Career Development

Immigration Lawyer Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Immigration law is a specialized area of the legal profession. It’s concerned with the rights and responsibilities of non-citizens and the government agencies and organizations that interact with them. Immigration lawyers handle everything from green card applications to citizenship and visa requests to deportation appeals.

Immigration law is a specialized area of the legal profession. It’s concerned with the rights and responsibilities of non-citizens and the government agencies and organizations that interact with them. Immigration lawyers handle everything from green card applications to citizenship and visa requests to deportation appeals.

Immigration lawyers commonly work with individuals and families who are applying for legal residency or applying for citizenship. They’re also tasked with helping companies and employers navigate international hiring issues as well as advising businesses on compliance issues related to immigration reform, such as employment eligibility verification laws.

Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be an immigration lawyer and what it takes to become one yourself.

Immigration Lawyer Job Duties

Immigration lawyers are responsible for the following duties:

  • Preparing and filing applications with the USCIS for people who want to become permanent residents or citizens of the United States
  • Interpreting and researching laws regarding immigration, citizenship, deportation, and naturalization to guide clients through legal proceedings
  • Representing clients in administrative and court proceedings, including removal and deportation hearings
  • Advocating on behalf of clients before the USCIS, the BIA, the U.S. Courts of Appeals, and other administrative bodies such as Immigration Courts and federal agencies
  • Arranging for fingerprinting, photographing, and other identity confirmation procedures as required by law
  • Communicating with clients to answer questions about their immigration status and other legal matters
  • Preparing and filing petitions on behalf of clients including visa petitions, asylum requests, naturalization applications, and appeals to the Board of Immigration Appeals or federal court

Immigration Lawyer Salary & Outlook

The median annual wage for immigration lawyers is $80,500. The highest earners make over $130,000 per year. Those earning higher wages tend to work in the government and non-profit sectors.

Demand for immigration lawyers is expected to grow steadily over the next decade. This is due to an increase in immigration proceedings and a growing need for assistance in securing visas and citizenship for immigrants.

Immigration Lawyer Job Requirements

The requirements for immigration lawyers are as follows:

Education: Immigration lawyers generally need a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from an accredited law school. A J.D. degree is required to practice law in the United States, but some schools offer combined degree programs that include a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in immigration law. This advanced degree allows students to focus on the nuances of the field and gain additional knowledge of the subject matter.

Training: Immigration law is constantly changing and immigration lawyers must constantly keep up with the latest laws and regulations. To do this, immigration lawyers may join professional organizations and attend seminars and conferences. They may also take online courses and read industry publications and books.

Certifications & Licenses: Immigration lawyers are not required to obtain any certifications. However, they are required to be licensed to practice law in the state where they intend to work, which requires passing the bar exam. 

Immigration Lawyer Skills

The following skills are required for this job:

Organizational skills: Immigration lawyers must be able to keep track of and organize a large number of documents, letters, and memos in order to represent their clients effectively.

Communication skills: The ability to write clearly and persuasively is crucial to an immigration lawyer’s success. Lawyers must also be able to speak eloquently in court.

Legal knowledge: Immigration law is complex, so lawyers must know the ins and outs of various visa types and other legal requirements before they can advise clients properly.

Research skills: A good immigration lawyer will have the ability to find relevant information quickly in order to aid his or her client’s case.

Ability to prioritize tasks: An immigration lawyer must be able to juggle multiple tasks at once while still finishing them on time.

Critical thinking skills: Immigration lawyers must think critically about the law and how it applies to a given situation.

Immigration Lawyer Work Environment

Immigration lawyers typically work in an office environment. They work in a variety of settings, including private law firms, government offices, nonprofit organizations, and corporations.

The job can be stressful, as immigration lawyers may work with clients who are facing emotionally difficult situations. Immigration lawyers may also need to travel frequently to meet with clients at detention centers or courtrooms. 

Immigration Lawyer Career Path

Lawyers begin their careers by reviewing applications and interviewing clients. They research the law and write reports, which may include recommendations to their clients. New lawyers work long hours, receive minimal compensation, and do not have the luxury of choosing their own cases. They must learn quickly and do whatever they can to gain experience and attention from colleagues and supervisors. Twenty-five percent leave the profession in the first year.

Five Years Out

Immigration lawyers who work for government agencies or private law firms often specialize in specific areas of the law after five years. Some serve as internal counsel for large corporations; others work independently as consultants to foreign governments. A few leave the profession altogether to work in other areas of law or go into business for themselves. Most immigration lawyers remain in their chosen specialty but deal with clients who are citizens or permanent residents rather than immigrants. These professionals enjoy good salaries and satisfaction in their work.

Ten Years Out

Ten-year veterans may be recognized leaders in their field and asked to lecture on it at professional conferences. They often must balance caseloads with pro bono work – as well as serving as members of advisory councils for various government agencies dealing with immigration issues. As a result they may have to work more weekends and evenings than those who have more typical legal careers involving ongoing client relationships over time.

Immigration Lawyer Trends

Here are three trends influencing how immigration lawyers work. Immigration lawyers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Changing Requirements for H-1B Visas

The requirements for obtaining an H-1B visa have changed significantly in recent years, and many immigrants who were once eligible to obtain a visa are now finding it more difficult to obtain one.

Immigrants must now pass stricter English tests and demonstrate that they will not be a burden on the US economy before receiving an H-1B visa. This trend has led to a decrease in the number of visas granted and contributed to growing backlogs in immigration courts. 

Increase in Mergers and Acquisitions

Employment law is becoming increasingly important for immigration lawyers as mergers and acquisitions increase.

Companies will often try to grow their businesses by buying out competitors, which means that they will need assistance with immigration matters related to bringing over foreign workers.

Increased Value of Spanish-Speaking Lawyers

The influx of immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries has led to an increased demand for lawyers who are able to communicate in the language.

As immigrants have become a more significant segment of the population, there is greater need for lawyers who can help them assimilate into their new home country.

There are many immigrant families that speak only Spanish at home, so being able to communicate with them directly in their native language can be helpful when discussing legal matters. 

How to Become a Immigration Lawyer

1. Planning Your Career

If you’re interested in becoming an immigration lawyer, it’s important to take a look at the field and determine which area of immigration law is most appealing to you. For example, if you love international travel, then an immigration law practice that specializes in helping individuals relocate for work may be a good fit.

You should also consider what type of lifestyle you want. Immigration lawyers who focus on non-profit organizations may be able to schedule their own hours and choose when they work. On the other hand, practicing in a private firm could allow you to make more money but also requires more dedication and time commitment. Once you’ve decided on your career path, make sure to develop a plan for achieving your goals; research the best way to get into the industry and find out what qualifications are required for this position.

2. Writing a Resume

A good resume for an immigration lawyer should focus on your experience and education in the field. You may want to include information about any specialized training you have received, such as specific classes you attended or certification exams that you passed.

When describing your work history, include details about your role in the firm, how many people you supervised or managed, and any skills that are transferable to the position. If possible, find ways to demonstrate that your previous work experience has prepared you for this position. For example, if you were working at a law office where every client had an immigration issue, talk about it in terms of how it relates to the specific job requirements. 

3. Applying for Jobs

Join a professional association, such as the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and start networking with other immigration lawyers in your area. Attend networking events, including workshops and seminars, to meet others in the field. You can also use social media sites to look for immigration law-related jobs, including LinkedIn and Twitter.

4. Ace the Interview

Interviewers hiring an immigration lawyer will have a lot of questions for you about your background, goals, and interests. They will also likely ask about their own experiences to get a sense of whether they would enjoy working together.  You may be asked about the different types of visas available and how they apply to specific situations. 

All of these factors are important to consider when deciding where to start your search for an attorney, so it’s best to be prepared with answers before your interview.


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