Immigration Paralegal Career Guide
Immigration paralegals help clients become naturalized citizens or legal residents or help US citizens complete the adoption process of a child or children from abroad. They work for law firms, corporations or government agencies to assist in obtaining a visa. This guide provides information about what immigration paralegals do, requirements for the position, and the career outlook for immigration paralegals. 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
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 them to have a bachelor’s degree. The bachelor’s degree does not have to be in paralegal studies, but a certification in paralegal studies can also be pursued by those with a bachelor’s degree. Pro-bono and public interest groups may not require immigration paralegals to have a degree or any particular training in law. As with most jobs, a higher degree will make applicants more marketable and competitive in the job market. While experience may not be required to be hired, applicants with experience in law or office work.
Immigration Paralegal Job Training
Qualified immigration paralegals must successfully complete basic paralegal training with a specialization in 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 training on the job, learning how the firm functions and how to prepare for hearings and depositions.
Other Helpful Skills and Experience
Learning a language commonly spoken in the region of practice (i.e., Spanish in California) is also useful, since many clients of immigration law firms do not speak English as their first or second language and will need assistance filing paperwork to obtain legal documents, such as student visas or work permits. Candidates with experience in a courtroom setting or with a background in research or investigative skills will 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 career by attending law school or business school. Immigration paralegals generally work for law firms, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and organizations such as the American Bar Association.
Immigration Paralegal Salary and Outlook
Immigration paralegals are employed by various interest groups, government agencies, and private law firms. Due to the increased attention and focus on illegal immigration, immigration paralegals are in demand now more than ever. The paralegal profession in general is expected to increase by 17% by 2022, much faster than average.1 The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that paralegals earned a median annual salary of $46,990 in 2012.1 Most law firms that hire a full or a part time immigration paralegal may offer benefits including 401ks, insurance, and performance bonuses. Many pro-bono or public interest groups, however, do not pay as well or offer many benefits.
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. Those immigration paralegals, who work for large law firms, may work much longer hours.
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. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm
2. Colorado Bar Association: http://www.cobar.org/repository/Inside_Bar/Paralegal/Paralegal%20Guidelines/Immigration.pdf