What Education Is Needed to Become an Immigration Lawyer?

As a lawyer in the field of immigration, you would handle cases concerning individuals' rights to remain in a country or become citizens. If you'd like to become an immigration lawyer, you'll need to complete at least seven years of schooling and be licensed to practice law. Schools offering Juris Doctor degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Required Education for Immigration Lawyers

To become a lawyer, you'll need 4 years for your bachelor's degree and 3 more years for your Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. Your undergraduate degree does not have to be in any specific area, but you might consider courses in English, public speaking, government, history, economics, and mathematics to prepare for a career in law.

For admission to law school, most schools require applicants to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Once you're in law school, your program will require a range of courses, with most offering specialized courses in immigration law. You can complete a J.D. degree on a full-time or part-time basis. Many schools offer part-time programs that take 4-6 years to complete.

Important Facts about Studying Immigration Law

Degree Level Professional degree
Online Availability Online and hybrid programs are available, but few are accredited by the American Bar Association
Specialized Course Topics Workplace rights, educational access, and public benefit eligibility
Continuing Education Required to maintain license to practice; requirements vary by state

Customizing Your Education

The steps for becoming a lawyer are the same no matter what type of lawyer you'd like to be. To prepare for a career in immigration law, you'll customize your education to focus on immigration law topics. While earning your bachelor's degree, you can take courses related to immigration law as electives. When you attend law school, your first year of studies will be in foundational topics, and then you may choose to focus on immigration law during your second two years. Some courses to consider may include:

  • Immigration and naturalization law
  • International law
  • Human rights law
  • National security
  • Refugee and asylum policy
  • Laws protecting indigenous peoples


After completing the required education, you'll need to pass your state's bar exam and prove that you have the character to represent and advise others to become licensed. In order to take the bar exam, you must have graduated from a law school that is accredited by the American Bar Association. Since every state has its own requirements for admission to the bar, if you move to a new state, you must apply to be admitted to your new state's bar, which might require taking that state's bar exam.

Career Planning and Advancement

There are several ways you can prepare for a career in immigration law. While you're in school, you might seek internships with the Department of Homeland Security or with law firms. Because immigration lawyers work with individuals who have come to the U.S. from other locations, learning a foreign language could be helpful for communication purposes. If you're already looking for a job or want to show your commitment to the practice of immigration law, you might join the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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