Immigration lawyers help immigrant families start a new life, corporations recruit foreign talent and refugees find safety. They often work closely with fascinating people, who come to the United States for jobs, marriage or to escape violence in their home country. While becoming a lawyer takes years of education, those who succeed reap the rewards of helping other people and earning a comfortable salary.
Immigration Lawyer Job Description
Immigration lawyers deal with legal matters specific to immigrants. Immigrants retain lawyers for a variety of reasons. Some face deportation due to criminal convictions, while others have had visa applications denied. Some immigrants need legal help after divorcing a U.S. citizen, while others want to obtain a green card to get a job.
Many immigration lawyers specialize in a particular area of immigration law. Some work with asylum seekers who are escaping war, gang violence or domestic abuse in their home countries. Other lawyers help immigrants obtain citizenship, or work, residency and student visas. Some immigration lawyers specialize in foreign adoptions or marriage visas.
Immigration lawyers work in private practice, for corporations and for federal and state agencies. Some large corporations employ or retain immigration lawyers to handle work visas for highly skilled foreign workers such as engineers and physicians. Government agencies hire immigration lawyers to handle matters such as deportations.
Immigration lawyers who deal with deportation matters often appear in court. However, lawyers who deal with matters such as residency and work visas rarely go to court.
Immigration Lawyer Education Requirements
To become a lawyer, you must earn a bachelor’s degree, and then attend law school to obtain your Juris Doctor degree. Admission to law school is highly competitive and requires passing the Law School Admission Test. Law schools look for students who have a well-rounded education in subjects such as English, history, public speaking and civics. Most law schools take about three years to complete.
Immigration Lawyer Licensing
After graduating from law school, you must pass a test – called the “bar exam” – and obtain a license before you can practice law. You must obtain a license in every state you want to practice.
Immigration Lawyer Essential Qualities
Immigration lawyers need skills and personal qualities that go beyond their education. To understand the needs of their clients, some immigration lawyers need to learn a second language. They must have good listening skills and have the ability to clearly communicate, verbally and in writing.
Immigration lawyers must have good critical thinking and decision-making skills to determine legal options and decide the best course of action for their clients. When dealing with judges and other lawyers, immigration lawyers must use sound negotiating skills.
Lawyers who work with asylum seekers must be able to understand the dangerous conditions their clients are trying to escape, and have the storytelling skills to present their cases in court. At times, immigration lawyers must evaluate their clients’ personal issues, such as the need for medical or psychological treatment following abuse, and help them get the assistance they need.
Immigration lawyers must be able to quickly comprehend the consequences of new legislation or government policies, and adapt their strategies to achieve their clients’ goals. To juggle multiple cases, they must have good organizational and time management skills.
Immigration Lawyer Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a 2017 survey of all attorneys revealed a median income of nearly $120,000 per year. The median salary represents the center of the lawyer pay scale. Lawyers working for the federal government earned a median salary of more nearly $142,000, while their colleagues in state government jobs took home around $85,000.
According to the jobs website Glassdoor, immigration attorneys earn an average annual salary of around $136,000. Glassdoor bases its salary estimate on data submitted from more than 13,000 immigration law employees.
The amount of money you can earn as an immigration lawyer may depend upon the area of immigration law you practice. Immigration lawyers who work in firms that handle immigration matters for technology companies typically make more money than lawyers who deal with the legal matters of undocumented laborers.
Immigration Lawyer Job Outlook
According to the BLS, job opportunities for all lawyers should increase by about 8 percent, from now until 2026. Job growth in the legal system’s immigration sector may depend upon changes in immigration policies and legislation. During changes in immigration policy, the legal system often demands additional lawyers across the board, from federal government agencies to business-oriented immigration law firms.