What is an Immigration Paralegal?
An immigration paralegal works with attorneys to help immigrants become citizens. While a paralegal can’t provide legal advice, they work closely with an immigration attorney to assist people with citizenship, business immigration issues, political asylum, as well as work and student visas.
Immigration paralegals are often bilingual and communicate directly with clients. In many cases, this kind of paralegal is asked to serve as a translator, which makes the ability to speak one or more languages vital to this position.
Immigration paralegals often work alongside immigration attorneys at private law firms, or for a non-profit or government agency. While many immigration paralegals work to help people become citizens, some assist lawyers who facilitate the deportation process.
Education requirements vary for immigration paralegals. Some jobs require a two or four-year degree in the field while others will accept a certification.
Knowledge of immigration law is important. Some schools offer degrees in immigration paralegal studies, while others only offer a general paralegal program instead. Obtaining a paralegal degree is suitable for this job. However, additional courses that focus on visas, deportation, asylum, and naturalization are ideal.
While many immigration paralegal job descriptions list college education or a certification as a requirement, not all do. Some small firms hire entry-level immigration paralegals and only require a high school degree.
Immigration Paralegal Essential Skills
An immigration paralegal resume should include the following skills:
- Clerical skills with an emphasis on case management.
- Knowledge of immigration forms, how to fill them out, and how to file them.
- Strong organizational skills to manage multiple cases at different stages.
- Communication skills to keep both the attorney and client informed of the process.
- Bilingual skills are highly sought after to provide seamless communication with clients.
- Computer skills with proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook.
- Knowledge of immigration case file systems like LawLogix or INSZoom.
- Research and translation skills to understand filing requirements of various countries.
Immigration Paralegal Roles & Responsibilities
With the help of an experienced immigration attorney, an immigration paralegal will prepare and file petitions, obtain paperwork for visas, review invoices, and manage case files.
Many law firms look for bilingual candidates to bridge language barriers that may exist between an attorney and a client. While all foreign language skills are in demand in the legal field, Spanish is the most sought-after language for immigration paralegals.
Immigration paralegals usually speak with clients who inquire about legal services, and they often become the main point of contact throughout the case. Since the immigration process is complex and time-consuming, an immigration paralegal must be willing to patiently explain intricate laws, timelines, and expectations.
An immigration paralegal job posting may also ask for proficiency with specific immigration and naturalization forms like H-1B, Blanket L-1As and L-1Bs, I-140, TN and PERM applications.
Paralegals are often tasked with clerical work as well, so experience with MS Word and Outlook are valuable skills. Knowledge of specific immigration software like LawLogix or INSZoom may also be requested.
The daily duties of an immigration paralegal are mainly balanced between paperwork and communicating with clients. A closer look at specific duties includes:
- Interviewing initial clients to understand needs and report the case status to an attorney.
- Obtaining proper documents and helping a client understand them.
- Translating the process and requirements from an attorney to the client.
- Researching requirements for asylum and refugee status.
- Obtaining visas.
- Maintaining client files online and offline.
- Updating clients on progress and explaining next steps.
- Preparing and filing paperwork.
The mean salary for an immigration paralegal is $55,020, or about $26.45 per hour. The highest 10% earn $82,500, so there’s room for salary growth over time. Job growth in the sector looks promising as well. Between 2019 and 2029, the number of jobs in this area is expected to grow by 10%. The average growth for most jobs between the same time period is 4%.