VIISTA: Villanova Interdisciplinary Immigration Studies Training for Advocates

6 out of 10 migrants face the justice system without legal representation.


VIISTA, one of the first University-based program of its kind, is revolutionizing education about the law by training students to become immigrant advocates ready to serve migrants and refugees (akin to nurse practitioners in health care). This 100% online, asynchronous and flexible program easily fits into your life. Register today; modules begin in May, August and January.

Designed in consultation with an interdisciplinary team of leading faculty, lawyers, and NGOs, students who complete the full VIISTA program will be eligible, under existing regulations, to apply to become Department of Justice “accredited representatives,” authorized to provide low-cost legal representation to migrant and refugee families. 

Students learn about immigration from various perspectives and include all the topics needed to become effective immigrant advocates – such as interviewing, how to work with an interpreter, how to work with migrant children, factors that push people to migrate, providing trauma-informed care, trial advocacy  – and, of course, immigration law. Everything is learned in the context of what you will do to help migrants and refugees, whether on the job or in volunteer positions.

In this program, you will:

  • Learn from renowned faculty at the forefront of immigration and advocacy
  • Develop practical skills in immigrant advocacy
  • Explore immigration law and practice
  • Gain insights into why people migrate
  • Transform the legal services experience for migrants and refugees

Built to be flexible, the program allows students to choose a variety of pathways:

Complete this short form to receive the full VIISTA program flyer.


Module 1
How to successfully work with and accompany immigrants.

Module 2
Immigration law and practice. Train to become a partially accredited representative.

Module 3
Immigration law and practice. Train to become a fully accredited representative.

Complete Module 1


  • Certificate in Immigrant Accompaniment


Complete Modules 1 & 2

  • Certificate in Immigrant Accompaniment
  • Certificate in Immigrant Advocacy


Complete Modules 1, 2 & 3

(Full Program)

  • Certificate in Immigrant Accompaniment 
  • Certificate in Immigrant Advocacy
  • Certificate in Immigration Trial Advocacy and
  • Certificate in Interdisciplinary Immigration Studies Training for Advocates

Students report working approximately 10-15 hours per week.


VIISTA students come from across the country and from many fields and backgrounds, including:

  • recent college graduates;
  • retirees;
  • people returning to the workforce;
  • paralegals;
  • Pastoral workers and others in religious congregations;
  • social workers;
  • health care workers;
  • educators;
  • policy advocates;
  • pro bono lawyers;
  • prospective law students; and
  • lifelong learners.

Villanova is pleased to offer a limited number of scholarships to students who are sponsored by a Dept. of Justice recognized organization.

VIISTA Scholarship Information