05 November 2007
US immigration for lawyers
American law firms are searching internationally for staff. Facing staff shortages, the competition to attract qualified lawyers for American immigration is increasingly competitive. Talented lawyers from English-speaking countries such as the United Kingdom, with a similar common law legal tradition, will find opportunities in the United States.
Lawyers usually work in the US under the H-1B temporary work American visa, which is used to hire foreign university-educated professionals. Somewhat controversially the number of H-1B visas available is limited and does not keep up with the overwhelming demand for American immigration.
However, there is an extra pool of 20,000 H-1B visas for people who want to take advanced degrees from US universities, including JD and LLM degrees. Another option is university legal departments and non profit research institutions, which are exempted from the H-1B quota limitation.
British-trained lawyers practicing in states such as New York often do not need to qualify as an American attorney or obtain a license if they will practice the law of their home country.
The global success of US law firms has driven huge growth and demographic pressures such as the wave of retiring baby boomers is leading to a shortage. One indicator of this is the incredible numbers of graduates being hired yearly. A top five firm recruited 268 summer associates in 2006.
Traditionally foreign lawyers have congregated in New York but that is changing and now you will find foreign-trained lawyers across the US and even in mid-sized firms.
Anyone applying for an American visa should begin by taking the American Visa Bureau's online American visa application to see if they meet the basic legislative requirements.