It would be easy to assume now when chatting with Flavia Santos Lloyd that, given her prosperous law firm Santos Lloyd Law and her life in California, she has always lived a successful and accomplished life. However, for the Brazilian native who was once living illegally in the United States and had a brief stint at a homeless shelter, she had to overcome many of life’s most trying obstacles to get to where she is today.
Born in Santos, San Paulo, Brazil, Santos Lloyd’s early life was tough. Her mother was a schoolteacher, a low-paying job in her country, and her father sold books for a short time before going legally blind and having to go on disability. In her early years living in a small two-bedroom apartment with no money, little opportunities, and a lack of basic necessities, Lloyd began to understand with encouragement from her parents that education was the way out of that situation for herself and her siblings. She began focusing on her learning, even in the poorly funded and violence-ridden schools she had to attend.
“Being black did not help either as people had very low expectations of us. However, my mother was and still is a warrior. For example, she went to English and French language schools and simply said: ‘I’d like to enroll my daughter, but I don’t have any money.’ Since her approach was so disarming, we often got to study what we wanted to,” said Santos Lloyd. “One of the most vivid memories of my childhood was being around 11-12 years old when my mom and I went to a raffle to try to get a scholarship for one of the private schools in my hometown. We were there for hours hoping for my number to be called, but it never was. I was devastated. Now looking back, I know that my mom was too, but she did not let it show. She just kept pushing me. Her powers of persuasion got me into English classes, French classes, ballet, but more importantly, it gave the sense that nothing is impossible.”
Santos Lloyd ended up passing the entrance exam to attend the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s Harvard, through all her hard work and determination, studying Portuguese and Russian. Her life began to completely change with the University’s support, and she was able to get a student visa to the United States to attend a community college in California.
“It was hard. I was homesick, I was broke. The one year I planned on spending here flew by. By then, I had fallen head over heels in love with this country and with an American guy that later became the father of my child. I wanted to stay, but my visa did not allow me to. Plus, the family I lived with moved and I could not be a live-in nanny anymore. That’s when I found myself at a crossroads. I overstayed my visa, got pregnant, married, and that’s when my life became a mess, which led to a lot of hardship here in the U.S,” said Santos Lloyd.
Once things finally settled, Santos Lloyd got her work permit and then her green card. In 2002, she found a position in a newspaper ad for a legal assistant job at an immigration law firm. Her knowledge in languages was an asset for the position, but she also went through the experience and challenges of immigration herself, and so she entered the world of immigration law. Again, her life changed dramatically as she found her passion. She stayed in that firm for 12 years and throughout those years, she earned a B.S. in Communications, a Master’s in International Relations and a Juris Doctor in Law.
“I knew then that immigration law was my passion and I went from wanting to become a scholar to wanting to become a lawyer. I loved the work, the people, and I could empathize with my clients as I had been in their shoes at a point in my life. While I could have gone many different ways with law, and to this day people ask me if I can review a contract, draft a trust, or do a divorce, I say no because immigration law is my calling,” she said.
After working at a law firm for those twelve years and lecturing law at bar review courses and law schools, Santos Lloyd decided in February of 2016 it was time to do more and challenge herself. She opened Santos Lloyd Law in Irvine, starting as a small little office and sharing the space with her assistant. Over three years later, they have three offices and over 15 staff members catering to high end immigration with investment and entertainment immigration.
“I was terrified and scared to make the jump, but I knew that I was not afraid to work. So, regardless of what happened, I knew I’d be okay,” said Santos Lloyd.
Santos Lloyd Law does entertainment, business and everything immigration-related in between. Therefore, they mostly work with creative and businesspeople, which Santos Lloyd thoroughly enjoys. On top of this, they also handle asylums, green cards through family, and other types of cases, touching on a bit of everything.
“My goal is to become a big firm with the boutique feel to it. We are expanding at a great pace and have still been able to maintain the quality. I want to deliver great service at a reasonable price,” she concluded.
For more information on Santos Lloyd Law and how Dr. Flavia Santos Lloyd can help meet your immigration needs, head to the firm’s website.
Photo by Aryadne Woodbridge.