There are a variety of sects of legal studies within which the professionals of law work in the United States. Some individuals work to help their fellow citizens in litigation, assist families in issues of reconciliation or separation, or even allow inventors to patent their original ideas. However, few branches of law help people as much as that of immigration law.
Immigration law is any statute which is based upon or opposed to content within the Immigration and Naturalization Act, and focuses on family reconciliation, adaption of foreigners seeking to move to the United States, and ultimately leads the U.S. to becoming the diverse “melting pot” that it is today. As a successful country with an ever-increasing population of immigrants (with growth of nearly 10 million people between 2000 and 2012), upholding the standards of immigrant acceptance and offering people of other countries a right to enter our borders and make a better life is foundational to American values.
Immigration Law Basics
Professionals working in the branch of law concerning immigration may find themselves interacting with an array of people, including those foreigners generally wanting to move to America, or even individuals seeking asylum and refugee status in the States. Lawyers and attorneys make cases for clients who desire either of these things, and paralegals assist lawyers in daily activities in order to enable them to help others in this way.
Paralegals in Immigration Law
Paralegals in this field of study have many roles and responsibilities, some of which include:
- Planning day to day activities of attorneys through the creation of calendars
- Writing and submitting motions, affidavits, and letters to courts for case purposes
- Assisting in researching and obtaining client documentation, including police data, marriage records, and birth certificates
- Working as a link between the Department of Labor (DOL), attorneys and lawyers, and the Immigration and Naturalization Act
- Formulating and organizing petitions and applications
- Helping clients in preparing for interviews with the department of Immigration and Naturalization Services
- Allowing potential and future United States citizens to obtain a Visa for work
In relation to the aforementioned job description, immigration law paralegals may find themselves working for government agencies, law offices, and private corporations to enable and simplify the process of citizenship. Paralegals with this specialization make an average annual salary of $45,720.
Strengths for Immigration Law Paralegals
As an immigration law paralegal, the job will require a handful of strengths for career purposes, which are listed below.
Strength #1: Good Communication Skills
Working with clients in this field can sometimes be difficult due to the nature of language and cultural diversity, so paralegals working in this sect of law absolutely must be good communicators in order to be successful.
Strength #2: Willingness to Work with Others
While this may seem obvious to some, immigration law paralegals must be willing and able to work with individuals from other cultures and walks of life. Those seeking a career in this field must be globally aware and culturally sensitive, understanding that clients may not hold to the same societal standards and expectations. This willingness to work with others is crucial to those wanting to be an immigration law paralegal, as open-mindedness and appreciation of diversity are a large part of this job.
Strength #3: Organization and Efficiency
Individuals seeking to become immigration law paralegals need to be organized and efficient, as there can be a lot of paperwork and necessary steps in order to help clients obtain their goals. Processes of citizenship and naturalization can often take years to complete even in the fastest scenarios, so efficiency in this area is key to helping clients enter the country and obtain citizenship status as quickly as possible.
Strength #4: Empathy
Seeking citizenship or refugee status in the United States can be a difficult thing for many clients personally, as the process is sometimes long and discouraging. Because of this, it helps others most when immigration law paralegals empathize with the situations of clients and choose to see them as individuals rather than numbers in a case. This perspective of humanity is fundamental to thriving in this field, and should be considered prior to choosing this career.
Steps to Take
In order to become an immigration law paralegal, there are a series of steps that must be taken.
Step #1: Pick a School
While many schools claim to prepare you for a career in immigration law, the American Bar Association, or ABA, has filtered the various programs across the country and put a seal of approval on the ones that meet modern-day legal standards. For this reason, it is imperative to select a school has been ABA-approved so that you can be certain that the education you receive is one of quality and renown.
Step #2: Pick a Level
For those seeking an ABA-approved program for immigration law, it is also essential to decide which level of education you want to obtain. Some paralegal jobs require only an Associate’s degree in Paralegal Studies, leading to a career which does not often have requisites of higher education beyond this two-year degree. However, several paralegal associations (such as the American Association for Paralegal Education and the National Association of Legal Assistants) strongly recommend 4-year programs with subsequent internships in order to be successful in this career.
Step #3: Pick a Specialization
Beyond a general degree in immigration law and paralegal studies, one may also opt to participate in certificate programs to enable them to better-work with certain positions. Some topics for certification include:
- Temporary work visas
- Residency based on family presence
- Government agencies overview
- Sponsorship and visa classifications
- Asylum and issues pertaining to protection
- Naturalization and citizenship
- Dual citizenship
- Issues with client compliance to laws
Regardless of which steps you may choose to take, seeking a career as an immigration law paralegal is a choice which will benefit you for a lifetime, providing fulfillment as you help individuals work toward a better life in America.