Overview of Online Certificate Programs for Immigration Paralegals
Certificate programs focused on immigration prepare paralegals to assist clients involved in the U.S. immigration system. Students gain insight into the laws and policies that shape the immigration system along with the theories that drive immigration procedures and how those theories are applied in practice. These programs may also give students an overview of the skills needed to manage a legal organization providing these kinds of services and the ethical considerations immigration paralegals face on the job.
These online certificate programs are designed for students with some prior legal experience. Schools may require that applicants have a certificate in paralegal studies, an associate's or bachelor's degree, relevant professional experience, or some combination of these qualifications. Some programs can be completed in about eight weeks, and students may be expected to complete the programs in no more than six months. Credits earned while completing these certificates can sometimes count towards continuing education requirements or another certificate.
Requirements for Online Immigration Paralegal Certificate Programs
Along with coursework on immigration law, program participants can expect to study constitutional law, and many programs offer electives in areas like legal research, the discovery process, and legal ethics. The classes are often self-paced, and students typically work closely with an instructor to design a course of study that matches their interests. In addition to tuition costs, students should plan to purchase the books required for each course.
Information and Requirements
As they complete their courses, certificate students can expect to view lectures, take quizzes, complete assignments, and participate in workshops, with all components being delivered online. These programs are designed to give paralegals a thorough understanding of immigration-related topics including:
- current and past laws on immigration
- research methods typically used in immigration cases
- duties of immigration paralegals and other members of a legal team
- the naturalization process
- visa petition processes
- employment- and family-based immigration
- legal writing skills relevant to immigration cases
- requirements for citizenship
- processes related to illegal immigration
- asylum and refugees
- skills for effective communication with clients
- attorney-client privilege and ethical considerations
Career Outlook for Immigration Paralegal Certificate Holders
Once they have completed their certificates, students will be equipped to pursue paralegal positions focused on immigration cases and clients. Some certificate programs strive to prepare students to own and manage their own office offering legal services related to immigration. On a day-to-day basis, immigration paralegals can expect to support immigration attorneys through tasks like document preparation and organization and client communication. Immigration paralegals also prepare and file petitions and conduct research relevant to immigration cases. They can expect to manage cases with clients navigating the naturalization process or facing removal proceedings.
According to Payscale.com, the average annual salary for immigration paralegals was $50,121 in May 2020. Those just beginning their careers averaged about $41,000 per year while immigration paralegals with 20 years of experience or more had an average salary of over $63,000 each year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that paralegals and legal assistants can expect to see job growth of about 12% between 2018 and 2028. This strong growth rate reflects the trend to assign increasing responsibilities to paralegals as they complete tasks once handled by lawyers and other legal support personnel.
Online certificate programs for immigration paralegals provide a thorough introduction to the tasks and issues these legal professionals will encounter on the job through a short series of fully online courses. Students gain an understanding of the theories driving immigration policies and procedures and the duties of immigration paralegals including preparing documents, filing petitions, and managing cases involving asylum, visas, illegal immigration, and naturalization.