Immigration lawyers act for private individuals or companies regarding immigration and nationality issues. Wide-ranging legal knowledge is required for this complex field of law, particularly in areas such as human rights, social welfare, employment and mental health.
What does an immigration lawyer do?
Immigration lawyers act for clients making applications to the Home Office for permanent residence in the UK, they appeal Home Office decisions or act for clients who have residency and are seeking to bring their families into the country.
Immigration lawyers advise those fleeing from unstable political regimes, who arrive in the UK from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and are seeking asylum.
What skills are required?
This is a hugely responsible area of law, one in which your actions can literally make or break someone’s life; therefore, total commitment is essential.
You will need an in-depth knowledge of the law, the immigration system and the Home Office, as well as being able to work under pressure to strict deadlines. An interest in human rights, international and domestic politics will give you the wider background to your clients’ situations.
You should also have a basic interest in people, a desire to help restore or maintain their rights and the ability to respect and respond to diversity of culture, race and religion. You will also need to be robust in the face of suffering and distress.
Good communication and advocacy skills are essential both with your client and when representing your client at Immigration Tribunals for example.
How to get into immigration law?
To work as a solicitor, you can either take the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), or if you are eligible, you can study the Legal Practice Course (LPC).
If you qualify through the SQE, you will also need to complete two years of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE). To prepare for the SQE, we recommend studying one of our SQE courses, which have been designed to give you the knowledge and skills for a successful career as a solicitor.
If you’re eligible to study the LPC, you will need to get a two-year training contract with a law firm. To find out what route is right for you, see our Becoming a Solicitor page.
Once you complete your two-year training contract or QWE, you can apply to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to be admitted as a solicitor.
To become a barrister, you will need to have completed an undergraduate law degree, or if you are a non-law graduate, a conversion course, before completing the Bar Practice Course (BPC). You will then need to secure pupillage.
You can also study a Master of Law (LLM) in International Human Rights to give you the knowledge and skills to move into this sector.
Gaining immigration law work experience
To gain hands-on experience in the legal field in immigration law-related work, you might find such opportunities through pro bono activities, internships and legal advice centres. Our employability service can help you find new opportunities to get practical experience.
What is the salary of an immigration lawyer in the UK?
A newly qualified immigration lawyer in a firm outside of the city or smaller practice may expect to earn around £20,000 to £35,000. According to Payscale.com, an average immigration solicitor salary in London is anything from £40,000 to £65,000 based on five years’ experience. For those with over ten years experience, earnings can range from £42,000 to £120,000 based in London, and bigger cities will often earn more.
The Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA)
UK Government – Information on visas and immigration.