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