Immigration is a hot topic these days and the demand for immigration lawyers is rising in the US and worldwide.
If you’ve ever thought about becoming an immigration lawyer you’re in for a treat.
Marcus Yi, a practicing immigration lawyer agreed to speak with us today and provide some insight into the exciting world of immigration law.
Thanks for speaking with us today Marcus. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you became an immigration lawyer?
I graduated with a B.A. in Musical Theater from the University of Tampa and then immediately went to St John’s Law School where I earned my J.D.
When I first graduated from law school I worked in a number of different areas of the law such as personal injury, divorce, and housing but when I started volunteering with several nonprofits on immigration cases I found that I truly enjoyed the practice of law.
I initially worked on getting green cards for mostly Central and South American youth who were abandoned, abused, or neglected by their parents.
Other than those cases, I had several friends from the artistic world who needed to apply for the O-1B Extraordinary Ability visa, and what started out as helping a couple of friends soon became my full-time job.
Currently, my practice focuses on business and family immigration.
What is immigration law and why is it important?
Immigration law regulations and processes created by the federal government are for determining who is allowed to enter the country, for how long, and how people can become U.S. permanent residents and citizens.
Also, when foreign nationals enter the United States without permission, overstay their authorized duration of stay, or otherwise lose their legal immigration status, immigration law regulates how they may be detained, deported, or barred from the country.
The Small Business Administration has found that immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start a business in the United States than non-immigrants, and 18 percent of all small business owners in the United States are immigrants.
According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, small businesses owned by immigrants employed an estimated 4.7 million people in 2007, and according to the latest estimates, these small businesses generated more than $776 billion annually.
Since immigrants are important to the future progress of the United States, immigration law is important to the efficient movement of immigrants into the country.
With all the law specialties to choose from what made you decide on immigration law?
Immigrants have extremely low political power in the United States despite the fact that this country was founded on the backs of immigrants.
Many are taken advantage of because of a lack of information or language skills and I wanted to stand in the gap for these individuals so they can have a part of the American dream.
As an immigrant myself, the immigration process is also deeply personal.
I had two H-1B visas and obtained a green card through my father who is a permanent resident.
Throughout the process, I realized there was a lack of quality immigration attorneys, so I decided to take the plunge and set up my solo practice.
What does a typical day look like for you?
It varies from day to day.
Also, since I am a solo practitioner I have great flexibility over my schedule.
Sometimes I work during the weekends and sometimes I am able to take weekdays off.
Generally, my work revolves around providing consultations, doing intake, and working on existing cases.
Sometimes, my clients can only meet me after hours because of their own work schedules so I need to be able to accommodate them.
I do a lot of the actual casework at home and meet people at the office.
What skills would you say are important to be a successful immigration lawyer?
Basic skills such as knowledge about the subject matter, organization, and efficiency are only the bare requirements to becoming a successful immigration attorney.
Customer service and interpersonal relationship building is key to true success.
Clients will not remember what you did for them but they will remember how they felt.
Always answer emails from clients within 24 hours to make sure that they never feel like they have been abandoned by their attorney.
It is not enough just to do the legal work, but also to remember that they are human beings who expect excellent customer service, and will repay you in referrals for your kindness.
What are some of the things you like about being an immigration lawyer?
A large part of my practice focuses on business immigration where I help artists and other members of creative industries obtain work visas to live and work in the United States.
I enjoy the fact that I am helping foreign nationals who are highly qualified to come to the United States and benefit our industry.
I actually enjoy working with government agencies and helping immigrants navigate the bureaucratic maze that is immigration.
My favorite part of the job is seeing the smiles on the faces of my clients when I present them with their approval notices or green cards.
What don’t you like about being an immigration lawyer or find challenging?
What is challenging about immigration law is that it is always changing.
Regulations and policies can evolve at the drop of a hat, or in this political climate, with a tweet.
An immigration lawyer must always keep on top of the latest developments.
Unfortunately, not all immigration regulations our set in case law.
This means that research is much harder.
Sometimes you only discover that USCIS has changed its policies internally after the fact.
This is something that definitely keeps me on my toes constantly but is also what makes this practice of law interesting.
What advice would you give to new or aspiring immigration attorneys?
You need to get as much practical experience in the field as quickly as possible.
While it is helpful to take classes and immigration law in law school, practical experience is key to getting a job in the field.
I did not take any immigration classes in law school but instead volunteered with several nonprofits and took many continuing legal education classes in order to build on my experience.
So, volunteer work and internships could be a way to get experience.
Immigration law practitioners also tend to be focused on smaller and solo practices.
There are large law firms that focus on immigration but they tend to be few and far between.
Having an entrepreneurial spirit and understanding of how business works is definitely a plus.