PROGRAM DETAILS

Start where you are.

3 Modules. More than 3 paths.

MODULE 1

How to successfully work with immigrants.

module certificate

Earn a Module Certificate in
Immigrant Accompaniment.

MODULE 2

Immigration law and practice.
Train to become a partially accredited representative.

module certificate

Earn a Module Certificate in
Immigrant Advocacy.

MODULE 3

Immigration law and practice.
Train to become a fully accredited representative.

program certificate

Earn a Module Certificate in
Immigration Trial Advocacy.

If all three modules have been completed, earn a Program Certificate.


Each module builds on the prior one, but serves a unique purpose by itself. People from all disciplines with different aspirations and experience in the immigration world can forge their own VIISTA path.

End where you need to be.

Comprised of three content modules, each Module is 14 weeks with two 7-week sessions. This program is 100% asynchronous online with occasional, optional live webinars that will be recorded if you cannot attend live.

Students are highly encouraged to register for all three Modules, but may choose to finish their studies upon completion of the first, second or third Modules. The Module contents build upon each other and must be taken sequentially.

Students in this non-credit program earn a Certificate from the College of Professional Studies upon completion of each Module and a Program Certificate upon completion of all three Modules.

 

SPRING 2022 PROGRAM DATES

Module 1, 2, or 3

Session 1

Session 2

January 10 to February 27

March 7 to April 24

The deadline to register and pay the deposit for the Spring semester is December 27

There are no admission requirements for this program, but you are required to complete the online registration form.

FALL 2021 PROGRAM DATES

Module 1, 2, or 3

Session 1

Session 2

August 30 to October 17

October 25 to December 12

YOUR INVESTMENT

MODULE COST = $1,270

FULL PROGRAM = $3,810

The cost of books and course materials are estimated to be an additional $250.

MODULE SPECIFICS

Module 1 focuses on how to successfully work with immigrants, and is the foundation for the program.

Upon completion of Module 1, you will be able to:

  • Contextualize the global migration phenomenon
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the structure of government, sources of law and the immigration ecosystem
  • Interview an immigrant
  • Appreciate and be sensitive to cultural difference
  • Draft professional documents
  • Practice ethical advocacy for a client
  • Engage in self- and communal- care

Select students may elect to complete their study at this point. These students likely will be employed in a field in which they interact regularly with immigrants – social workers, educational counselors, pastoral workers and other members of religious congregations, and health care workers. Their specific training needs would focus on how to work successfully with immigrants, and not on immigration law.

Others interested in adding to this foundational knowledge may decide to proceed to Module 2 and Module 3.

Most students will begin the program by enrolling in this first module, although others who have relevant experience may enter directly into Module 2 or 3 with approval from the College of Professional Studies during the enrollment process.

DOJ Recognition and Accreditation Program FAQ's

Modules 2 and 3 focus on immigration law and practice.

They are designed to train people to become Department of Justice (DOJ) partially accredited representatives (Module 2), or fully accredited representatives (Module 3).  

DOJ Recognition and Accreditation Program FAQ's

Upon completion of Module 2, you will be able to:

  • Conduct a thorough intake interview with a potential client, including drafting a thorough new client intake form to use to gather facts from clients during interviews;
  • Assess a client’s case for eligibility for various immigration benefits;
  • Analyze new areas of the law to determine the elements that need to be proven;
  • Plan an immigration case;
  • Conduct legal research;
  • Establish eligibility for an immigration benefit including gathering facts and evidence to support the elements of the immigration benefit;
  • Prepare an application and supporting evidence for submission to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS);
  • Maintain an office case file for a client (professional development);
  • Draft persuasive professional documents (applications, declarations, cover/argument letter);
  • Engage in self- and communal-care;
  • Compile an application to become a DOJ partially accredited representative; (professional development)
  • Practice ethical service and advocacy for a client.

Upon completion of Module 3, you will be able to:

  • Conduct a removal hearing in immigration court;
  • Conduct a thorough intake interview with a potential client whose case is in removal proceedings, including drafting a thorough new client intake form to use to gather facts from clients during interviews;
  • Assess a client’s case for eligibility for various forms of relief from removal/deportation;
  • Analyze new areas of the law to determine the elements that need to be proven;
  • Plan an immigration case for proceedings before an immigration court;
  • Establish eligibility for relief from removal, including gathering facts and evidence to support the elements of the form of relief;
  • Conduct legal research on immigration law;
  • Prepare an application and supporting evidence for submission to an immigration court;
  • Prepare a client and witnesses to testify in immigration court;
  • Draft and present an opening statement, closing argument and direct examination;
  • Maintain an office case file for a client (professional development);
  • Draft persuasive professional documents (applications, declarations, cover/argument letter);
  • Engage in self- and communal-care;
  • Compile an application to become a DOJ fully accredited representative; (professional development)
  • Practice ethical service and advocacy for a client.

DOJ Recognition and Accreditation Program FAQ's

COURSE TOPICS

We connected the dots for you.

As you move through the curriculum you will see that we intentionally designed many of the Learning Activities to touch on multiple course topics. In the real world, the course topics all connect and relate to the others.

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Interviewing and Counseling

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Hot Topics in Immigration Law

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Self and Communal Care

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Research Process

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Professional Development

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Law and Legal Systems

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Case Planning/Project Management

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Cross Cultural Understanding

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Justice for Migrants

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Ethics

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Immigration Research and Ecosystems

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The Stranger in History and Religious Tradition

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Writing

Pope Francis recently called on Catholic universities worldwide to contribute to research and teaching about refugees and migrants. As a Catholic and Augustinian institution with a deep and long-standing commitment to community service and founded to educate immigrants, Villanova is answering Pope Francis’ call.

Michele R. Pistone

Professor of Law & Director, Clinic for Asylum, Refugee and Emigrant Services (CARES)
Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law

VIISTA IN THE NEWS

  • Villanova Offers Online Certificate Program to Train Immigrant Advocates
    IN THE NEWS: DIVERSE ISSUES IN HIGHER EDUCATION. Michele Pistone, a professor of law at Villanova University in Pennsylvania and an immigration lawyer for nearly 30 years, has founded the first university-based online certificate program that trains immigrant advocates to serve migrants and refugees.

  • New program trains non-lawyers to assist asylum seekers who have no legal counsel
    IN THE NEWS | THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH. After 20 years of teaching law students to defend asylum seekers and even more time defending them herself, Michele Pistone was distressed that many immigrants still have to face the complicated United States asylum system without an advocate — or even any understanding of the process. So, she designed a program to train more people to represent asylum seekers and immigrants.

  • WATCH: First Person Interview - Michele Pistone and VIISTA
    IN THE NEWS | REFUGEE, MIGRANT AND EDUCATION NETWORK. Villanova Immigration Studies Training Program founder, Michele Pistone, was interviewed by Refugee and Migrant Education Network.

  • Most Asylum Seekers Have No Legal Counsel. This Villanova Program Trains Non-Lawyers to Step In.
    IN THE NEWS | THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION. After a successful pilot that ended in May, she started a program this fall to certify students to become legal advocates for migrants and refugees. “Villanova Interdisciplinary Immigration Studies Training for Advocates,” offered through the university’s College of Professional Studies, is described as the first university-based, fully online program to train immigrant advocates. That format, planned before the pandemic forced most courses online, allows easier access for working professionals, including those in rural areas, and keeps costs low.

  • New Villanova program tackles ‘justice gap’ for immigrants
    IN THE NEWS | CATHOLICPHILLY.COM A new program at Villanova University is helping migrants and refugees by equipping advocates to provide desperately needed legal aid. Launched in August, the Villanova Interdisciplinary Immigrations Studies Training for Advocates (VIISTA) consists of a one-year, fully online curriculum that enables graduates to become U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) accredited representatives.

SUPPORTED BY:

MacArthur Foundation


 

j.m. kaplan fund logo

VIISTA PERSPECTIVES

michele-pistone

“Immigrant advocates model a new way forward to revolutionize the provision of legal services, akin to nurse practitioners in healthcare.”
-Professor Michele Pistone
Founder, VIISTA

adam-vincent

"I want to make a difference in the lives of immigrants but lacked the proper skills. VIISTA addresses a real need and gives me the tools necessary to step up and provide valuable support to immigrants in my community."
-Adam Vincent
VIISTA pilot student

nicole-tan

"I joined VIISTA to deepen my commitment as an immigrant advocate. At the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, I have the honor of standing alongside asylum-seeking families seeking the right to protection and safety in the U.S. My day to day work has shown me the huge gaps in access to legal representation across the country and the drastic disparity in outcome, when asylum-seeking families do not have access to an attorney. VIISTA is an innovative model that removes traditional barriers to law school through its’ remote, self-paced classroom model, allowing people like me to gain a comprehensive understanding of immigration law and advocacy. I truly believe VIISTA is the future direction of the immigrant rights movement, to respond to the huge need for legal representation and to give every immigrant family their day in court."
-Nicole Tan
VIISTA Pilot Student

john-kingery

"VIISTA provides the education and tools to turn my concern and passion into effective compassion. Along with the law, you will learn the history, spiritual and truly human aspects of immigration.

VIISTA’s interdisciplinary focus will challenge you to grow as a person, ally and companion. I have gained a deeper appreciation of the legal and human issues facing our immigrant families. Knowledge of the law gives you the tools to be effective, VIISTA’s other components provides you the means to be compassionate."
-John Marshall Kingery
VIISTA Pilot Student