Career Discovery: My Journey into Global Immigration

May 18, 2017

Have you ever dreamed about helping companies move their employees across the world? Does working with colleagues and clients in different communities and with different cultures sound like fun? Global mobility – and global immigration specifically – is such a niche market that most professionals don’t begin their careers on a pathway to the field. You may be wondering, how do I get into this industry? How did others get their start?

Pro-Link GLOBAL Counsel member and Global Mobility Rising Star finalist Daniel Morris shares how he began his career in the global immigration sector:

Daniel MorrisAs a first-year law student in Minnesota, immigration was the last thing on my radar considering the stress and long study hours typically associated with the first-year legal courses. It was not until I learned that my institution would be launching one of the nation’s first “Juris Doctor (J.D.) and Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) dual-degree programs,” that immigration would soon become my entire world. I applied to the program at the end of my first-year before heading to Amsterdam for a summer program studying International Human Rights.

After being accepted into the new dual-degree program, I was later offered a research assistant position for the professor who headed the program. As a part of this position, I was tasked with researching and drafting program materials related to student visas in the United Kingdom (as the LL.B portion of the degree was to be completed over 14 months spent in London).

I found myself spending hours of my free time (unpaid) just reading the general rules and procedures on visas in the United Kingdom as, back then, the United Kingdom was still fully utilizing its “points-based” system. To "sell" the program for approval by the American Bar Association and ultimately the institution's Board of Trustees, I needed detailed immigration information to draft marketing materials. As I conducted my research, I couldn't believe the lack of online immigration resources and how hard it was to find answers to even some of my most basic immigration questions. I spent so much time reading the rules on each “tier” and the corresponding requirements needed to achieve the threshold of points needed, that I found myself literally discussing immigration in my dreams. It was then that I realized no matter where I ended up professionally, I would be the most passionate in any practice involving international affairs and people. The program was approved shortly thereafter. I headed to London, student visa in hand, in 2009 and graduated with my J.D./LL.B in 2011.

After life in London, I headed back to the states and chose the incredible city of Chicago to be the launching point of my professional practice. The job market for new lawyers in 2011, particularly in Chicago, was incredibly tough. I landed a position with a mid-sized litigation firm and spent the next two years learning what it was like to practice law in a large city. While I felt fulfilled professionally (or so I thought), I looked for ways to give back to the Chicago community; a community that had been so incredibly good to me. I remembered how immigration work made me feel as a student and thought I would give it another go, this time as a practicing attorney. I reached out to the National Immigrant Justice Center located in Chicago and was assigned one of the most memorable cases I have had the honor to work in my career to date.

My client was a female, undocumented Mexican national who had been physically and emotionally abused at the hands of her U.S. citizen fiancé and was looking for legal help in obtaining immigration relief by means of the U-Visa program (established by Congress for foreign nationals subjected to violent crimes in the U.S.). I was thrilled to be helping someone in desperate need. Navigating the Immigration and Nationality Act was a challenging web of rules and regulations, but I loved every second of it. It was a passion that I had not yet felt in my litigation work and certainly opened my eyes to the possibility of making immigration a full-time practice. 11 months later, my client’s visa was approved and for the first time in 12 years, she received permission to work lawfully in the U.S. When I read the approval from USCIS, I knew that immigration was where I needed to be and where I could be the most useful.

Several days after notifying my client that her visa and employment authorization had been approved, I searched for new opportunities in immigration. The more internationally-focused the positions were, the more appealing they were to me. I ultimately chose to apply for my now (current) position even though it meant that I would potentially have to relocate to Florida from my beloved Chicago. After a lengthy interview process and trip to Florida, I was hired and I began to pack up my apartment in Lakeview to embark on this new adventure. Ultimately, I chose to have a career where I loved waking up every day not knowing what challenges would lie ahead of me.

global immigration attorney

I have now been with Pro-Link GLOBAL for two-and-a-half years and haven’t looked back since. In my position as Global Immigration Counsel, my day is never predictable. One minute I am on the phone discussing a complicated corporate formation in Saudi Arabia and how it will impact the company’s desire to send 15 U.S. nationals on long-term assignments, and 30 minutes later I am dancing in a co-worker’s office because we both just need a good laugh for the day (and Sia just released a new hit). The work is incredibly challenging and complex, yet I love learning about it so much that it doesn’t even feel like work. It is almost as though I am reading an infinite article in The Economist. As a result, this is my forever career and I couldn’t be more fortunate to have been afforded the opportunity to love what I do every day.

Do you work in global immigration? How did you fall into this worldwide industry? Let us know in the comments.