Wondering what an Immigration Paralegal is, and what they do?
Or if you’re an aspiring paralegal, how to become an immigration paralegal?
Let us answer these questions and more, in this article.
Let’s dive in.
Immigration law is a complex and ever-changing field, and it requires knowledgeable and skilled professionals to navigate it successfully.
Immigration paralegals play a crucial role in helping clients with various immigration issues and ensuring that the legal process runs smoothly.
In this article, we will explore the role of immigration paralegals, the skills and qualifications needed to become one, and the various tasks and responsibilities they perform.
What is an Immigration Paralegal?
Immigration paralegals play a crucial role in helping immigrants obtain citizenship in a particular country. While they are not authorized to provide legal advice directly to immigrants, their duties involve assisting immigration attorneys in various tasks, including:
- Business Immigration Laws
- Citizenship Document Preparation
- Political Asylum
- Student Visas
Read More: What is a Paralegal?
Immigration Paralegals are often seen communicating with clients across the globe, and hence they are often found to be bilingual or know many languages. For this very reason, Immigration Paralegals are often also asked to serve as a translator.
Immigration Paralegals can work with Immigration Attorneys at either private law firms or government agencies. Apart from helping immigrants become citizens, they can also be found assisting lawyers in facilitating the deportation process.
Different employers may have varying educational paralegal requirements for immigration paralegals, with some requiring certification and others mandating completion of a two- or four-year degree. Regardless, a thorough understanding of immigration laws is critical for this profession.
Individuals interested in pursuing a career in immigration paralegal work can opt for a specialized degree program in immigration paralegal studies or pursue a more general paralegal degree.
It is recommended to take courses that specifically focus on visas, deportation, asylum, and naturalization if you want to become an immigration paralegal. While some firms may require a college education, others may only expect a high school degree for entry-level positions. However, having a degree or certification in paralegal studies with a specialization in immigration is always preferred.
Immigration Paralegal: Top Skills
Other than the educational qualifications, there are some top skills that are needed for immigration paralegals to excel at their work. Some such skills are:-
- Clerical skills with a focus on case management
- Familiarity with immigration forms,
- Organizational skills
- Communication skills to manage client-attorney relationships
- Language skills
- Basic computer skills (Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook)
- Knowledge of immigration cases file systems like LawLogix or INSZoom
- Research and translation skills
Immigration Paralegal: Salary
The average paralegal salary for an immigration paralegal is around $55,020 per year, which is equivalent to approximately $26.45 per hour.
However, with experience and expertise, there is potential for significant salary growth. Top earners in the field can earn up to $82,500 per year.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of paralegals and legal assistants, including immigration paralegals, is projected to grow 10 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is mainly due to the demand for legal services and the need for cost-effective solutions.
Top 5 Duties of an Immigration Paralegal
With deportations taking place at such a rapid pace, working as an Immigration Paralegal seems promising. They play a very crucial part in a legal team helping in different ways.
But what do paralegals do? Let us take a closer look at the top 5 duties of an Immigration Paralegal:-
During client interviews, Immigration Paralegals play a crucial role in gathering important information from clients who are seeking citizenship or visas to stay in the country. Effective communication is vital, and many Immigration Paralegals are expected to be bilingual to facilitate communication with clients who may not speak English as their first language.
The information gathered during these interviews is essential to prepare and file accurate and complete applications for clients, including employment status and any potential complications that may arise during the process.
Also see: 10 Interview Tips for Paralegals
Obtaining Visas and Citizenship
Immigration Paralegals play a crucial role in the process of obtaining visas and citizenships. They are responsible for preparing all the required paperwork, including strategies and court papers, which is a time-consuming process that requires great attention to detail.
Paralegals also arrange interviews for clients with government agencies, helping them move from the visa phase to obtaining citizenship. The documents must be prepared accurately and in the correct order, as even the slightest mistake can delay the process of obtaining visas and citizenship.
Researching and Summarizing Cases
Immigration paralegals are often tasked with researching and summarizing cases to support the visa and citizenship applications of their clients. This involves conducting thorough research on immigration laws, including their history, precedents, and case laws.
The research materials are then used to identify the appropriate laws and statutes required to fulfill the legal requirements for the application. The paralegal also summarizes the cases and uses them as evidence during the application process, ensuring that their clients have sufficient supporting evidence to present in court.
Immigration Paralegals have the responsibility of keeping clients informed and updated about the status of their visa application for the citizenship process. They regularly communicate with clients through meetings and sessions or invite them to sign important documents.
It is also their duty to gather new information from clients and inform their boss about any updates. This is essential to assure clients that the legal team is working diligently on their cases.
Immigration Paralegals may be asked to provide special services beyond their regular duties, such as assisting clients with work visas, the naturalization process, marriage or residency requirements, or questions about asylum. These tasks require a deep understanding of immigration laws and an ability to adapt to changing regulations.
By providing such special services, Immigration Paralegals can help their clients navigate the complex and ever-changing world of immigration law.
How to Become an Immigration Paralegal?
You’ve probably tried to find out more about How to become a paralegal?
To become an Immigration Paralegal, you typically need to have a combination of education, experience, and skills. Here are the general steps to becoming an Immigration Paralegal:
1. Obtain a high school diploma or GED.
2. Consider obtaining a degree or certification in Paralegal Studies with a focus on Immigration Law. There are various programs available, including two-year associate’s degrees, four-year bachelor’s degrees, and certification programs.
3. Gain experience working in the legal field, preferably in immigration law. This can be achieved through internships, volunteer work, or entry-level legal jobs.
4. Develop paralegal skills such as strong attention to detail, excellent communication, and organizational skills. Fluency in multiple languages, particularly Spanish, can also be beneficial.
5. Consider obtaining paralegal certification, such as from the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). While certification is not required to work as an Immigration Paralegal, it can demonstrate your expertise and commitment to the profession.
6. Apply for Immigration Paralegal positions at law firms, government agencies, or other organizations that handle immigration cases. Be prepared to submit a resume, cover letter, and any relevant certifications or degrees.
You may also be required to complete an interview and assessment to demonstrate your skills and knowledge of immigration law. Here’s more on the top paralegal interview question you might have to answer.
Here are a few Paralegal careers you can consider:
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- Nurse Paralegal
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- Criminal Law Paralegal
- Family Law Paralegal
- Divorce Paralegal
- Intellectual Property Paralegal
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