Immigration Paralegal Career Guide
Immigration paralegals work for immigration attorneys, who specialize in helping clients navigate immigration laws to obtain visas, become naturalized citizens or legal residents, and solve other immigration-related issues. They may also assist attorneys who help US citizens complete the adoption process of children from abroad. They work for law firms, corporations or government agencies. This guide provides information about what immigration paralegals do, requirements for the position, and the career outlook for immigration paralegals.
Immigration Paralegal Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks
Immigration paralegals generally assist attorneys and help clients through the process of becoming a naturalized citizen, a legal resident, or to help a US citizen go through the immigration process for adopting a child from abroad. They typically assist attorneys in researching the facts of each case, writing reports and assist lawyers during trials. Immigration paralegals may also:
- Collect documents necessary for the visa or citizenship application
- Complete intake interviews
- Draft motions
- Prepare immigration forms
- Research laws
- Work with attorneys to develop a case strategy
- Write correspondence to opposing attorneys, clients, and the court
- Write summaries of individual cases
How to Become an Immigration Paralegal: Requirements and Qualifications
A degree in paralegal studies is strong preparation for this career. Law firms typically require immigration paralegals to possess a minimum of an associate’s degree in paralegal studies or a related field, but others prefer a bachelor’s degree. As with most jobs, a higher degree will make applicants more marketable and competitive in the job market.
Immigration Paralegal Job Training
Qualified immigration paralegals must have paralegal training and at least some knowledge of immigration law. Specialization allows prospective paralegals to gain knowledge in student and worker visa acquisition, family residency requirements, and birthright citizenship laws. Once they are hired at a law firm or agency, immigration paralegals usually complete additional training on the job, learning how the firm functions and how to prepare for hearings and depositions.
Other Helpful Skills and Experience
Learning a foreign language commonly spoken in the region of practice, such as Spanish or Arabic, is useful, since many clients of immigration law firms do not speak English as their first or second language and will need assistance completing paperwork written in English. Candidates with experience in a courtroom setting or with a background in research or investigation may have an advantage over others. Good communication skills, organizational skills, and research skills are also important for potential immigration paralegals.
Examples of Possible Job Titles for this Career
- Immigration law practitioner
- Immigration legal assistant
Career Opportunities and Employers
Experienced immigration law paralegals may further their careers by attending law school or business school. Immigration paralegals generally work for law firms, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and organizations such as the American Bar Association.
Immigration Paralegal Salary and Outlook
Immigration paralegals are employed by nonprofits, government agencies, and private law firms. Due to increased attention to and focus on illegal immigration, immigration paralegals are in demand now more than ever. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that paralegals earned a median annual salary of $48,810 in 2015.1 Employment growth of 8% is projected for paralegals through 2024.1
Frequently Asked Questions About This Career
What type of schedule does an immigration paralegal work?
Paralegals generally work a full-time schedule and may work longer hours when preparing for court appearances. Immigration paralegals who work for large law firms that take on more complex cases may need to work overtime during evenings and weekends more frequently than those who work in smaller firms.
What are some of the areas about which immigration law paralegals must have specific knowledge?
These specialized paralegals must have an understanding of non-immigrant visa categories, deportation, worker visas, requirements for asylum, how to appeal an application that has been denied, and how the naturalization process works.
Can immigration paralegals give advice to clients?
No. Only attorneys can offer advice to clients.
Is ongoing education necessary?
Yes. You will need to keep abreast of all the latest changes in immigration law.
- American Association for Paralegal Education – A professional organization promoting the education and professional development of those in all areas of the paralegal profession.
- American Institute for Paralegal Studies: Immigration Paralegal – A national organization offering educational opportunities for aspiring immigration paralegals.
- National Federation of Paralegals – A nationwide organization providing professional development, certification,and publications for current and aspiring paralegals.
- The American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. – A national paralegal association that provides educational opportunities, a job bank, and resources.
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1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm