been pre-approved by CMU for such work. An "employment-based petition" such as H-1B and some petitions for permanent residency are based on the strength of your professional and educational background and your job in the U.S.
  • If the university will be sponsoring someone for permanent residence, the individual and host department must work with a university-approved attorney. OIE does not handle permanent resident applications. Please note that no matter who pays for or who chooses the attorney, CMU, the department, and the individual will be involved in working with the attorney for a successful employment-based permanent residency petition.
  • Before seeking legal advice from one of the pre-approved attorneys (below), a CMU employee must discuss the plan with the department and receive confirmation that the department will support you. The following attorneys are pre-approved to handle employment-based H-1B, O, and permanent resident applications on behalf of CMU. Check their websites for information about consultations:
Attorney Name Law Firm Name Phone Website
Larry Lebowitz
Maria Piccolomini
Denton's Cohen &
H. Ronald Klasko
Elise Fialkowski
Klasko, Rulon,
Stock & Seltzer,
Mark Harley Fox Rothschild, LLP 412-391-2418 w