Immigration law is a complex and constantly evolving field that requires a deep understanding of the legal system and a passion for helping others. If you’re interested in pursuing a career as an immigration lawyer, there are several steps you’ll need to take to make your dream a reality. In this blog, we’ll outline the basic steps to follow to become an Immigration Lawyer, from deciding if this is the right career path for you to getting licensed and starting your practice.
Deciding if Immigration Law is For You
Before embarking on the path to becoming an Immigration Lawyer, it’s important to make sure that this is the right career path for you. Here are two important factors to consider:
Areas of Immigration Law
As an immigration lawyer, you’ll handle a wide range of immigration cases, including but not limited to family-based immigration, employment-based immigration, deportation defense, asylum cases, naturalization and citizenship, and more. Each case is unique and requires a thorough understanding of the legal system, as well as empathy and compassion for your clients.
As with any other legal profession, compensation can vary largely depending on factors such as experience, location, and the size of the firm you work for. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for Lawyers in the United States was $144,230 in May 2020. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this is just a rough estimate and that compensation can vary greatly based on your individual circumstances.
Mapping Out A Typical Academic Roadmap
To become an Immigration Lawyer, you’ll need to follow a clear academic roadmap. Here’s a breakdown of the typical steps you’ll need to take:
Earning a bachelor’s degree is the first step in becoming an immigration lawyer. There’s no specific undergraduate major required to attend law school, but many students choose to study a related field such as political science, international relations, or pre-law. Some popular examples of “pre-law” bachelor’s degrees include Philosophy, Economics, History, and Political Science. These majors can help you develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which will be useful when you enter law school. Additionally, it’s important to remember that law schools often require applicants to take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). The LSAT is a standardized test that measures your reasoning and analytical skills and is used by law schools to help evaluate applicants. Consider taking an LSAT prep course or working with a tutor to ensure you’re fully prepared for this important exam.
Once you’ve completed your bachelor’s degree and taken the LSAT, you’ll need to attend law school. Law school typically takes three years to complete, and you’ll take courses in various legal subjects, including immigration law. You’ll also have the opportunity to participate in internships that will help you gain practical experience and build your professional network.
Admission to the Bar Association
After you’ve completed law school, you’ll need to be admitted to the bar association in the state where you plan to practice. To do this, you’ll typically need to pass a bar examination and meet other state-specific requirements. The bar exam is a comprehensive test that covers a wide range of legal topics and is designed to assess your ability to apply the law in real-world scenarios.
The typical timeline for becoming an immigration lawyer is 7-8 years, including 4 years for a bachelor’s degree, 3 years for law school, and 1-2 years of post-law school experience and bar preparation. However, this timeline can vary depending on individual circumstances and the state where you plan to practice. It’s important to keep in mind that becoming an immigration lawyer is a significant investment of time and resources, so it’s essential to plan carefully and stay focused on your goals.
In addition to obtaining a law degree and being admitted to the bar association, there are several other requirements you’ll need to fulfill. Here’s a breakdown of three key areas to consider:
Since immigration law is federal, it’s possible to practice in one state while being licensed in another. However, please consider the requirements and certifications offered by bar associations in the state where you plan to practice. Passing these certification tests can demonstrate your expertise and proficiency in the field, making you a more attractive option to local clients.
Renewal & Continuing Education
To maintain your license, you’ll need to meet ongoing renewal and continuing education requirements. This typically means taking courses or attending workshops and conferences in your field. Staying up-to-date with the latest change in immigration law is crucial to your success as an Immigration Lawyer.
Networking is an important part of any legal profession, and immigration law is no exception. Joining professional organizations such as the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) can help you connect with other Immigration Lawyers.
Other Resources to Refer To
- American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) – A professional organization for immigration lawyers that provides resources, training, and networking opportunities.
- National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG) – A non-profit organization that provides education and resources to immigration lawyers and advocates.
- ABA Commission on Immigration – A commission of the American Bar Association that provides resources and guidance to immigration lawyers.