On the Court’s docket is a petition for an advisory opinion filed by the Florida Board of Bar Examiners (“FBBE”) that is sure to receive national attention. At issue is whether an undocumented immigrant may be denied membership with the Florida Bar based solely on his or her undocumented status.

The applicant is in his mid-twenties. He came to the United States as a child 15 years ago with his family, on a tourist visa. When the family overstayed the visa, the applicant remained in the country with his family. By all accounts, the applicant has been an exemplary student throughout his academic career, and aside from his undocumented status, the FBBE concedes that no hurdle to his membership in the Florida Bar remains.

The applicant raises many arguments that cut against the FBBE’s requirement that an applicant must verify his or her immigration status prior to admittance to the Florida Bar.

The applicant argues that requiring verification of immigrant status is beyond the FBBE’s authority, as no such requirement was promulgated by rule by the Florida Supreme Court, which is the body that has the authority to establish criteria for admission to the bar. Applicant continues that even if the FBBE had the authority to require verification of immigration status, it waived the requirement with respect to the applicant by granting him a waiver of requiring such proof to allow him to sit for the bar exam.

Additionally, the applicant points out that there is nothing in federal immigration law that would preclude applicant from practicing law in Florida if admitted. While he could not practice law for compensation in this country, the applicant could provide pro bono legal services or work in a foreign jurisdiction.

Many amici have filed briefs in support of applicant, prompting the FBBE to suggest to the Supreme Court that it request amici that may support denial in this case to file briefs as well. At this time it is unclear precisely what arguments, if any, will be presented in support of the FBBE’s policy of requiring proof of immigration status as part of the application process for membership in the Florida Bar.

Applying for Membership to the Bar as an Undocumented Immigrant

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