Top Immigration Law Schools & Programs in the United States

Learn what topics immigration law programs cover. Get to know some of the top immigration law schools in the United States. Read about the certification requirements and work settings for immigration lawyers. Schools offering Juris Doctor degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Immigration lawyers give advice to and deal with cases of people who want to enter and remain in a country and/or who want to become citizens of that country. Becoming an immigration lawyer takes seven years of study. You will need a four-year bachelor's degree, followed by three years of law school specializing in immigration law, which will earn you a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. Immigration will remain to be an important issue as more and more people migrate internationally in a globalizing world. Read on to learn how to become an immigration lawyer.

What Are the Entry Requirements for Law School?

You will need a four-year bachelor's degree to be admitted to law school. Useful bachelor's degree subjects to prepare you for studying immigration law include history, economics, government, public speaking and English. A second language may also be useful to enable you to communicate with some clients who come from outside the USA.

Most law schools, especially those approved by the American Bar Association, require prospective students to sit the Law School Admission Test to see whether they have the necessary skills to study law.

Which Topics Will I Study in a J.D. Program in Immigration Law?

In most programs, you will get a general law foundation in the first year and then move on to immigration law in the subsequent two years.

In addition to the main subject of immigration law, students can expect to cover topics such as asylum and refugee law, naturalization, international law, international human rights law, counseling and negotiation. Other areas that might be covered are employment discrimination, national security, human trafficking and civil rights.

Many immigration law schools organize externships for their students, where they can gain real-life experience by doing short work stints, usually during a holiday period, at law firms.

Students in some J.D. programs can earn credits for working under supervision at university-supported programs that give free advice to people who face legal issues regarding their immigration status. Some programs give students the opportunity to work on actual immigration court cases.

Which Law Schools Offer J.D. Programs that Specialize in Immigration Law?

Here is a selection of schools that offer J.D. degrees specializing in immigration law, with some information on the opportunities for work experience they provide:

  • The Elizabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, New York City, offers students the opportunity to do work at an immigration clinic.
  • The law faculty at Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C., runs an International Women's Human Rights Clinic where immigration law students can gain experience.
  • The Law School of the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis, gives students the opportunity to write for a selection of law journals.
  • Some students at Texas A&M University's School of Law, in Fort Worth, have had work placements with the US Department of Homeland Security.
  • The Law School at the University of San Francisco, in California, offers students the opportunity to represent real clients at its Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic and states that so far (as of April 2019) it has managed to win green cards for all of its clients.

What Are the Certification and Continuing Education Requirements?

After having earned a J.D. in immigration law, you will have to sit for a bar exam to get your license to practice as a lawyer. The bar exam requirements vary from state to state. The National Conference of Bar Examiners has developed a set of bar exams that are accepted by most US states.

Immigration law is a very dynamic field and, like all other lawyers, practitioners in this discipline are expected to keep up to date with the latest developments. Again, the requirements for this vary from state to state.

In Which Settings Can an Immigration Lawyer Expect to Work?

In addition to working at a law firm, immigration lawyers may also work at non-governmental organizations, such as charities, that provide support to migrants, or for the government - typically at the US Department of Homeland Security.

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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