1. What is Immigration Law?

Immigration law focuses the legal issues involved when a person leaves one country to live in another (immigration) and the process of becoming a citizen of a country (naturalization). The practice can be broken down into two broad practice areas, arranging immigration and naturalization for foreign nationals and litigating deportation issues.

Immigration issues are the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government. Prior to 2003, immigration issues were handled by the Immigration & Naturalization Service. Today the Department of Homeland Security presides over most of the functions formerly delegated to the INS. Immigration issues are litigated in an administrative court system.

Arranging immigration and naturalization for foreign nationals is largely a paper practice that requires a great deal of attention to detail. Attorneys specializing in deportation issues will often represent clients in administrative hearings. These attorneys will frequently argue their clients should remain in the U.S. because deportation would cause undue hardship on them or they have a relative in the U.S. that will sponsor their visa.

The recent economic downturn and the heighten security measures put in place after 9-11 have made the process of obtaining work visa for foreign nationals more difficult. However, immigration continues to be a growing area of the law as large corporations look to the international community to fill staffing needs.

2. Where is it practiced?

Large Law Firms
Many large law firms have business immigration departments that help large multinational corporate clients obtain temporary or permanent visas for foreign employees. These firms also represent individuals who have received job offers from U.S. companies, universities, and other institutions.

These firms will also take on pro bono work for indigent client who are facing deportation or are seeking asylum.

Small Law Firms
Smaller law firms focus more on obtaining temporary visas and permanent residence for foreign relatives of U.S. citizens. They also will apply for work visa for individuals and small companies seeking to hire foreign nationals.

Public Interest Law Clinics
Law clinics generally focus on representing low-income clients facing deportation. They may also take on asylum cases and assist low income individuals sponsor foreign relatives.

The Office of the General Counsel of the DHS employs over 1,000 immigration attorneys to represent it in immigration hearings throughout the country.

3. What Courses and Academic Experiences would be helpful??
When choosing courses, here are some points to keep in mind. Immigration law is statute based so students should try to take classes that focus on interpreting statutes and regulations. It is also a practice that requires you to know a great deal about your client’s life. Therefore, any actual client contact or training in interviewing and counseling would be beneficial.

The following are some courses to consider if you are interested in a career in immigration law.

4. What timeline should I be following?

There is no set timeline for taking the courses listed in the prior section and there is no particular sequence in which the courses should be taken. However, you should take Immigration Law early in your second year as this will help you land an internship with a firm during the summer before your third year. Statutory analysis would also give you experience that would help you excel during your summer internship.

You should also consider working towards a Public Interest and Social Justice Law Certificate with an emphasis in immigration and refugee issues.

Demonstrated Interest
Most employers look for candidates with a demonstrated interest in immigration law. Beyond taking the above classes, consider becoming a member of the American Immigration Lawyer Association. This organization will help you keep up to date on changes in immigration law and introduces you to some of the issues common in the practice. It will also give you a valuable place to network and meet employers.

1. Volunteer: If you speak a foreign language consider volunteering as an interpreter at the Katherine and George Alexander Community Law Center during your first year.

2. Study Abroad: In the summer after your first year consider enrolling in a study abroad program in Geneva/Strasbourg or Costa Rica.

3. Enroll in the Law Center’s Immigration Interviewing and Advising Clinic: This course will allow you to put your knowledge to use with real clients and demonstrates your interest in immigration law to future employers.

4. Apply for an Internship with the DHS: The Office of the General Counsel offers several paid and unpaid positions for law students. During your second year you can apply for a paid summer intern position with the Office of the General Counsel of the DHS. There are also volunteer externship positions available during the school year.

5. Compete in a Immigration Law Moot Court Competition: NYU Law School holds an annual moot court competition devote to immigration law issues every February. For more information go here.

6. Apply for the DHS’s Honors Program: The DHS hires a small number of recent graduates to work as attorneys. Applications for these highly competitive positions are due in the fall prior to graduation.

Another way to attract the attention of employers is for students to write a paper on an Immigration Law issue. Students may want to consider submitting a paper for publication to the Santa Clara Law Review or any of the journals dedicated to Immigration law such as Georgetown’s Immigration Law Journal.

5. What Professional Organizations and Associations can I join to meet people and find out more?

Many professional organizations are available on Linkedin:

6. Which faculty members at SCU have worked in Immigration Law?

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