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    7 Things to Consider Before Becoming an Immigration Attorney

    7 Things to Consider Before Becoming an Immigration Attorney

    Are you thinking about becoming an immigration lawyer? For the right person, immigration law is a wonderful choice that provides the satisfaction of working closely with clients and helping them in significant and tangible ways.

    Practicing immigration law isn’t for everyone, though. You should give it some thought, considering both the pros and the cons, and then test the waters by doing some paid or volunteer work helping immigrants to see if this is the right career path for you.

    What to Consider Before Becoming an Immigration Attorney

    1. Do you have a strong desire to help others? Immigration attorneys usually work closely with their clients and get to know them, and sometimes their families, well. You should enjoy working with clients in this way, and you should find it rewarding to help them solve their problems.

    2. Are you interested in immigration issues?  Immigration attorneys often have personal experience with immigration. They or their family members or friends may have been immigrants. While personal experience with immigration isn’t required to become an immigration lawyer, what is essential is that you want to help people who are coming to the United States from other countries or who want to remain here. You should have an interest in other cultures and be proficient in speaking at least one other language. Many immigration lawyers also hope to be able to influence national immigration policies.

    3. Do you like to be constantly learning new things? Immigration law is complex, and you should enjoy the challenge of mastering a difficult area of the law. The laws and regulations also change whenever immigration policy changes – which is often. You’ll need to put in the effort to stay current.

    4. Do you have good verbal communication skills? As an immigration attorney, you’ll need strong verbal communication skills to advocate for your clients in administrative hearings. You’ll probably spend a large portion of your day talking with other people, including clients, other lawyers, paralegals, and government officials. Discussions may be in person, in video conferences, or on the phone. You should have good verbal communication skills in both English and your clients’ primary languages.

    5. Are you a good writer? You’ll need strong writing skills for completing immigration applications, for writing correspondence, and for written arguments presented in hearings.

    6. Are you detail-oriented? There are a lot of details involved in an immigration lawyer’s day-to-day work. Errors in immigration applications can significantly delay the process, so you need the patience to make sure that everything is correct. Laws, regulations, and cases must be read and interpreted precisely. Deadlines must be strictly adhered to.

    7. Can you keep on going in frustrating situations? Immigration cases can be delayed, run into numerous problems, and take a long time to resolve. You’ll need to persevere when you run into obstacles. Also, you won’t win every case, and you’ll need to be able to deal with that.

    What Are the Pros and Cons of Being an Immigration Lawyer?

    When you’re considering starting a career, it’s good to look at both the pros and the cons.


    You will have a big impact on your clients’ lives. Your clients will usually be facing difficult situations. Some will be in crisis. Your help can change their lives. This is probably the biggest “pro” of practicing immigration law. Unlike people in many other types of jobs, immigration lawyers get the satisfaction of seeing the direct impact their work has on other people's lives.

    The work is intellectually stimulating. Staying current with changing laws and policies keeps immigration law challenging and interesting.

    You’ll have a choice of work environments and career paths. Immigration lawyers work in nonprofit organizations, small and medium law firms dedicated to immigration law, large law firms, government agencies, and universities. Some start their own law firms


    You’ll need to go to law school and pass the bar exam. If your main interest is in helping immigrants, rather than in being a lawyer, and you don’t want to take on the time and expense to go to law school, you might be happier working in other roles.

    Emotional challenges. Many of your clients will have lived through traumatic experiences, and working with them and hearing their stories can be stressful. It’s also emotionally difficult when you invest a lot of time, effort, and caring in a client, and they lose their case.

    Keeping up with changing laws. While this was listed as a “pro” because of the intellectual challenge, not everyone wants to have to be constantly learning, so it can be a “con” too.

    Long hours. Immigration lawyers, like most lawyers, may need to work long hours, especially when they are starting out.

    Lower pay than some other lawyers. Although immigration lawyers are usually motivated more by their desire to help people than by wanting to make the highest pay possible, they do have to accept that they won’t make as much money as, say, partners in white-shoe law firms who represent large corporations.

    What Does Immigration Law Pay?

    The pay you can expect as an immigration lawyer will vary greatly depending on your experience, the region of the country where you work, whether you work in a large city or not, and what kind of organization or law firm you work for, with large law firms usually paying the most and small nonprofit organizations usually paying the least.

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for all lawyers in the U.S. in 2021 was $127,990 per year. It’s harder to find an accurate number for the average pay for immigration lawyers, specifically, but says that the average salary for immigration lawyers in the U.S. is $82,966, with the range typically falling between $70,727 and $95,973.

    To find out more about what immigration lawyers do, what they are responsible for, and how much they earn at various experience levels, take a look at our career page, where we provide a lot of details on all our open positions.