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The Gateway to Justice: Becoming an Immigration Paralegal

Published on: Feb 28, 2024

An immigration paralegal is a professional who works closely with immigration attorneys and other legal professionals to help immigrants with their journey toward citizenship and to solve other immigration-related issues such as business immigration, political asylum, work, and student visas. Though these paralegals cannot provide legal advice, represent clients in court, or establish an attorney-client relationship, they assist attorneys in providing clients with the necessary legal assistance they require to tackle these complex tasks. Moreover, while most immigration paralegals assist individuals in attaining citizenship, some work with attorneys facilitating the deportation process. They often work in private law firms, non-profit organizations, and government agencies.

This article will provide a comprehensive guide exploring the skills, education, and training required to become an immigration paralegal.

Immigration Paralegal Role and Responsibilities

Immigration paralegals play a crucial role in helping clients navigate the complex immigration process, ensuring they receive the legal assistance they need to start their lives in the United States. Although immigration paralegals typically handle many of the organizational and preparatory tasks associated with immigration law, their primary responsibilities include the following: 

  • Assisting individuals with preparing and submitting their immigration applications

  • Keeping track of case files and deadlines

  • Communicating with government officials, clients, and other professionals that operate in immigration law and deal with immigration issues

  • Conducting legal research, preparing briefs, drafting documents, and working with specific immigration forms

  • Using particular database software such as eIMMIGRATION to file an immigration application

  • Identifying legal problems and trying to develop solutions with attorneys to solve these issues, such as helping individuals apply for permanent residency

  • Creating or managing calendars that will help ensure that an immigration attorney can file timely extensions, apply for certain applications such as a U Visa, and handle other petitions for their clients

However, remember that the specific skills an immigration paralegal will need to perform their job will depend on the type of immigration law they are practicing, as well as their law firm and their specific position. As a result, these duties can vary significantly from one immigration paralegal position to the next.

Educational and Certification Requirements

There are multiple paths an individual can take to become an immigration paralegal. Depending on the position, an immigration paralegal job may require a two or four-year degree in paralegal studies with a concentration or minor in immigration paralegal studies, such as the program offered at the National Paralegal College, while others will require only a certification. In addition, some employers may want their immigration paralegals to take additional courses focusing on deportation, naturalization, and visas. Fortunately, there are many opportunities for individuals to take these classes. For instance, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center or ILRC offers a Basic Immigration Law Course that focuses explicitly on immigration law and the paralegal’s role.

Essential Skills and Attributes for Success

Employers often have several critical skills and attributes they want their immigration paralegal to have, including:

  • Innovation

  • Flexibility

  • Proactiveness

  • Language proficiency or bilingual skills

  • Cultural competence

  • Detailed knowledge of the immigration process

  • Exceptional record keeping, communication, and collaboration skills

  • Empathy and patience

  • Detail-oriented

  • Knowledge of immigration case file systems, such as LawLogix or INSZoom

  • The ability to research and understand filing requirements in various countries 

However, it is important to note that the skills mentioned above are just a few of the many skills that immigration law firms and other companies require from their immigration paralegals. To better understand what skills employers are looking for, individuals should research the specific job openings at law firms they are interested in. Reviewing job descriptions will give them a clearer understanding of the skill sets needed for the particular roles and how to succeed.

Career Path and Advancement Opportunities

Career opportunities for immigration paralegals are diverse and provide for a range of growth. Experienced immigration paralegals can advance to senior positions, such as contracts administration manager or legal department manager, or specialize in specific fields of immigration law based on their expertise and proven track record of success. 

How To Start as an Immigration Paralegal

To start a career as an immigration paralegal, at a minimum, most positions will require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies, legal services, or political science. Depending on the employer, the position may also need a certification or experience in the field. For example, some jobs seek immigration paralegals with expertise in entry-level roles, such as a paralegal internship or legal assistant.

That is, having experience in these positions or exposure to immigration legal positions can increase the chances of finding an immigration paralegal position. However, once someone begins working as an immigration paralegal, the position provides numerous growth opportunities. Growth opportunities include taking on more challenging tasks and managing other legal professionals such as legal assistants or interns.  

Specialization Opportunities Within Immigration Law

There are many opportunities for specialization as an immigration paralegal. For example, those interested in family-based immigration can work with individuals who have immigrated based on their family relationships. Alternatively, those who prefer working with businesses and employment opportunities can consider business immigration law, which often involves working with individuals trying to start their careers in the United States. There are also opportunities for immigration paralegals to work on asylum and refugee law cases, as well as humanitarian forms of relief, which provide relief for survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence, crime victims, and unaccompanied minors. 

Other Ways To Help Advance Your Immigration Paralegal Career

Other than specializing within a specific field of immigration law, there are additional ways an individual can advance in their immigration paralegal career: 

  • Work On Reputation: As an immigration paralegal, build a strong reputation amongst your co-workers, supervisors, and clients. Showing you can work efficiently and take initiative can help secure future opportunities.

  • Keep Track of Your Profiles Online: Monitor your online profiles, such as LinkedIn, to ensure they remain clear and professional. In addition, make sure to update these profiles to reflect your experience and accomplishments properly.

  • Stay Up To Date With the Industry: Read articles, case summaries, and blogs from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), and even listen to podcasts from The Immigration Lawyers Podcast about immigration law. This can help you stay competitive in the field and show employers that you approach cases with an informed perspective.

  • Ask for Additional Responsibilities: Ask your employer or supervisor for additional responsibilities. By taking on these jobs, you can show your employer your strong work ethic and your continued commitment to expanding your skills. 

Salary Expectations and Job Market Trends 

As of January 2024, the average immigration paralegal salary in the United States is around $22.77 per hour. However, various factors may affect these earnings, such as location, size of the firm, type of work, and an individual's experience and background. Additionally, the immigration paralegal role is in high demand, with projections indicating a growth rate of 14% between 2018 and 2028, which can also impact future salaries. 

Securing a Position as an Immigration Paralegal

Immigration paralegals typically work with clients and lawyers who require that their paralegals possess a high level of legal and interpersonal skills. These skills can help you stand out from the competition and be effective at your job. That is why if you are looking to secure a position in immigration law, you should create a specialized resume that highlights these skills, as well as your experience, accomplishments, certifications, and knowledge of relevant regulations. In addition, specialized resumes often use unique formats and include sections that differ in usage from other resumes. This is because these resumes are designed to meet a particular position's specific needs or requirements. Therefore, before preparing such a resume, it is crucial to research the best format and content for an immigration paralegal position.

Preparing for interviews is also crucial for securing an immigration paralegal position. This preparation can include researching common questions asked in the field and how to respond to these questions, learning more about the company you are interviewing at, and reading about the lawyers at the firm. In addition, if you are bilingual, you will want to mention this skill on your resume and bring it up during the interview since bilingual paralegals are considered as a valuable asset to an immigration law firm. 

Finally, it is advisable to continue networking with other professionals in the field of immigration law, such as lawyers, paralegals, and assistants. You may also want to join specific associations, such as the American Immigration Lawyers (AILA) or NALA, The Paralegal Association, to meet the right people to help you secure a position as an immigration paralegal. Moreover, it is vital to stay up-to-date with the latest immigration law changes to demonstrate to potential employers that you possess the necessary skills and knowledge to provide quality services to their clients and colleagues.

Final Recap To Becoming an Immigration Paralegal

An immigration paralegal plays an important role in assisting lawyers and clients with immigration legal issues. While they cannot offer legal advice or counseling, they need to deeply understand the legal system and regulations to facilitate the immigration process effectively. Typically, entry-level immigration positions or internships can provide the necessary knowledge for immigration paralegals. However, additional courses, degrees, and certifications can further strengthen their legal system understanding.  

If you are considering a career as an immigration paralegal, we recommend that you research the available education and training programs in immigration law. It is also essential to remember that the immigration legal industry is continuously evolving, so ongoing education in the legal field will be crucial in helping you obtain the immigration paralegal role you desire.

About the Authors

Written by:

Kasia Nelson, Esq.

Kasia Nelson is a licensed attorney and skilled legal content writer with years of experience. With a background in corporate immigration law, she is well-versed in the intricacies of producing legally accurate and well-researched work. 


  • Michigan State University, B.S.

  • Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School, J.D.

Law Licensures

  • Michigan

Kasia Nelson

Kasia Nelson, Esq.


Education: Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School, J.D.

Knowledge: Corporate Immigration Law

Reviewed by:

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Ryan P. Duffy is an attorney licensed to practice law in New Jersey, North Carolina, and South Carolina. His practice focuses primarily on Estate Planning, Personal Injury, and Business law. 

Law Licensures

  • New Jersey

  • Pennsylvania (inactive)

  • South Carolina

  • North Carolina

Ryan Duffy

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Editorial Lead

Education: Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, J.D.

Knowledge: Estate Planning