Career Pathways: Immigration Law

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Immigration Law is an area of federal law practice, heavily based on statutes, regulations, and administrative decisions rather than case law.  Immigration law focuses on people who wish to move to the United States (immigration) or become U.S. citizens (naturalization).  Immigration and naturalization can occur through many legal avenues, including military service, tourism, education, employment, business, engagement or marriage, political asylum or other political issues, an annual immigration lottery, or even as the result of being a victim of or a witness to criminal activity.

Immigration lawyers often specialize in, for instance, business and employment immigration or political asylum cases.  Immigration lawyers should be familiar with business law and family law.  Immigration matters can have serious family law consequences.  Also, many otherwise minor criminal matters can have serious immigration consequences of which criminal defendants may not be aware.  Every immigration attorney should be familiar with those consequences.  The federal government also employs immigration attorneys to prosecute immigration cases and work in the immigration court system.

For more information, please see the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the American Bar Association Commission on Immigration, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the government agency that oversees all immigration and naturalization matters.

Job Types Typical Duties
Federal Agencies
  • Represent the federal government at hearings and other proceedings under federal immigration and nationality or other laws.
  • Write, interpret, and enforce regulations and internal and external policies and procedures.
  • Investigate individuals and organizations suspected of violations of federal immigration and nationality laws.
Private Law Firms
  • Assist clients in applying for a visa (educational, business, investor visas), or in changing their immigration status (e.g., from visitor to student or spousal visa, from nonresident to resident “green card” business visa).
  • Represent clients during proceedings based upon federal immigration and nationality laws.
  • Represent companies seeking to employ foreign nationals, e.g., universities hiring professors, companies hiring skilled professional workers, sports teams or organizations hiring athletes, or entertainment companies hiring or working with artists and performers.

Other Activities

  •  Learn a foreign language, or improve your foreign-language skills.

  • Intern with an immigration attorney.

  • Apply through OCI for an internship with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Department of Justice, or other federal agencies.

  • Do pro bono work in this field; see Handbook.

  • Periodically check Symplicity Job Board for jobs and internships in this field of practice.

Curriculum Considerations

For courses and faculty to talk to about a future career in immigration law, please take a look at the Law Curriculum Mapping Guide.

Faculty With this Specialty

Co-Curricular Activities