Case Management: Other Tools and Forms

Essential Tools and Forms Used by Charitable Immigration Legal Programs

Case management forms and tools are essential in an immigration legal practice. Below is a list of commonly used forms and tools. This is not an exhaustive list, but it may help you decide what tools and forms you need. Each item contains a sample, primarily to educate you about the purpose and content. We encourage you to review the sample items and create your own that best suit your program and service delivery model.

Know Your Rights Community Presentation Tools

Educating the immigrant community about their rights, responsibilities and possible access to one or more immigration benefits is an important mission-driven activity for a charitable immigration legal program. Rights presentations can serve many purposes, including: protecting immigrants who might help from unauthorized practitioners; educating about changes in immigration law and regulations; informing immigrants on ways to protect themselves from enforcement actions; identifying people who might be eligible for previously unknown immigration benefits; and selecting potential clients of authorized legal representatives. Not every person screened for an immigration benefit can be served by a nonprofit immigration legal program due to capacity and case selection policies. Regardless of the purposes of a Know Your Rights presentation, resources in English and Spanish are provided below to facilitate that effort.

Screening Tools

Screening is an important step before opening an intake form followed by a Retainer or Client Agreement. The screening tool offered below is designed to guide legal representatives and supervised volunteers in identifying if an immigrant, including one who is undocumented, is eligible to apply for an immigration benefit. Screening toolsand intake forms often need updates, as immigration law and regulations change frequently. At a minimum, the screening tool should include: the individual’s biographic information; family information; language preference; immigration and criminal history; and relief screening. This data can assist you in case selection, referral procedures, and program planning.

Community Education Workshop Tools

Screening on a large scale, outside of the office, as opposed to one-one-one screening, results in an increased number of prospective clients and more referrals. The webinar links and screening tools for use in community education workshops are provided below to inform practitioners on how to plan and implement large-scale screening workshops.

Intake Tools

An intake form collects vital information from someone who is in the process of becoming a client. Intake forms are often embedded in a commercially produced immigration case management database and should be promptly updated by the commercial provider when immigration laws and regulations require it, or when the customer using the database wants to amend it to their own needs.

An intake form resembles a screening tool, which is why they are often used together as one document or as a two-step process; screening first and intake to follow. The contents of the intake form, like a screening tool, should include at a minimum: the individual’s biographic information; family information; languages used; immigration and criminal history; and relief screening. For survivors of domestic assault or sexual violence (i.e. VAWA clients) a specific intake form should be modified to identify other social services needed by the client to ensure their safety and well-being, including keeping confidentiality. Access to the file’s contents should be limited on a strict "needs to know" basis.

Non-engagement/Declination Letter

Not every person screened for an immigration benefit is eligible and not everyone eligible can become a client. It is important under these circumstances that a screening participant ends their contact with the legal representative knowing whether or not a client-representative relationship was established. To clarify this point it is a best practice for those who are not becoming clients to receive a non-engagement or declination letter; whichever term you use. A non-engagement letter informs the individual that your agency will not be accepting their case. Often, people 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.

Fee Waiver Tools

A charitable immigration program should have a fee waiver policy. This is also a Department of Justice requirement for nonprofits seeking recognition status. The policy is used to inform staff and potential clients of the procedure for requesting a fee waiver, or in some instances, a fee on a sliding scale basis. Fee waiver determinations should be made by someone other than the staff member responsible for working on the case. Separating the financial and substantive aspects of the case can reduce unnecessary tension between the client and his/her representative.

Client (or Retainer) Agreements and Consent Forms

Client agreements formalize the relationship between the client(s) and the representing agency. Theyspell 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 client agreement. A well-written and thorough client agreement can help an agency prevent or minimize conflicts and liabilities. All clients should have a client agreement even if the services are free or supported by a grant. Take the time to complete the client agreement and verbally communicate the details of the agreement to your client to ensure they understand it. If English is not your client’s first language make sure the agreement is translated into their native language or is interpreted to them before they sign it.

A consent to release information form is embedded in the client agreement or a companion document. It sets an agreement between the client and legal representative on the conditions under which client information can be shared with third parties. It protects client information from unauthorized disclosure and ensures that the staff maintains client confidentiality.

Client Satisfaction Assessment and Grievance Tools

A client satisfaction survey can help assess the quality of services provided to clients for future program improvements and development. Program managers can use this to gather information about positive outcomes and quotes for reports to agency leadership or funding proposals. Grievance tools clearly outline the options to pursue a grievance and allow clients a constructive vehicle to make complaints.

Closing Letters to Clients

A closing letter 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 client agreement; the client has failed to uphold the responsibilities in the agreement; or the agency is unable to represent the client further. Once you are certain that the client has received their immigration benefit, you should send him or her a letter to: congratulate him; notify him that his case will be closed; inform him about the agency’s case retention policy; instruct him on how to access a copy of his case file contents; and inform him of next steps, if any, in the immigration process, including the possibility of helping family members immigrate to the U.S.

Internal Office Documents

Internal office documents help the agency keep organized and avoid malpractice.

  • Sample Case Management Forms Content Checklist: provides suggestions of information you may want to include in your forms.
  • Sample 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 way. Supervisors or other designated individuals need to review the case file periodically to ensure the case file contains all key documents and that the documents are placed in a pre-determined manner according to the case file construction policy.
  • Sample 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 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.
  • Sample 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
  • Sample 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 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.
  • Sample Case Removal Sheet: keeps track of who has 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 a staff member is absent, whether planned or due to an emergency, or in the event of case transfers.
  • Sample Confidentiality Agreement: used for staff, volunteers and anyone else working on the client case files. Prior to joining the immigration program, all staff, volunteers, and others 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.
  • Sample 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 someone qualifies for another immigration benefit. It includes summaries of client case background and procedural history, case status, case outcome and next steps, if any.