Can an international student study law in the USA?
In the United States, formal law study is only available at the graduate level. To attend a law university in the United States, the student must have at least a university degree (if he has not obtained it in his country, he must study a career in the USA). Universities may offer bachelor’s degrees in fields related to the study of law (eg, Bachelor of Humanities with a specialty in Law and Society) or a pre-law degree, but these degrees are not enough to practice law in the United States.
Is it possible to revalidate a law degree in the USA? If we assume that to revalidate means to convert a law degree from your country into an American one to become a local lawyer, the answer is NO. What can be done is a credit evaluation by a certified evaluator from the USA, to determine which courses taken may have equivalents for American pensum, to see how many credits you would need to take to obtain a degree in the USA.
So, can an international student study law in the USA?
The short answer is: No. The long answer is that it is complicated… but why? Law Degree System – The student must study to become a “Juris Doctorate”.
Steps to become a lawyer in the USA:
- As there is NO undergraduate degree in law, students must obtain a bachelor’s degree in any area related to law or a Pre-Law Degree (if offered by the university).
- Then the student has 2 options since there are two types of academic law programs in the United States:
- a. Study a 2-year LLM Program (Master of Law): For students who have already completed a law degree in their country of residence (and the one taken by most international students).
- b. Obtain a JD (Juris Doctor) of 3-4 years: It is the program that allows you to practice Law in the USA (but you have to find out the state and the university that interests the student since most do not accept international students for law programs).
The process is long.
They must study for 1 year to take the LSAT Exam. But since the preparation for the LSAT exam does not provide an I-20 the student must remain in the USA studying something in parallel (English or an academic program).
The student must enroll in law school for 3-4 years (depending on the number of credits taken).
Then you must study for 1 year to take the BAR Exam (state exam taken by students who want to practice law in the USA, Texas bar examination, for example). But since the BAR test preparation does not provide an I-20 either.
You must stay in the USA studying something in parallel (English or an academic program).
Get a job and start practicing as a lawyer (taking into account that the academic programs will only allow you an OPT for 2 years of work permit, so you will have to process another visa that allows you to work in the USA). Since the issue is that even if you graduate as a lawyer and pass the BAR, but do not get a job, you will have to return to your country.
Depending on your particular case, here are some of the paths that some students have taken:
- Law-related career in Florida: Study one of the following majors at Florida International University: Criminal Justice, International Relations or even Political Science.
- Technical Paralegal career in Florida: Study the Paralegal Program at Broward College (north of Miami), Keizer University (Miami) or Valencia College (Orlando).
- Postgraduate in Business (MBA or Management Program) anywhere in the United States: Which will allow you to internationalize your career and broaden your work horizons.