How do I Become an Immigration Paralegal?

Elva K.
Elva K.
Legal research can be part of an immigration paralegal's duties.
Legal research can be part of an immigration paralegal's duties.

Paralegals cannot give legal advice, however, they do assist lawyers in law office activities, preparation for trial, or any other law-related activity. For instance, immigration paralegal work might entail doing intake interviews of prospective clients, doing legal research, writing legal summaries, legal writing such as memoranda on prospective cases or other law-related documents, or interviewing witnesses. Assisting clients in getting the necessary documents to apply for citizenship is another task immigration paralegals might do. If you aspire to become an immigration paralegal, you will generally need a college degree and paralegal training.

Employers are more likely to hire paralegals who are certified.
Employers are more likely to hire paralegals who are certified.

You could go in either of two directions if your goal is to become an immigration paralegal. One option is to go to college and get a bachelor's degree specializing in any subject and then complete a post-bachelor's paralegal certificate at an American Bar Examination (ABA)-approved program. Or you could attend a college that already has an ABA-approved paralegal program and get a bachelor's degree specializing in paralegal study. In addition to paralegal education, it may be useful to learn a foreign language, since immigration paralegals often work with people whose first language is not English.

Becoming an immigration paralegal requires specialized training.
Becoming an immigration paralegal requires specialized training.

ABA-approved paralegal programs are not specialist programs. In other words, individuals who want to become an immigration paralegal do not become specialists in immigration paralegal while they are in the paralegal program. Rather, for aspiring paralegals, specialization in immigration work comes after paralegal schooling is over.

While in paralegal training, if you wish to become an immigration paralegal, you must become expert in your understanding of the legal system. Also, you should develop good legal researching and writing skills, because you must be able to find relevant information and draft documentation as your supervising attorney needs it. You must also be able to write letters to clients or prospective clients.

Immigration paralegals must have an expert understanding of the legal system.
Immigration paralegals must have an expert understanding of the legal system.

Typically, if you want to become an immigration paralegal, you would apply for a job in an immigration law firm during the final semester of the paralegal studies. Working with the career services department at your school is one way to find a job; however, there are also jobs listed at the ABA website as well as paralegal jobs that might be listed in the jobs section of your local newspaper. Also, there are websites that specialize in listing paralegal jobs and immigration paralegal jobs at times.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, in addition to paralegal school, it can be helpful to get paralegal certification. For example, you could become a Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) as a result of passing an exam given by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). Certification is not yet required in all locales; however, having certification could help you to find immigration paralegal jobs with higher levels of responsibility and pay.

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    • Legal research can be part of an immigration paralegal's duties.
      By: George Wada
      Legal research can be part of an immigration paralegal's duties.
    • Employers are more likely to hire paralegals who are certified.
      By: Gina Sanders
      Employers are more likely to hire paralegals who are certified.
    • Becoming an immigration paralegal requires specialized training.
      By: George Wada
      Becoming an immigration paralegal requires specialized training.
    • Immigration paralegals must have an expert understanding of the legal system.
      By: Gina Sanders
      Immigration paralegals must have an expert understanding of the legal system.