Skip to content

    What Experience Do I Need to Practice Immigration Law?

    What Experience Do I Need to Practice Immigration Law?

    If you’ve learned about what immigration lawyers do, thought about the pros and cons of becoming one yourself, and decided you’re interested in pursuing a career in immigration law, what should you do next? Your next step should be to find out how to make your goal happen. What experience do you need to be an immigration lawyer? How do you get there from here?

    What Do I Need to Become an Immigration Lawyer?

    To become an immigration lawyer, you must fulfill the same requirements as any other attorney: obtain a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from law school, pass the bar exam, and obtain a license to practice in any state.

    Although there are no other essential requirements, having experience working with immigrants can make a huge difference when looking for your first job as an immigration lawyer. This experience is important for several reasons:

    • It demonstrates a commitment to working with immigrants;
    • Provides a reality-based understanding of the work;
    • Develops relevant skills and knowledge;
    • Fosters connections with the local community; and
    • Builds contacts who can provide career advice, direct you to potential employers, and offer references.

    What Experience Do You Need to Get Into Law School?

    To get into law school, you have to:

    • Take the LSAT (but, see below).
    • File your law school applications in time.
    • Graduate from college before starting law school.

    Do I still need to take the LSAT?

    Recently, some law schools have dropped the requirement that applicants take the LSAT. Also, the ABA recently voted to eliminate the requirement altogether – but that won’t go into effect until 2025.

    Most law schools still require the LSAT, so it’s a good idea to take it, unless you’re positive that you won’t need it for any of the schools where you plan to apply. If you’re not sure, talk to a career counselor at your school. Also, keep in mind that even schools that don’t require the LSAT usually require an alternate test, such as the GRE.

    To study for the LSAT you can take a commercial course, get a tutor, or go the budget route and study on your own using test prep books – or take a prep course for free at the Khan Academy.

    What subject should I major in during college if I want to become an immigration attorney?

    There’s no specific major that is required to get into law school. Political science, English, and history are popular majors for students who are law-school bound, but any major is fine, and you should pick a subject that interests you. Not only is that a better use of your time and energy, but also grades are important if you are applying to competitive law schools, and you’ll tend to get better grades in subjects you care about.

    What courses should I take in college to prepare to be an immigration attorney?

    While your major can be in any subject, you should also seek out courses that will help you develop skills and knowledge that will be useful when you’re in law school and when you become a practicing immigration lawyer. These include courses that involve core legal skills, such as research, writing, oral communication, and analytical thinking. Also look for courses in subjects that are important for immigration advocates, such as public policy, human rights, languages, and any courses that are available that are specifically about immigration or refugees.

    What other experiences should I seek out while I’m in college?

    Seek out opportunities to gain experience in immigration-related organizations, either through volunteering or paid part-time or summer jobs. Additionally, endeavor to meet other students at your school who have an interest in working with immigrants, either informally or through your school's clubs or organizations.

    What Experiences Do I Need in Law School to Prepare to Be an Immigration Attorney?

    Law school provides many opportunities for you to gain valuable experience in immigration law.

    If your law school has an immigration clinic, you should definitely consider signing up. A clinic will give you real-world experience in representing clients in immigration cases. You may have a chance to argue your cases in administrative hearings or in court. You will also learn a great deal there from experienced immigration lawyers.
    You can work for immigration organizations part-time during your second and third years of law school and/or during the summer after your first and second years. There are many possibilities, including immigration law firms, government law departments, advocacy groups, and nonprofit organizations.

    You can gain significant experience in an immigration law internship. If you are considering different law firms or organizations, look for ones that will give you a chance to do meaningful work and that will provide mentoring.

    Some law schools offer concentrations in immigration law, but that’s not at all required to become an immigration lawyer. At any school, you can seek out courses in or related to immigration law and policy, refugee policy, international law, and human rights. Also consider courses that will sharpen your oral advocacy skills, such as Moot Court. Some immigration lawyers also practice family, criminal, or business law, so courses in any of these areas that interest you will be useful.

    Joining a student organization that focuses on immigration law is a good way to meet fellow students who have the same interests, learn about opportunities, and get support for your career goals. You might start building a network there that could last throughout your professional life.


    To see some examples of the kind of experience an immigration law firm is seeking in the lawyers it hires, take a look at the job descriptions on our careers page. These have a lot of detail about required and desired qualifications.