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My Internship with an International Law Firm in the U.S.

- by Tatjana Moehler

1. Introduction

In the spring '98, the STEP program, a work exchange program of E.L.S.A. (European Law Students Association) which enables law students to work for law firms and law-related institutions and also to study at other universities throughout Europe, was brought to my attention by a friend of mine who is working for E.L.S.A. Germany. The program also includes the U.S. cooperating with E.L.S.A.'s sister organization I.L.S.A. (International Law Students Association).

After having attended a seminar on "The American Criminal Jury" which gave me insight into the U.S. legal system, I became more and more interested in U.S. law and decided to file an application for the STEP program. Although there were only five openings for an internship in the U.S. at this point in time, after weeks of waiting I was informed that I would have the opportunity to participate in an internship with the law firm of Capriotti & Associates for 10 weeks during the winter. After having been accepted, I began preparing for my visa application and my stay in the U.S.

When I filed my STEP application I had already written a statement, as required by Mr. Capriotti, on the H-3 visa, which was of special interest to me because at this time I was applying for an internship in the U.S. The H-3 visa covers trainees coming to the U.S. for up to two years in order to receive training that is not available in their own country. Mr. Capriotti filed an H-3 visa application and because of his efficient work, I received my visa on time.

2. The Work of an Immigration Lawyer

Capriotti & Associates International law focuses mainly on Immigration Law and related procedures. The practice of this special field of law involves representing nonimmigrant and immigrant visa applicants before U.S. Embassies and Consulates, which issue the visa stamps to people who are not currently in the U.S. The increasing number of immigrants to the U.S. over the years has caused the U. S. Congress to tighten the statutes and therefore the process of immigration has become even more complicated. Living in the European Community which is inclined to open up the frontiers, and therefore making it easier for people to travel and to work in European countries, most people still realize that it is more difficult to immigrate, to work for a longer period of time or to travel in the U.S.

Therefore, many people consult an immigration lawyer who must have a thorough understanding of consular processing in order to assist clients with visa issues and to plan both nonimmigrant and immigrant alternatives. This includes not only a deep understanding of the relevant sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act, but also the most recent statements from the Department of State Visa Office and each U.S. Consulate's specific policies and procedures.

But consular processing is only one part of the lawyer's job. The lawyer also must deal with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), a different government agency that issues the family-based and employment-based visas to people who are currently in the U.S. Both government agencies, the INS and U.S. Consular offices, function relatively independent of one another, and at times this separation can be very challenging for the lawyer.

A large part of the immigration lawyer's job is to provide the client with the appropriate visa options that suit his/her needs. Sometimes a certain individual may meet the requirements for more than one visa. In this case, the lawyer must compare and assess all options because one visa petition will typically be better suited to an individual's specific circumstances.

Preparing and coordinating the documents needed for visas, legal permanent residences, and citizenship is another important part of the lawyer's job.

Finally, in addition to advising and counseling clients who intend to stay in the U.S. or become U.S. citizens and preparing their documents, the lawyer has to represent the client in court regarding appeals from government decisions.

3. The Internship

During my internship, I had the opportunity to learn about the various aspects of immigration law. Besides preparing applications for visas to the INS and the different U.S. Consular offices and attending client consultations, the job also involved legal research, as the firm maintains valuable information on web pages on the Internet for its clients.

By updating and revising existing web pages and creating new web pages, I had the opportunity to apply the knowledge I had gained on immigration law during the internship. I was also able to get an insight into the various possibilities of the Internet.

While working during the week, there was still enough time on the weekends to discover Portland and its surroundings. Seattle, the mountains, and the coast are fairly close and they are surely worth seeing.

During my stay in Portland, I lived with Mrs. Petrick who welcomed me into her home and provided me with comfortable accomodations, making my experience even more enjoyable.

4. Conclusion

Our world today is growing together both economically and culturally. International law can be seen as a necessity for anyone dealing with law in the present and the future. By working for an American law firm, I had the opportunity to gain an insider's perspective and knowledge of a different aspect of law.

Participating in this internship broadened my horizons and furnished me with a deeper understanding of the U.S. legal system and immigration law. The exposure to American law terms I received was also valuable in terms of language training.

I also value immensely the extent that this internship broadened my vision of American culture.

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It does not substitute for the services of an immigration attorney in a specific case.

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