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I'm an International Student. Can I go to law school in the U.S.?

Yes, but be warned—A U.S. law degree will NOT qualify you to practice law in your home country. The U.S. legal system is quite different from that of other countries, so if you want to practice law or become a judge back home, a U.S. law degree is not what you want. Instead, you should consider an LL.M.—a master's degree in law. This degree will not qualify you to be a U.S. lawyer, but it is probably more relevant to the type of career that you want to establish back home. Many U.S. law schools have separate LL.M. programs for international students, some of which are quite competitive and very well regarded internationally.

That being said, if you are interested in international business, or if your home country views a U.S. law degree with some additional degree of prestige or usefulness, you might consider applying to law school. Again, though, you should make very sure that your degree will be worth something back home before you apply to law school.

The application process for international students is basically the same as the one for U.S. residents. If you attended a university overseas for college, you likely will have to submit your undergraduate transcripts to a credentials evaluation service, as the LSDAS generally does not deal with foreign transcripts. (There are only about 3 dozen foreign schools from which LSDAS will accept transcripts; see its web site at www.lsac.org for details.) You will also have to demonstrate mastery of the English language. Some law schools require that you take the TOEFL test. You should check with each law school that you are interested in to find out its specific policies regarding international students.

If you attended college in the United States, you are NOT automatically eligible to stay here for law school. You must ensure that your student visa (the F-1 visa) can be extended. To do so, you will have to establish that you have sufficient independent funding to cover the full costs of law school (tuition AND living expenses), and you must be a full-time student. Keep in mind that international students are not eligible for federal financial aid and generally will not be able to obtain student loans through a private lender. You are essentially on you own with regard to paying for law school.

Finally, do not expect that your U.S. law degree will facilitate your remaining in the United States. Your visa will expire after graduation. You are eligible to apply for a one-year extension through a program called "Optional Practical Training" or OPT. However, in order to receive this extension, you must find a legal employer willing to employ you for the one-year period. When the OPT year expires, you will be required to leave the country unless you can qualify for another type of visa, such as a H-1B work visa.

 


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