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All You Need to Know to Become an Immigration Paralegal

immigration paralegalHave you decided to become a paralegal? Well, before you get started on your studies, did you know there are several fields from which you can choose? One of them is immigration law.

What is an Immigration Paralegal?

Immigration paralegals help attorneys who represent immigrants. They often draft motions, translate foreign documents, prepare notes for immigration hearings, and research statutes and other laws in their jurisdiction. Other duties include helping clients fill out forms and getting proper documentation so they can obtain citizenship, a green card, or a visa. They also have to determine if clients seeking asylum are eligible for refugee status.

Education

You can earn an associate or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies, or you can earn a bachelor’s in another field and obtain a paralegal certificate. If immigration is your chosen field, your courses will include:

  • Admissibility
  • Asylum
  • Deportation
  • Family visas
  • Naturalization
  • Non-immigrant visa categories and requirements
  • Work visas and preference categories

Other Skills

It is helpful (and sometimes required depending on the employer) if immigration paralegals speak at least one other language, especially Spanish. Immigrants do not usually speak English, and in order to help properly help them, you need to be able to easily communicate.

Employers

Besides law firms, immigration paralegals often work for the American Bar Association, government agencies, and non-profit organizations.

Job Growth and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national median salary for paralegals is $44,950, but can vary greatly depending on location and specialization. The Bureau believes this profession will grow 17% through 2022. This is because many law firms are hiring paralegals to reduce costs.

Board of Immigration Certification

If you decide to work as an immigration paralegal, you can be recognized as a specialist in this field by earning the Board of Immigration certification issued by the Immigration Legal Resource Center. To do this, you must complete a 40-hour training course that is available in some states.

Other Certifications

Paralegal certification is not mandatory, however, it can give you more professional credibility, more employment opportunities, and higher earning potential. Here are other certifications you can obtain:

National Association of Legal Assistants – In order to take this exam, you must meet several requirements. They include:

  • Having an associate or bachelor degree in paralegal studies
  • A high school diploma or G.E.D. plus seven years’ work experience

The exam takes two days to complete and subject areas include Communications, Ethics, and Legal Research.

National Federation of Paralegal Association – Requirements for this exam include:

  • An associate degree in paralegal studies earned at an accredited school and six years’ paralegal work experience
  • A bachelor’s degree in any field and at least three years’ work experience as a paralegal

The exam is two-tiered and includes ethics and general legal issues.

The National Association for Legal Professionals – This exam is issued by NALS, and they offer three certifications:

ALS (basic certification) – To take this exam, you need to have completed an accredited business or legal course, the NALS training course, or have one year office experience.

PP – This exam is designed only for paralegals. If you do not have a degree, you must have five years’ work experience before you are eligible to take it. Those that have a degree only need three years’ work experience for eligibility.

PLS (advanced) – Anyone who has at least three years’ experience working in the legal field can sit for this exam.

This is just about everything you need to know in order to become an immigration paralegal. If you would like to learn more about this topic or about the other types of paralegals, contact us. We will be glad to educate you further about this great career.

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