How to Become an Immigration Paralegal

United States immigration law is bound by the Immigration and Naturalization Act.

This area of law is highly stimulating since it’s based on the principles of promoting U.S. diversity, admitting immigrants with valuable skills to the U.S. economy, and reunifying families.

Immigration Paralegal

Paralegals work with law firms, attorneys, corporations, or the Federal Government to complete administrative tasks while giving guidance to clients.

Immigration paralegals are more specialized in assisting immigration legal professionals and clients seeking citizenship.

Those interested in immigration law and administrative roles will benefit from learning more about the position and career path within this field.

Keep reading to learn about the duties of an immigration paralegal, how to enter the field, licensing requirements, online training programs, and salary statistics!

What Is an Immigration Paralegal?

Immigration paralegals assist clients with the process of becoming naturalized citizens or legal residents.

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These professionals research important sections of immigration law relevant to each case, communicate with clients on the process, and bi- or multi-lingual paralegals translate documents.

Additional tasks include assisting, obtaining, and identifying the completion of required documents for all cases under immigration attorney supervision.

Furthermore, immigration paralegals prepare clients for Immigration and Naturalization Service interviews, write and file petitions in court, manage deadlines, draft files, and conduct extensive legal research.

Steps to Become an Immigration Paralegal

Although the path to becoming an immigration paralegal may vary slightly between states, the general route includes:

Step One: Earning a Degree

One of the best benefits of becoming an immigration paralegal is you only need an associate degree to enter the workforce.

Most paralegals earn an associate degree in legal services, law, or political science.

The courses and educational program deliver the required knowledge for the position while helping candidates gain experience and skills before working within the legal system and with clients.

An associate degree requires two years of full-time study, and a bachelor’s degree for paralegals takes four years.

Some states allow the completion of a certificate program for employment.

For those who choose to pursue a graduate degree beyond the bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree in legal studies is available.

These degrees are meant for those who want to seek more senior positions within a law firm or work for the most prestigious companies.

Some earn this degree to work as a human resources manager or in a more legal field like contract negotiator.

Master’s degrees are typically a two-year commitment after earning a bachelor’s degree.

Many immigration paralegals gain experience in the workforce and then pursue a master’s degree in legal studies part-time with a firm that pays the tuition.

Step Two: Earning a Paralegal Certification

Immigration paralegals are eligible for a professional paralegal certification after one year of work experience in the field.

Earning this certification is not required by most states, but the advantages include future opportunities for advancement and more credibility with clients and employers.

Step Four: Write a Resume

When you’re ready to apply for entry-level immigration law positions, create a resume highlighting relevant credentials.

Since paralegals must draft essential legal documents, it’s critical to ensure you have excellent writing and proofreading skills, which starts with your resume.

It’s also beneficial to review the job description and incorporate similar keywords like client communication or legal research.

Step Five: Apply for a Job

The final step is to apply and interview for a job.

When interviewing, highlight previous experience managing challenging deadlines and supporting teams.

Since most are interviewing without experience, it’s important to highlight different projects in school where you had to meet deadlines and collaborate without students.

Also, expect questions to evaluate your ethics and judgment.

Licensing Requirements to Become an Immigration Paralegal

Although licensing is not required in most states to become an immigration paralegal, industry professionals highly recommend earning a professional certification.

The benefits include advancing your knowledge of the law, improving your credibility, making your marketing to employers, and increasing networking opportunities.

Although there is no credential for specific areas of law, there are three general types of paralegal certifications, including:

  • AACP (American Alliance Certified Paralegal) – the AACP is a certification for those with at least years in the industry and a bachelor’s or associate degree or certificate from an American Bar Association-accredited institution.
  • CP (Certified Paralegal) – this certification is popular within the industry because many legal organizations recognize it as the standard.
  • PP (Professional Paralegal) – the PP certification exam comprises four parts: legal technology, legal procedure, and ethics, advanced substantive law, and advanced communication.

Online Training Programs

Center for Legal Studies

The Center for Legal Studies offers an online immigration law certificate that covers the most important aspects of naturalization and immigration within the United States.

Topics include the removal process, Family Residence requirements, student and worker visas, legal terminology, the naturalization process, and immigration law.

The certificate can take up to nine months to complete.

Florida Gulf Coast University

Florida Gulf Coast University offers an online bachelor of science in legal studies program that builds critical thinking and communication skills that graduates need for success.

Courses cover the rule of law, globalization, dispute resolution, and courtroom techniques, and end with a senior seminar.

The in-state cost per credit is $106 while the out-of-state cost is $711.

The program can be completed in approximately four years.

National University

The ABA-approved online Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies program from National University is a comprehensive, fast-paced education covering dispute resolution, remedies, criminal law, litigation, research, analysis, and legal terminology.

Each course only lasts four weeks with year-round enrollment.

The cost per credit for in-state and out-of-state students is $370, and the program requires 180 credits to graduate, which takes approximately four years of full-time study.

Purdue Global

Purdue University Global

Purdue University Global offers a Bachelor of Science in legal support and services, which prepares students for the Certified Paralegal Examination.

Applicants can transfer up to 75 percent of the degree’s requirements from past institutions.

The comprehensive online curriculum reviews law office management, civil litigation, administrative law, and criminal law.

This program can be completed in approximately four years.

University of Massachusetts Global

UMass Global offers 65 online certificates and degrees, including the Bachelor of Arts in legal studies, and paralegal profession.

This program prepares students for the Certified Paralegal Exam with a curriculum covering contemporary legal issues, law practice management, and victim advocacy.

The school allows at least 12 transfer credits to help students lower the cost of tuition.

The cost per credit, regardless of residency, is $500, with 120 credits required to graduate.

University of Providence

With a cost per credit of $978 regardless of state residency, the University of Providence offers a top-notch online Bachelor of Science in legal and paralegal studies.

The goal of this program is to quickly place graduates into local government, state agencies, or prestigious law firms.

Coursework covers trial and litigation practice, legal writing, commercial law, and legal research, and ends with a capstone class.

Also, students are encouraged to complete field experience to give them a competitive edge when searching for a job.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2023 median pay for paralegals in all fields of law was $60,970 annually.

Many factors determine this compensation including, experience, location, education, firm credibility, and area of law.

The job outlook for paralegals is four percent, with an anticipated growth in jobs between 2022 and 2032 of 14,800.

Salary Information by State

State Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
Arkansas2,160- NA -- NA -- NA -- NA -
District of Columbia5,580$91,880$44.17$124,650$56,780
New Hampshire1,310$56,530$27.18$81,100$37,890
New Jersey9,580$65,570$31.52$96,480$38,650
New Mexico1,850$51,420$24.72$70,010$37,660
New York30,020$69,860$33.59$103,890$45,720
North Carolina12,290$56,120$26.98$81,310$35,920
North Dakota580$54,090$26.00$75,500$39,360
Rhode Island1,320- NA -- NA -- NA -- NA -
South Carolina6,150$52,060$25.03$65,960$37,300
South Dakota500$55,290$26.58$68,120$44,300
West Virginia1,990$50,380$24.22$77,230$28,760
Puerto Rico710$45,220$21.74$65,670$30,560
Virgin Islands70$54,500$26.20$70,620$43,880

Annual Average Salary: Top 10 States

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $91,880.

These are the top 10 earning states in the field:

  • District of Columbia - $91,880
  • California - $76,080
  • Washington - $72,590
  • Massachusetts - $71,670
  • New York - $69,860
  • Colorado - $68,920
  • Delaware - $68,340
  • Connecticut - $67,310
  • Oregon - $66,250
  • New Jersey - $65,570
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Paralegals and Legal Assistants, OCC Code 23-2011, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Chelsea Wilson

About Chelsea Wilson

Chelsea Wilson is the Community Relations Manager for Washington University School of Law’s distance learning LLM degree program, which provides foreign trained attorneys with the opportunity to earn a Master of Laws degree from a top-tier American university from anywhere in the world.

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