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Immigration Lawyer

After the United States experienced the tragedies brought on by 9/11, immigration has become more of a controversial area of concern. Despite this event, the United States still permits 1 million aliens to become Legal Permanent Residents every year and grants more visas to visitors than any other country in the world. In the United States, the Department of Homeland Security oversees immigration law and grants benefits to aliens.

Being an immigration lawyer is a highly specialized field.  A thorough understanding of the law in general as well as a grasp and fluency in the areas of immigration, citizenship and employment set immigration lawyers apart in their field of expertise. The job of an immigration lawyer can be very fulfilling as it assists others to achieve their dream of obtaining U.S. citizenship.

Educational Requirements

In order to practice law as an immigration lawyer, one must have a bachelor’s degree and a Juris Doctor Law degree.  During law school, in order to specialize in immigration law, the course load includes classes in citizenship, advising, interviewing and statutory analysis. Internships and other applicable work experience are vital for job applicants who want to stand a head above the rest. Once the law degree has been obtained, the BAR exam must be passed in order to legally practice law in the state of residency.

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Job Description & Skills Required

Immigration lawyers may represent their clients, either individuals or businesses, in court or serve them outside the courtroom by offering legal counsel. However, most rarely frequent the courtroom. They deal with issues such as:

  • employment-based immigrant visas
  • deportation
  • acquiring U.S. citizenship
  • assisting foreign companies to establish themselves legally on American soil
  • obtaining a resident permit also known as a green card
  • filing for political asylum or refugee status

For immigrant clients applying for a green card, the immigrant lawyer walks with his client through the process, which can take years. He ensures the employer satisfies the Department of Labor recruiting stipulations, completes the necessary due diligence, and files all immigration paperwork. When companies hire immigration lawyers to assist them in obtaining work visas for foreign nationals, they finalize the paperwork, file the petition and advise the company in compliance with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services laws.

Because an immigration lawyer frequently assists clients for who English is not their first language, the ability to speak another language is an asset for immigration lawyers. Furthermore, personable people skills and clear communication is important because of the close contact with clients from other cultures, making dialogue especially challenging. Due to the various documented and undocumented data accompanying each case, immigration lawyers must have strong research and analytical abilities as well.

Salary & Career Outlook

Immigration lawyers may be employed by the government, in partnership or solo practice. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for lawyers in 2011 was around $130,000. As with other lawyer professions, the salary varies depending on location, experience and education. For example, an entry level solo practionner typically begins his practice earning $30,000 while immigration lawyers employed in Washington D.C. earn the top of the pay scale at $161,000.
Practicing immigration law is a well-paid profession. Some immigration lawyers offer their services pro bono or at a reduced rate. Interestingly, immigration courts do not provide defendants with an attorney. They are obligated to obtain representation on their own.

Career prospects in the law profession in general are expected to increase. However, competition for law school placement and job opportunities is intensifying as well. Job prospects may be better in rural communities than in metropolitan cities.


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