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Immigration Attorney: Education Requirements and Career Info

Becoming an immigration attorney requires a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and testing requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

An immigration attorney works on various legal issues for refugees, illegal citizens, and newcomers. All immigration attorneys must be licensed law school graduates, potentially completing extra coursework in immigration law.

Essential Information

Immigration attorneys deal with laws concerning immigrant and refugee residency and citizenship, often focusing on an immigrant's individual rights. All prospective attorneys must complete their undergraduate education before entering law school, acceptance to which requires the passing of the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Once in law school, aspiring immigration attorneys can take semester-long immigration law clinics, or go on to a graduate degree program in immigration law once attaining their Juris Doctor (J.D.) to enhance their specialized knowledge.

Required Education Juris Doctor
Other Requirements Coursework in immigration law or graduate law degree in immigration law
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 10% for all lawyers
Median Annual Salary (2016)** $61,939

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com

Law Clinics

Many law schools offer semester-long immigration law clinics. Students may also participate in related clinics, such as asylum, international human rights, immigration justice, refugee, or immigration appellate law clinic. Students earn course credit for their participation in the clinic.

The clinics combine classroom learning with hands-on experience working with and representing clients. Law students generally must apply in order to participate. Students can expect to spend between ten and 20 hours a week working in the clinic. The work can include legal writing for the case as well as organization of all related paperwork.

Graduate Education Requirements

Graduates with a J.D. may take a graduate degree to increase their knowledge in the area of immigration law. Universities offer Master of Laws (LL.M.) degrees in many areas. For example, an LL.M. in Law and Government may offer an immigration track. Possible courses may include refugee and asylum law, punishment and crime in immigration, employment and family-based immigration law, naturalization law and international persons trafficking.

Immigration Attorney Career Information

Growth for lawyers is expected to be approximately 6%, or about as fast as average from 2014 to 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Competition for jobs is expected to be keen because of the number of lawyers law schools are producing. An attorney who wants to practice immigration law as a sole practitioner may have an easier time doing so in smaller communities. Big firms tend to have offices in metropolitan areas creating added competition for a lawyer starting a new practice.

According to Payscale.com, the median salary for an immigration attorney as of January 2016 was $61,939. According to the BLS, lawyers in general earned an annual median salary of $115,820 in 2015.

Whether the issue is work visas, green cards, passports, or other factors of immigration, a special attorney is appointed to work on it for their client. Immigration lawyers generally have to go through the same educational requisites as all other lawyers. They also may gain experience in an appropriate law clinic.


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