Career guide: Immigration lawyer

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	Immigration lawyers can help clients apply for green cards.
    Immigration lawyers can help clients apply for green cards.

    Career guide: Immigration lawyer

    Applying to law schools and then earning a Juris Doctor degree can prepare you for a range of careers, within the legal industry and elsewhere. As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics explained, if you are interested in practicing law after graduation you will likely have to make a choice: Whether to specialize in a certain area of law or to practice as a generalist,

    If you are eager to specialize, one area of law where you can make a real positive difference to people's lives is immigration law. Professionals in this field help clients and companies with a range of immigration-related issues, with the ultimate objective in any case being to help clients gain legal permission to live and conduct business in the U.S., the Houston Chronicle explained. This field of law is especially important today, given the fact President Trump has made immigration a defining issue for his administration. 

    To learn more about this exciting and rewarding career path, read on:

    What do immigration lawyers do?
    Immigration lawyers help clients address various immigration-related concerns. Here is a breakdown of some of the most common responsibilities associated with the role, as detailed by the Houston Chronicle:

    • Helping individuals apply for legal permanent resident status: This is known as filing an application for a green card. As detailed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, there are a number of ways that clients can obtain a green card, with the most common paths including sponsorship from employers or family members. Immigration lawyers help clients prepare paperwork and will usually represent their clients at important immigration meetings with USCIS.
    • Assisting refugees: Another category through which individuals are eligible for a green card is by claiming refugee status, the USCIS website explained. Given the uncertainties surrounding Trump's executive order suspending the U.S. refugee program, which was later struck down by a federal court, immigration lawyers have been especially busy in this area of late, representing clients seeking refugee status and offering advice and guidance.
    • Helping clients apply for citizenship: Clients with green cards are eligible to apply for citizenship after a certain period of time, which differs contingent on the class under which they were admitted. Immigration lawyers can assist with the process by offering guidance and advice on filing the necessary paperwork.
    • Providing guidance for visa applicants: Immigration lawyers can help clients apply for non-immigrant visas in an array of categories. Examples include work visas, school visas, special program visas and so on. 
    • Assisting companies: Immigration lawyers can also work on behalf of companies, big or small, that are looking to move operations to or open branches within the U.S.
    • Helping non-citizens in court: According to NOLO, immigration lawyers often represent clients who are in immigration court and face deportation from the U.S. Immigration lawyers can also assist non-citizen clients who are in criminal court. This is because non-citizens run the risk of having their visas or green cards revoked if they are convicted of a crime, Lisa Stansky detailed, in an article adapted by the Division for Public Education at the American Bar Association.

    The list of common duties above is by no means exhaustive. Immigration lawyers are qualified to deal with virtually any issue as it pertains to U.S. immigration law. Furthermore, as detailed by Stansky, lawyers working within the realm of immigration law deal with aspects of law that easily fall under other categories. Stansky interviewed lawyer Carol Wolchok who elaborated on this point, explaining that immigration lawyers need working knowledge of areas such as business law, human rights work and litigation. 

    How to succeed as an immigration lawyer
    As detailed by Stanksy, successful immigration lawyers are able to understand and keep up with changing immigration laws and regulations, as mandated by the federal government. As stressed, these laws will likely be subject to further revision under the Trump administration. Stanksy noted that immigration lawyers should also be comfortable defending clients in court. Furthermore, strong communication skills are crucial in this role, and having a working knowledge of other languages can also be helpful, given the international client base. 

    Adept immigration lawyers will also have a passion for helping others and will be able to empathize readily with clients in often challenging legal situations – whether it's a family about to be divided due to deportation or a bi-national couple looking to stay together through marriage. Indeed, as an immigration committee co​-chair, Anna Williams, told Stanksy, a major reward of working as an immigration lawyer is the ability to make a tangible difference in clients' lives.

    "One of the main pluses [of immigration law] is that you're working with individuals, so when you accomplish your goal … you immediately see some personal rewards," she explained.

    Average salary
    According to careers website Glassdoor, immigration lawyers in the U.S. make an average salary of just over $88,000 per year. It is not uncommon, however, for professionals in the field to earn considerably more than that, contingent on their experience and location. In the city of Boston, for example, immigration lawyers take home an average annual salary of almost $111,600. 

    Job prospects
    The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that demand for jobs in the legal industry as a whole is high, due to the large volume of individuals who graduate from law school. With that said, the decade beginning in 2014 and ending in 2024 will likely see employment of lawyers grow by around 6 percent. 

    For more information on law schools and other advanced degree programs, visit GraduateGuide.com

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