How do I Become an Immigration Lawyer?

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  • Written By: C. K. Lanz
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2018
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Immigration lawyers provide a range of legal services and counsel primarily to immigrants. In order to become an immigration lawyer, it is necessary to complete a doctorate of jurisprudence (JD) and pass the bar exam in the state or region where you will practice. Speaking a foreign language or languages may also help anyone seeking to become an immigration lawyer.

An immigrant may hire an attorney to perform a number of different services. An immigration attorney may assist a client who wants to enter a country by obtaining the appropriate visas or permits. Additionally, individuals that have entered illegally, who have been detained, are threatened with deportation, or who seek refugee status or citizenship can be represented by an immigration lawyer.

Successfully completing law school is necessary to become an immigration lawyer. Maintaining a high undergraduate grade point average and scoring an above-average score on the appropriate test, such as the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), are important preparations to make prior to applying for admission to law school. There is no specific bachelor's degree or undergraduate major required to attend law school. Students who wish to become an immigration lawyer should apply to schools that offer specialized coursework, clinics, internships, or a law journal in this area.


Anyone who earns a JD can practice in any field of law because all law school students take the same general law courses. Students interested in immigration law can take elective courses in this area during their second and third years of study. While in law school, interning at a firm that specializes in immigration law is a good way to gain experience and make contacts in the field. Additional opportunities may include earning credit while working pro bono in an immigration law clinic or editing a journal that focuses on immigration law issues.

Before a lawyer can practice, he or she must pass the bar exam. The bar exam helps determine whether or not the candidate is knowledgeable enough to practice law in a particular state or region. Graduates from a Wisconsin law school that practice law in the state are one of the few exceptions. In the United States, each state administers its own exam, which is typically a two or three-day exam that consists of essay and multiple-choice questions. Many students participate in a bar exam review course taught by a private company prior to taking the exam.

A law school graduate who wishes to become an immigration lawyer can establish a private firm and build a clientele. Alternatively, a large firm that specializes in immigration law cases or that seeks to establish itself in the field may also offer rewarding employment opportunities for immigration attorneys. Cities with large immigrant populations, like Los Angeles, Miami, or New York, provide immigration lawyers with a significant client pool.



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