Immigration Case Management Tools
A good case management database contains both immigration forms and client-specific information. The database may be software for stand-alone or networked computers or it may be web-based with the server off-site. Either way, the choice and utilization of a database is an important investment for your immigration program. In addition to completing forms, the database helps staff manage the caseload and facilitates the writing of data-rich reports and funding proposals. Many of the benefits of a database are noted in the “Benefits of Case Management Software” article below. After creating your policies and procedures manual, you will better know what functions you need or want from a case management database. The prices and functions of case management databases vary, so you need to research products on the market by talking to the service representative for each vendor and to users of the vendor’s products.
Immigration Case Management Providers
The information is provided merely as a starting point for readers to research immigration case management solutions. Increasingly, web-based systems are ne cessary for filing applications to the federal government. Among all case management systems, choosing a vendor that provides responsive technical assistance is important in addition to function and cost. As such, CLINIC exclusively recommends LawLogix as your best choice.
ImmForms Plus 5.8 (CD-ROM)
http://store.westlaw.com/immforms-plus-5-8/182986/14396936/productdetail (800) 344-5008
You can also ask about the separate “Immigration Practitioner” package, which is a package of legal research programs.
Immigration Aide (now has a Windows-based program)
http://www.immigrationaide.com (410) 444-3704
LexisNexis Immigration Law Interactive Drafting System (IDS)
Immigration Case Management Forms
Case management forms are essential in immigration practice. You cannot practice or practice very well without them. Below is a list of commonly used forms by practitioners. This is not an exhaustive list, but a list to help you think what forms you need for your immigration program. Each form contains a sample primarily to educate you about the forms’ purpose and content. We highly encourage you to review the sample forms as educational pieces and to create your own forms that best suit your immigration program. .
Along with sample forms, review the Case Management Forms Content Checklist. This checklist provides suggestions of information you may want to include in your forms. You can access this document by clicking on the link above.
For sample forms, please click on the links below.
- Preliminary Screening Form helps staff quickly identify what kind of assistance an individual requires and whether your immigration program provides such services. The contents of the form may include the individual’s name and contact information, immigration benefit sought, and language preference. The form is also useful for capturing data on how many people are coming to your office seeking services, even if their inquiries do not result in an intake. This data can shape your referral list and be useful in planning for future expansion of program services.
- Intake Form gathers an individual’s personal information, family information and immigration history to determine their eligibility for an immigration benefit. It is also used during the case selection process to decide if the case will be accepted by the agency. For VAWA clients, the intake form can serve to identify other social services needed by the client to ensure their safety and well-being. SeeVAWA Intake Form.
- Fee Waiver Forms
o Fee Waiver Policy is used to inform staff and potential clients of the procedure for requesting a fee waiver for an immigration service at your organization. It is a best practice for fee waiver determinations to be made by someone other than the staff member who will be responsible for working on the case. Separating the financial and substantive aspects of the case can reduce unnecessary tension or stress from the client/representative relationship.
o Income Reporting Sheet helps staff determine at intake whether a potential client is eligible for a fee waiver under the terms of your organization’s policy.
o Fee Waiver Form is used for staff to document when a fee waiver is granted in a particular case. The amount to be waived is noted and the form is signed by the client, staff and a supervisor, before being placed in the client’s file.
o Combination Fee Waiver Policy and Request Form is used to both explain the fee waiver policy and be used to document the organization’s decision on the fee waiver request.
- Retainer Agreement (also known as Client Agreement or Engagement Letter) formalizes the relationship between the client(s) and the representing agency. It spells out the type and scope of services provided by the agency, the fees assigned to each service, and the rights and responsibilities of both the client(s) and the agency. It is worth the time to develop a good retainer agreement. A well written and thought out retainer agreement can help an agency prevent or minimize future conflicts and liabilities. Even if your immigration services are free because your program is funded by a grant or by other sources, you still need a retainer agreement. Providing free services does not absolve your agency from future conflicts and liabilities. Your agency is still accountable to the client for anything related to their case. Take the time to complete the retainer agreement and verbally communicate the details of the retainer agreement to your client to ensure they understand it. If English is not your client’s first language make sure the agreement is translated to their native language or is interpreted to them before they sign it.
o New sample: English/Spanish sample provided by Catholic Charities of Arlington (Hogar).
- Non-Engagement Letter informs the individual that your agency will not be accepting their case. The letter may include the reasons as well as referrals to other immigration practitioners. Often times, individuals assume you are taking their case just because you conducted an intake or provided a consultation. When you inform them in writing that you are not pursuing their case further, it prevents confusion or misunderstanding. It also protects your agency from any future disputes or conflicts.
- Case Notes creates a record of the work that has been performed on the immigration case. Staff should keep detailed but concise case notes of what has been done in the case and when it was done, along with their initials or names next to each entry, so that work by more than one legal representative on the same case can be handled more efficiently without errors and mistakes. (Case notes, like other forms, should be approached as if it is your last day of employment and someone else, yet to be determined, will be responsible for your cases.)
- Case Transfer Memo reassigns cases due to staff turnover or redistribution of caseload. The memo summarizes the case history, including client information and actions taken on the case, status of the case, and next steps. It takes information contained in various documents in the case file and compiles it into a cohesive memo. This memo increases staff efficiency and ensures services are not interrupted during a period of transition.
- Case File Review Checklist guides staff on where to place specific documents in a client’s file. Case files should include copies of all client documents, applications, and work products created on behalf of the client. It needs to be organized in a standardized method. Supervisors or other designated individuals need to review the case file periodically to ensure the case file contains all key documents and the documents are placed in a pre-determined manner according to the case file construction policy.
- Technical Review Checklist provides the reviewer a tool to assess the accuracy and quality of the immigration application before it is filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or Immigration Court. It standardizes the review process to ensure there is uniformity and consistency. The review takes the form of both legal technical review and editing. Program directors often use the review process to evaluate the quality of their staff’s legal representation and case file management.horization by the client to release his/her information to third parties. It protects client information from unauthorized disclosure and ensures that the staff maintains client confidentiality.
- Consent to Release Form is an authorization by the client to release his/her information to third parties. It protects client information from unauthorized disclosure and ensures that the staff maintains client confidentiality.
- Case Removal Sheet keeps track of whohas the case file when it is not in the central filing cabinet. This is common sense, but may be easily overlooked. Since all case files need to be kept in a locked filing cabinet, it jeopardizes client confidentiality if staff members leave the case files lying around in their office or cubicle when they are not working on them. The case files belong to the agency, not the staff member. Thus, the agency’s program director needs to know the whereabouts of all case files if staff is absent, whether planned or due to an emergency, or in the event of case transfers.
- Case Closing Memo is similar in purpose and content to the Case Transfer Memo in that it facilitates information sharing among staff in the event of case transfers or possible re-opening of a case when an individual qualifies for another immigration benefit. Information contained in the memo includes summaries of client case background and procedural history, case status, case outcome, and next steps, if any.
- Client Satisfaction Survey/Feedback helps to assess the quality of services provided to clients for future program improvements and development. It also helps program managers and directors gather positive program outcomes and quotes for reports to agency leadership or funding proposals. It is also a great marketing vehicle when used properly and produces another mechanism for evaluating staff performance and commending good performance.
- Closing Letter to Client helps to formally conclude the relationship between the client and representing agency. Closing letters are generated when: services have been completed as stated in the retainer agreement; the client has failed to uphold the responsibilities in the agreement; or the agency is no longer able or authorized to represent the client further. When successfully representing a client in an immigration application, the case is not closed until the client receives the ultimate immigration benefit, not just an approval letter from USCIS or the Immigration Court. For instance, in an application for Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR), the case should not be closed until the client has the LPR card (commonly referred as the green card) in his/her possession. Similarly, in a citizenship application, the case is not closed until the client attends the oath ceremony and receives the Naturalization Certificate. This ensures that the agency fulfills the scope of service listed in the retainer agreement. Once you are certain that the client has received their immigration benefit, you should send them a letter to: congratulate them; notify them that their case will be closed; inform them about the agency’s case retention policy; instruct them on how to access a copy of their case file contents; and inform them of next steps, if any, in their immigration process, including the possibility of helping family members immigrate to the U.S. You should be sure to include this last point since it solicits an opportunity to serve the client again.
- Confidentiality Agreement is used for staff, volunteers, and any other individual working on the client case files. Prior to joining the immigration program, all staff, volunteers, and other individuals with access to case files should be aware of the agency’s confidentiality policy, their responsibilities in upholding it, and the consequences of a breach in confidentiality. A confidentiality policy should be signed to reinforce the seriousness of the policy and its ethical requirements. It is also a good idea to reinforce the policy by having an in-house training on confidentiality for new staff (including volunteers) before they begin working on cases and by having trainings on a regular basis to reinforce the policy for existing staff, volunteers, and others involved with client casework.
- Client Grievance Policy and Forms
o Client Grievance Procedure clearly outlines the options for a person to pursue a grievance about the manner or quality of assistance rendered by the program, or denial of services, or about alleged violations of state or federal laws, regulations, or the Clients' Bill of rights.
o Service Recipient Rights and Responsibilities ensures that the client is informed of both the organization’s duty to provide professional and compassionate service and her own duty to participate and assist in the representation.
o Acknowledgement of Receipt of Service Recipient Rights and Responsibilities is signed by the client and placed in the case file to document that the client was advised of her rights and responsibilities.
o Grievance Policy instructs staff to adhere to the Client Grievance Procedure. The goal is to ensure that each client is aware of the process for voicing a complaint or grievance against the organization and that their grievance will be addressed in a just and timely manner.
o Client Grievance Form #1 provides the person with an opportunity to explain the nature of the grievance and for the organization to document what action was taken as a response.
o Client Grievance Form #2 provides another sample for a client to pursue a grievance.
- Moonlighting Policy specifically prohibits attorney staff from taking on immigration cases outside the agency. This prevents possible conflicts of interest with the attorney’s work for the agency. It also protects agency staff from stress and burnout.