The rapidly changing field of U.S. immigration law concerns issues related to both immigration (entering the country) and naturalization (establishing citizenship). Immigration law is a practice controlled exclusively by the federal government in a variety of bureaus overseen by the Department of Homeland Security. Hearings related to immigration can take place in a special administrative court system or in federal court.

Immigration lawyers work in a variety of settings. Larger law firms employ immigration attorneys who assist corporations in securing work visas for foreign workers. These practitioners spend much of their time dealing with the human resources departments of such corporations. Those who work in smaller firms or for public interest groups may focus more on personal or family immigration cases. These cases may involve undocumented alien residents and require practitioners to pursue remedies to help their clients avoid deportation. A number of immigration practitioners also work for the federal government, handling prosecutorial or administrative work for the USCIS.

The Law School offers a basic survey course in immigration each year. Students interested in pursuing a career in immigration should also take a course in Administrative Law. Students should also consider enrolling in foreign language classes offered elsewhere at the University, and may apply six of those credits towards their law degree.

Core/Foundation Courses

These are the core courses that — at a minimum — employers expect a student interested in this specialty to have.

Recommended Courses

Students interested in this practice area should consider including one or more of the following courses as electives.

(Note that whether a particular course is scheduled depends on faculty availability and student demand.)

Clinical Programs, Internships and Externships

Immigrant Justice Clinic

The Immigrant Justice Clinic works to meet the legal needs of Wisconsin’s underserved immigrant community while training law students in cutting-edge aspects of immigration law. Under the supervision of IJC clinical faculty, students provide direct representation to low-income immigrants in removal proceedings, provide assessments of immigration consequences to noncitizens facing criminal charges, and assist immigrants in need of post-conviction relief. Students enrolled in the Humanitarian Law Track (HLT) provide legal services to noncitizen victims of crime, persecution, and human trafficking who are seeking various forms of humanitarian relief. By assuming responsibility for matters affecting low-income immigrants, students gain experience with a holistic, client-centered model of legal representation, and emerge with a deep understanding of the interplay between race, poverty, language, culture, immigration status and the law.

Legal Assistance to Institutionalized Persons Project

Students work under the supervision of clinical faculty to provide legal assistance— occasionally related to immigration issues—to state and federal prison inmates throughout Wisconsin. Each student visits one or more prisons and interviews inmates about their concerns.

Student Organizations and Related Activities

American Constitution Society

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy is a national organization of law students, law professors, practicing lawyers and members of the community who want to help revitalize and transform legal debate, from law school classrooms to federal courtrooms.

National Lawyers Guild

The Madison Chapter of the NLG is a community chapter with both lawyers and law student members. The National Lawyers Guild is a nationwide organization of lawyers and law students dedicated to working for social justice. Formed in 1937 as the first racially integrated bar association in the country, the Guild tries to bring together all those who recognize the importance of safeguarding and extending the rights of workers, women, farmers, and minority groups upon whom the welfare of the entire nation depends; who actively seek to eliminate racism; who work to maintain and protect our civil rights and liberties; and who view the law as an instrument for the protection of the people, rather than their repression. 

Wisconsin International Law Journal

The Wisconsin International Law Journal is a student-edited journal that offers articles of scholarly and practical interest in various areas of international law. Student members of the journal edit articles of scholarly and practical interest in various areas of international law and draft articles for submission and possible publication. Each spring, the Journal staff coordinates a conference on recent topics of interest in international law.


Erin Barbato
Clinical Instructor
Director, Immigrant Justice Clinic
Room 1348

In addition to our full-time faculty, the Law School's adjunct faculty members — prominent practicing lawyers and judges — bring their specialized knowledge and experience to the classroom.

Lock Icon