Immigration and employment are one of the many things highly impacted since the Covid-19 Pandemic has begun. At the time of writing, there are over 33 million American workers who lost their jobs. A big chunk of these are immigrants holding different type of visas which are either in jeopardy of being sent back to their home country or lose their status altogether. Given this scenario, INSZoom foresee attorneys or law firms needing to contact clients to provide a possible solution to figure out the next step in helping their clients remain in the United States. As a company, INSZoom would like all its clients to prosper and pivot during this strange shift by providing a solution from an untapped feature that will create significance with both their new and existing clients: The Broadcast Module.
The Broadcast Module (or as I fondly call it B-module) is an Automated E-mail Solution built within the INSZoom Case Management Software and is a powerful business tool for sending direct messages to clients. The module can be used to replace broadcast messaging and even existing e-mail marketing software (e.g. Constant Contact, Campaigner, Mailchimp, Hubspot, etc.). A remarkable benefit of using the B-module is that it pulls a list right from an existing database, already stored in INSZoom. It provides the ability to send important announcements and broadcast messages on the latest immigration laws or changes targeted to a specific client or case segment. The Broadcast Module will help grow your business by generating leads from your existing or prospective clients. It comes with advanced features that enable a user to create and design professional looking messages using HTML, images, and hyperlinks.
INSZoom recently enhanced the Broadcast module by providing a more robust recipient list filtering approach. A list generated from the database can be filtered by recipient list, case type, by company, date or group, priority, or expiration dates. Users will be given the ability to upload a contact list to target specific audiences. Messages can also be scheduled for future dates or intervals giving the sender the ability to predict a preferable time to send messages. Improved message tracking, including viewed rate, failure to send are also part of the functionality.
I became a fan of the INSZoom Broadcast Module since the day I mastered the skill of using the feature. It became my lead generation mechanism when I want to reach specific clients. It has provided favorable results when I want quick & direct response from clients. The straightforwardness of use while having essential functionalities to reach clients, without having the need to use another software when sending messages and eliminating separate excel sheet makes it worthwhile. The fact that all client and case-related information is already in INSZoom made my life easier back in the day when I have three or more different groups to reach in a week. I know the struggle of mass e-mailing and I am glad I have this platform to share some of my real-life experience using the INSZoom Broadcast Module.
It gave me the capability to reach out to a micro-sized audience derived from the firm’s existing cases – for instance, sending a message to clients with H or L visas only because they are the most affected segment during this pandemic. The first step is to compose a compelling message and choose specific recipients by using the “All Foreign Nationals of Specific Petition” from the Recipients drop-down menu, choosing H-1B & L Visas under “Choose Petitions” and after a few more clicks I get to send my message to my intended audience instead of sending a mass e-mail to everyone who are not going to benefit from my message.
The B-module favored me in sending messages as recent immigration events unfold. After composing messages with hyperlinks or images from reliable sources (e.g. government sites, statistics, etc.), I navigate to the recipient’s drop-down menu, choose my desired audience, and finally send my message. Taking into consideration that almost everyone is working remotely these days, clients are continuing to access information via e-mail using their mobile devices. Clients are best served with information right in front of them during these challenging times – they become more reliant and purposefully act to find an attorney. Law firms should capitalize on immigration law changes and must be quick in sending the latest updates to show that they are always ahead of their game.
The INSZoom Broadcast Module leveled-up my client or case-focused storytelling. The Module gave me the ability to announce firm achievements to both prospective and existing clients. Law firms and attorneys should be the deliverer of good news and in most cases, success stories promote positive results and convey signs that your firm is the best. I have composed success stories on the module using actual client photos (after getting their written consent of course) and sent it to everyone in the database to tell the world that the firm just won a unique and challenging case.
The INSZoom Broadcast Module created a bridge to reconnect with past clients. Previous clients may have pending immigration cases that they have been putting off for a long time and a message from their immigration law firm might just be their wake-up call. Sending updates or just showing concern relating to recent events can generate new business. After composing my message, I can activate the past client segment by downloading a report of closed cases. I then navigate to the Broadcast Module and use the “Import your own list” from the recipient’s dropdown, upload the list I generated via the INSZoom Reports Module and then I can either send it right away or schedule a time to deliver my message.
Technology does not replace the knowledge and qualifications of Immigration Attorneys and/or practitioners in terms of developing strategies towards a successful case, but it is something that can be utilized in generating more business with improved efficiency. Instead of manually creating lists or mail merging in MS Word, applying the INSZoom Broadcast Module functionality in your day to day mass communication activities will likely produce beneficial results in terms of direct client response.
The INSZoom Broadcast Module is a compelling business tool that supports law firms in client or case segmentation. Any message being sent to clients without any form of filtering is not as effective as when you reach a potential group that will benefit from a new service or strategy that a law firm or an attorney can provide.
The current situation calls for unique ways to reach out to clients. INSZoom has built-in tools to help any firm reach out to different cases or client segments. To learn more about the INSZoom Broadcast Module and all of its other helpful features, please visit www.inszoom.com or contact any of the Expert Services Team.
The past two years have seen a massive shift in international privacy laws. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which went into effect on May 25, 2018, as well as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which went into effect on January 1, 2020, have changed the way organizations around the world collect and use personal data.
We’ll dive into each of these laws just below, but first thing’s first – immigration law deals with voluminous sensitive, personal data, so this article is about how these two acts affect the practice of immigratin law, specifically around data collection and storage. So the purpose of this article isn’t to explain every detail of GDPR and CCPA but rather to give a high-level overview of what they mean and connect it to immigration practice.
At a high level, per Forbes, GDPR is “a legal framework that requires businesses to protect the personal data and privacy of European Union (EU) citizens for transactions that occur within EU member states. It covers all companies that deal with the data of EU citizens, specifically banks, insurance companies, and other financial companies.” In other words, it’s a set of rules and regulations restricting the use of personal user information that many of today’s largest companies collect, store and sometimes sell as part of their business.
One of the key things to take note of here is that it also applies to companies outside the EU. As the EU’s own site, gdpr.eu, emphasizes, “if you process the personal data of EU citizens or residents, or you offer goods or services to such people, then the GDPR applies to you even if you’re not in the EU.”
Without getting into the “how,” it’s important to note what type of data GDPR protects: “personal data” and “sensitive personal data.” Per Wired, here’s the distinction:
How about the CCPA?
Well according to TechCrunch, “CCPA, is a state-level law that requires, among other things, that companies notify users of the intent to monetize their data, and give them a straightforward means of opting out of said monetization.” CCPA became California law on January 1, 2020, but the state is giving businesses a six month grace period to amend their practices, policies, and procedures to become compliant.
Ok so now we have a very broad overview of CCPA and GDPR. They’re regulatory requirements of companies that collect personal and private user data to safeguard that data, refrain from selling, sharing, or otherwise monetizing it, and when possible avoid collecting it or enable users to opt-out of sharing it.
But how do these rules affect the immigration practice, and what steps can immigration practitioners take to enhance data security?
The immigration process inherently requires collecting personal information. Let’s say a company is looking to bring in a foreign worker on an H-1B visa – in order to file an H-1B petition, the company needs the candidate’s name, date of birth, home address, family member information and much more. There are also instances where financial data and health data need to be disclosed too.
Against the backdrop of GDPR and CCPA, you would expect that most immigration practitioners collect this and other personal information in a safe and secure manner, right?
Well, the reality is, not always. And the number one mistake many are making is based on something we all use every single day: email. That’s right, one of the most common forms of digital communication actually exposes immigration professionals, and the companies and beneficiaries they service, to potential data security breaches.
Here’s a not uncommon scenario: a law firm staff member has to send a beneficiary a copy of some of their personal documentation. The staff member accidentally sends the email to the wrong foreign national (FN) in an instance where two people in the company have the same name.
Not only did this cause confusion when the wrong person received an email about a visa process that wasn’t related to them, but the employer of the individual whose data was compromised also had to involve their privacy attorney, and was otherwise very much upset about the whole situation. This simple mistake ended up costing the employer money by way of attorney fees and caused unnecessary stress.
This was a real scenario, and there are many more instances of sensitive beneficiary information sent around in not-so-secure ways that end up costing time, money, and trust.
INSZoom takes GDPR and CCPA very seriously, and one of the ways we do that is through our robust FN portal. Here are just a few of the security features built into the INSZoom FN portal:
Let’s think about a service we all know well – online banking. Does your bank send you your bank statement via email as a PDF attachment anymore? Are you able to see sensitive account information in the body of an email? Absolutely not. Email prompts from your bank always send you to your bank’s secure website where you have to log in, often using multi-factor authentication, and only then can they get access to your sensitive financial data.
Immigration should be the same.
We’re seeing more and more INSZoom users adopt the FN portal, and the industry, in general, is moving in this direction across the board. But we’re not fully there yet. Small firms, particularly those that deal with small corporate clients or individual clients who may not come with stringent security requirements, should take it upon themselves to be proactive with their data safety and security.
Just the other day we spoke with an INSZoom user that absolutely requires all their clients to use INSZoom’s FN portal for correspondence, and has a no-email policy for documentation and sensitive information. A great example of how immigration law firms can lead the way. Not only does that promote compliance with frameworks like GDPR and CCPA, it also protects user data and, in the end, the safety and identity of the individuals the industry is meant to help – immigrants moving across the world for new opportunities and a better life.
Want to learn more about how INSZoom supports data privacy and security? Reach out to your INSZoom rep or visit our site and read about how we’re addressing it head-on!
The coronavirus pandemic, which has both literally and figuratively shut down much of the world, is bad news for the global economy. Yes, the “r” word – recession – has been floating around, both by news agencies and international bodies alike.
Believe it or not, however, there is a bright side here. It’s not immediate, but it exists. According to Reuters, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated that “the coronavirus pandemic will cause a global recession in 2020 that could be worse than the one triggered by the global financial crisis of 2008-2009.” But they added that “world economic output should recover in 2021.” In other words, at least from an economic perspective, things will be back to normal by 2021.
So what does this mean right now for immigration lawyers who are worried about potentially losing their jobs or have already lost it? It may actually be a good time to start your own law practice.
Hear me out.
Following the 2000 market crash and the 2008 recession, immigration lawyers who experienced layoffs seized the opportunity to lay the foundations for their own solo practices. Many of them weathered the storm and eventually flourished.
How do we know? INSZoom launched in 1999, and many of the solo and small law firms that launched and signed up with us after the 2000 and 2008 down markets continue to be with us to this day, and in many cases have grown. It’s not uncommon for attorneys to launch successful solo practices during such times.
So whether you’re motivated to start your own practice today or you’re just preparing, here are ten tech tools you need that will help get your solo or small immigration firm up and running.
It’s obvious that you need a computer, but when you start looking into it, you realize that there are lots of options. The big divide is between a Mac and a PC – if you’re a Mac person, then the choices are fairly slim – a Macbook (the laptop), or an iMac (the desktop). For most lawyers an iMac is unnecessarily large and expensive – it’s truly meant for graphic designers and can be overkill for a lawyer. A simple Macbook Pro or even Macbook Air can suffice, especially in the beginning. If you’re a PC person, there are way more choices, but make sure that above all you get virus protection and good insurance policy so that if the computer ever breaks or needs to be repaired, it can be done easily, smoothly and without breaking the bank.
Many existing law firms use PCs that come with Microsoft Office, and lawyers often grow used to programs like Microsoft Word for word processing, Excel for tables and charts, PowerPoint for presentations, and so on. But the reality is that there are other options for product suites that are worth noting, such as Google Suite, which comes with word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and lots of other native and third-party plug-ins. Macs also come with similar products pre-installed under the iWork brand, including Notes, Pages and Keynote. Depending on the kind of computer you get, you may either have these workplace tools pre-installed or you may have to purchase them separately. As a note, most of these services come with cloud storage, so you can store your entire firm in the cloud, or at least back it up there.
It feels like everyone in the world has a Gmail account, but when it comes to work, there are multiple email providers. There’s Gsuite, which provides a business email as well as cloud storage and the Google-built workplace tools mentioned above. There’s also Microsoft’s email client that’s part of Office 365. There are other third-party email clients out there which you can research, but these are the big ones.
Managing your finances is central to keeping a new law firm afloat. Whether it’s invoicing, keeping track of expenses, eventual payroll, etc., and whether you charge flat fees, hourly, or a combination of the two, you need a system to centralize and manage all of it. You need a system that can handle credit card payments, bank transfers and checks, will sync up to your bank and maybe even kick start tax prep throughout the year. There are plenty of robust finance and billing solutions out there, but here are a few that are particularly popular with immigration law firms: LawPay, Quickbooks and INSZoom’s billing module.
If you’re a true solo practitioner, you probably won’t need an internal communications tool. But if you hire a freelancer, part-time paralegal or take a full-time staff member or partner, especially if you work remotely, you’ll need a way to communicate. And yes, with a team that size you can get away with a text message and email, but if you can get organized from the start, why not start off on the right foot? Here are some of the most popular internal communication tools: Slack, Microsoft Teams and Workplace from Facebook.
Video conferencing has become more and more commonplace, even before the coronavirus forced most of the world to work from home. It enables business continuity from anywhere in the world, can easily accommodate clients who aren’t geographically close to you, and otherwise adds flexibility to your practice, even if you want to have a brick and mortar location. Plus, aside from client communication, you can chat with team members as the firm grows, set up video networking calls as you grow your firm, or even start a podcast or create other content right on your computer. Some of the best-known video conferencing apps to consider are MSTeams from Microsoft Office365, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Skype, GoToMeeting, BlueJeans, and WebEx.
Scheduling calls is exciting when you first get started, but as your firm grows, it can take just as much time scheduling calls (deciding a mutually open time slot, sending the email invite, resending it when it goes to the wrong address, etc.). Luckily there are now calendar automation tools that sync right to your calendar and allow your client or prospective clients to simply pick a time that works for them without all the back and forth. The best and most popular option on the market today is Calendly.
Email marketing is a great way to keep in touch with existing clients, keep others in your network updated on your firm and progress, and find new clients. With an email marketing platform you can set up newsletters, periodic reminders, email campaigns and more, and leverage pre-built templates and other suggestions to craft the best possible emails that have a high open-rate. Some of the best email marketing platforms include Constant Contact, MailChimp and Campaign Monitor.
Running a small business, especially in 2020 and beyond, means you will likely need to use multiple web-based products and solutions. And of course, each of these products requires its own set of credentials, that is, a username and password. However, one of the worst things you can do is use the same password across all or even several services as this can severely compromise your security. On the flip side, though, that means managing lots of different passwords, right? Well yes, but luckily there are tools out there that can help you do that in a safe and secure way. A few examples of password management tools include LassPass, DashLane, and OneLogin.
Finally, when your entire law firm is set up and you’re ready to take on cases, it’s crucial to have a robust case management platform that’s specifically built to manage immigration cases, that has the most up-to-date immigration forms and processes, and that is constantly working to make the practice of immigration law easier, more secure and ultimately more successful for both the lawyer and their end client. And that’s exactly what INSZoom brings to the table. From visa-specific forms and useful templates to a robust foreign national portal and robotic process automation, INSZoom’s innovative software gives you the edge that you need to provide the highest level of service to your immigration clients.
Immigration law firms capture and store an enormous amount of data. Different types of data, stored in different places and captured in different ways – client communications stored in emails, foreign national and corporate documents in folders on local drives, a case management cloud or a third-party service like Dropbox or Box.com, hard copy government notices and other types of folders in office cabinets and more.
Under normal circumstances, having all this information spread across multiple locations isn’t that big of a deal. Let’s say a beneficiary’s H-1B was approved – you scan their approval notice and save the scanned image into your local “G” drive, update that beneficiary’s case in your case management platform of choice, send an update to the beneficiary via email or text, and call it a day.
But today, circumstances are far from normal.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to freeze the US economy and has forced nearly everyone to work from home, law firms have scrambled to put systems in place that are allowing them to continue to operate. The reality is, though, that one of the most effective systems is already being used by most law firms, though not to its full extent – immigration case management.
Because now that law firms are settling into a fully-remote work environment, organizing and centralizing your data in a case management platform is the easiest way to move forward. Here are the top ways you can leverage your case management platform as your central remote office.
Lawyer firms are in the document business. This used to be much more evident back in the day when every document was paper-based and they were all stored in filing cabinets, on desks or in the case of high volumes, storage units. Today, while the document count may have gone up, many of them are digital and therefore stored in the digital versions of filing cabinets (computer folders), desks (your computer desktop), or third-party storage units (cloud-based storage).
In other words, while firms have much less paper clutter these days, there’s probably as much, if not more digital clutter.
And just like in the physical world, it’s important to properly organize, and most importantly centralize all your documentation. Law firms that use cloud services were and are certainly ahead of the curve in many respects, but if those same firms are also using a case management platform, most of whom are, it still means information must be tracked, retrieved and often transferred between multiple systems, causing delays or mistakes.
So the first major work-from-home best practice is to organize and more importantly centralize as much of your law firm data as possible. You’re likely already doing most of your casework in a case management system – did you know that most case management platforms provide cloud storage too? INSZoom, for example, provides cloud storage for all its users, enabling them to store everything from corporate petitioner documents and information to beneficiary and dependent photographs, files, dates and biometric data.
This means that when you’re working from home, which is the current MO (modus operandi) of nearly all law firms across the US due to COVID-19, you can work on one system and avoid trying to find, pull and transfer documentation and information from disparate sources like emails, Dropox/Box.com or shared folder in a network.
Another best practice for newly remote law firms is to correspond with your client through your case management’s client portal, whether with a corporate contact or an individual. Yes, email is still one of the most popular methods of communication, and in many cases, there’s also attorney-client discussion via text or phone. But as much as possible, communicate through your case management client portal Here’s why.
First and foremost, much like document storage, this allows you to keep all correspondence in one place, which is extremely helpful during busy, hectic periods of time. Law firms that have never or rarely had remote employees are not scrambling to get their remote infrastructure set up, all the while continuing to work with their clients who are probably more anxious and have more questions than ever before.
This makes it challenging to keep up and there’s a lot of time lost trying to juggle between communication channels. By communicating largely or solely through your client portal, you have the entire conversation history in one place so you can spend less time piecing together client discussions and more time providing value.
Second, and in some ways, more importantly, client portals are simply safer. Against the backdrop of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), email and other unsecured forms of communication are some of the most common forms of digital communication actually expose immigration professionals, and their clients, to potential data security breaches. Now that law firm employees are all working remotely, at least for the time being, it’s harder than before to ensure that internet connections are secure, that devices are sufficiently locked, etc., which means that potential breaches are theoretically more likely. Using a client portal for communication, therefore, can help alleviate these problems without worrying about how and where your employees are working remotely. INSZoom, for example, takes GDPR and CCPA very seriously, and one of the ways is through the Foreign National portal.
So it’s clear that organizing law firm documents and data as well as client correspondence is important for newly remote law firms that are still working to set up their “WFH” infrastructures.
But there’s one more thing that law firms can do to really streamline their practice and focus on getting used to the “new normal,” and that is automating high-volume administrative tasks with the help of a bot.
Bots are becoming more popular than ever. Nearly every website has a simple self-help chatbot somewhere on the screen to help guide you through the website, and more sophisticated bots exist that can actually provide some level of substantial help like to fight a parking ticket.
Well bots are a reality in the immigration world too, because INSZoom has rolled out the immigration industry’s first process automation bot, Zoomi
Zoomi is an intelligent process automation bot for immigration teams. As a virtual assistant, Zoomi can take care of tedious administrative processes that are often done by overworked paralegals or legal assistants, such as updating a case after getting a receipt notice in the mail. This might sound trivial at first, but when you think about it, receiving, scanning, and entering hard copy receipt notice info into your case management platform takes a lot of time, especially during H-1B cap season. But it’s important work that needs to be done and done right.
But with Zoomi, you can have it done for you with guaranteed accuracy with a bot that knows your case management platform – well, that is if you’re using INSZoom. That means if you’re still in the process of getting your firm set up for remote work, especially if you have a large team, you can focus on educating your team on all the new teleconference systems, laptops and tablets and other WFH solutions to ensure a smooth transition while Zoomi does important but time-consuming case work on the side.
During these uncertain times, as law firms are uprooted and forced to go fully remote, there’s a silver lining – an opportunity, however, forced, to streamline your firm’s processes. Yes, this isn’t the ideal situation, but on the other hand, remote work not only provides employee flexibility and is where work is heading anyway, but it’s also a sort of emergency measure for future emergencies, disasters and other scenarios we don’t like thinking about but nevertheless should plan for.
So if you’re in the middle of getting your firm set up for a fully remote practice, remember that by organizing and centralizing, you can cut out a lot of unnecessary admin work, automate it when possible and redirect time and effort to the new reality of today. Once you’re set-up, you’ll be ready for anything.
And if you have questions about how to best leverage INSZoom, especially during these challenging times, please reach out to your rep or via the company website.
Stay safe, and remember to wash your hands!
Today, more than ever before, companies that use B2B software are starting to demand a better user experience (UX). UX, broadly defined as the sum of all aspects of an end user’s interaction with a certain platform, system or other product or service. From the tech perspective, this isn’t limited to how an application looks (its interface) but also includes how intuitive that application is, whether it’s easy to find needed information, whether the information is there in the first place, customer support and more.
In the immigration context, for the longest time technology was centered around case management – automating government forms, tracking corporate and individual client profiles and documents, creating alerts and so on. It was function over form – as long as it worked, there wasn’t much push-back.
But as broader consumer technology has progressed, the pressure to innovate and create a first-rate technology experience in the immigration space has increased too. Think about it – immigration lawyers, in-house HR staff, and especially foreign nationals who are at the core of what we do, all at some point Lyft to get a ride, Seamless for to get a meal delivered, Airbnb when booking a trip and more. Those companies and many others have raised the bar in more consumer-facing industries, and that expectation of top-notch UX has impacted the immigration space as well.
How? By shifting the focus more toward the end-user of immigration technology – the foreign national.
First off, what is a foreign national portal (FN) portal? Basically, it’s a distinct view of an immigration case management platform that’s made specifically for the FN, whether the beneficiary themselves or their dependents, to be able to log in and perform various functions such as add personal information, upload documents and in some cases see the status of their case and interact with their law firm.
Sounds like it would be a great tool for a law firm to use, right? After all, the FN can add their own files, fill in their own information, all on their own time.
The reality is, though, that many immigration law firms don’t use their FN portal. Why you ask? Well, the reasons vary.
In some cases, law firms feel that using a FN portal will actually generate more questions and create more work. If the FN uploads the wrong document, fails to enter some piece of important information or otherwise does something wrong, the lawyer has to spend time fixing the mistake and entering the data manually, which, going forward, they end up from the start.
In other cases, law firms don’t train their client service reps on the FN portal, which means that when someone does call in with a question, the service reps can’t answer them and inevitably route the call to the lawyer. In still other cases law firms are so used to sending and receiving documents and information via email that even if they do have a FN portal, they simply forget to use it and enforce its use.
But here’s the thing, not using the FN portal can actually be bad for the law firm:
So how can using a FN portal actually benefit a law firm?
Immigration case management is not just about the law firm, or even the corporate client anymore. The beneficiary, whether in a family or business immigration context, is as crucial to the case preparation process as the legal professional. So naturally including them in the software ecosystem is just as crucial.
Here are the benefits of actually using a case management FN portal:
We know all of this because we’ve been learning from our clients for the past two decades, and building solutions for everyone in the immigration process – law firms, employers, and ultimately the foreign nationals and their families. After all, guiding people through the complex and often stressful immigration process is why we get up and go to work every single day.
We first wrote about INSZoom’s FN portal back in 2015, but we thought we’d revisit it. End-user experience is growing in importance, particularly in the immigration industry, and INSZoom is proud to be ahead of the game.
If you want to learn more about how INSZoom makes the immigration process easy for immigration law firms, companies and foreign nationals, reach out to your Zoom rep, or visit our website to learn more!
Now that the coronavirus has forced most immigration law firms to figure out how to “work from home” (WFH), it’s more important than ever to do it the right way – to ensure that clients continue to be served, casework goes on and business disruption is minimized. Now more than ever it’s becoming clear that remote work capabilities are technology capabilities.
But of course, no immigration law firm is the same, and there’s a big distinction between business firms – those that handle work visas, employment-based green cards, investment visas, and other similar matters, and those that handle family, asylum, deportation defense and other non-business immigration cases.
So, in this article, we’ll break down a few key differences between these two types of firms within the context of coronavirus changes, discuss some of their unique demands and offer a few suggestions as far as how to adapt to a fully remote workforce.
We’ll start off with business immigration firms. This category is quite broad, but generally, these are immigration firms whose clients include for-profit and nonprofit organizations, sole proprietors, investors, and high-net-worth individuals. In many instances, correspondence and information transfer with these clients tends to be digital – law firms use robust immigration case management platforms that enable these sophisticated clients to log into their own portals, fill in some if not all their own information, upload important documentation, etc.
There’s email exchange, video conferencing, virtual document review and usually little, if any, human contact. Indeed, immigration law firms and their corporate clients are often located in different states, sometimes even on different coasts. The point is that these business relationships have been virtual for some time already.
So, with the current coronavirus pandemic forcing both law firms and businesses around the country to start working remotely, client correspondence with corporate clients actually hasn’t changed much. But that doesn’t mean that work can now go on as usual – from court filings to the proper use of technology, here are a few things that business immigration firms should be thinking about now as they transition over to a fully remote business.
● Create shifts for printing and shipping applications. While the US isn’t in total lockdown – at least not yet – only those employees who absolutely can’t do their work remotely, including healthcare providers who work with patients, sanitation workers, police officers, and others, should be leaving their homes for work. In the business immigration context, while much of the work can be done remotely, many visa applications still need to be printed and shipped out by mail. The H-1B for example, cannot be e-filed, which means once all the documents are drafted and gathered, the full petition must be printed and mailed to the USCIS for adjudication. If you are in this situation and you must designate someone from your firm to print and ship applications, try to create shifts so that only one or two people are in the office at any given time printing, preparing and shipping out these applications. If you can print it at home, you can also schedule a FedEx pickup to make it easy and minimize time outside.
● Digitize paper-based compliance processes. Some processes are traditionally paper-based and must be done in order to stay compliant. Staying with the H-1B visa, the one that comes to mind is the labor condition application (LCA) process, whereby employers must post an LCA notice at worksites where their H-1B worker will be working for a minimum of ten days, and then create a public inspection file called a public access file (PAF) to keep on-site as well. This is a traditionally paper-based process that must be completed, and companies that have traditionally relied on hanging hard-copy posting notices that their employees can see will no longer be able to do that since they won’t be in the office to hang these notices and the rest of the company won’t be there to see them. Luckily, at least in this instance, the US Department of Labor allows for compliance digitally, which means that companies can consider electronic LCA compliance, which can be done remotely.
● Use immigration case management solutions more effectively. Even though business immigration firms already tend to be heavy immigration case management software users, they don’t always use every feature and function, meaning a lot of the process is still left to back-and-forth email, phone calls, etc. And while phone and email are also remote, they can be much less effective. As law firms transition to being fully remote, replacing email with, say, a client portal will allow HR staff members or, to continue with our example, H-1B candidates, to securely upload documents and information, which will lead to less time spent on back-and-forth emails, less information and files getting lost in the digital shuffle and less headache during an already hectic period of transition. INSZoom has multiple features that can help law firms leverage the platform to more easily transition to a fully remote team – from the client portal mentioned above to our Zoomee virtual assistant that can take on administration work while your human staff work on more important and pressing matters.
Non-business immigration law firms use case management tools to manage their documents and case docket too, but their client relationships tend to be different. Whether it’s asylum seekers who feel more comfortable sharing their case history in person or a family trying to get a set of green cards, these client relationships are often more personal and, because of that, in-person. Therefore, this presents its own set of challenges.
So, in addition to some of the suggestions noted above, here are a few more considerations for firms transitioning to a fully remote staff to keep their business running as smoothly as possible.
● Fully virtual client meetings or very limited staff. First, try to make all your client meetings virtual – whether through services like Zoom, Bluejeans or Google Hangouts, or even just through a Whatsapp or Facebook video call – to keep the face-to-face interaction while taking human exposure into account. In more sensitive cases, clients may prefer to see your face when talking to you, so keeping as much of the “humanness” of an in-person meeting as possible is a great way to keep meetings effective. If it’s absolutely impossible to make the meeting virtual, and if it’s imperative to have the meeting now because of, say, a looming deadline, consider asking just one or two staff members to come into the office – the lawyer or staff member to speak to the client and maybe one administrative staff member to help with other tasks. And during the client meeting, make it clear that you won’t be shaking their hand, that you may sit on the other side of a long table, etc., as a safety precaution and not out of disrespect.
● On-demand virtual translation services. If you do manage to get your clients to meet over the phone or virtually, and if you would normally have an in-person translator handy, you can either conference that person in to translate or use a translation service not unlike what’s used in courtrooms or hospitals. Whether you dial them in or have them join your meeting, you can continue working with your clients who may not be English speakers without the traditional office setting.
Coronavirus has turned the immigration industry on its head. From travel restrictions and USCIS office closures to suggested, or in some cases mandated, work-from-home quarantines, immigration lawyers, employers, and individual applicants are all trying to figure out what’s happening at the same time.
As we navigate these changes together, it’s important to keep an open mind and to stay flexible in terms of work capabilities. If an employee or even a client suggests something new to keep the firm’s business going, give it a try. If you have to, buy your employees’ laptops or tablets to help them get set up at home. Give them some time to get used to working from home, and be understanding of frustrations that may come up, likely from all sides.
As for INSZoom, we’re making day-to-day changes as well – you can read about it here. And we’re working with our clients to deliver the best possible service now that it’s more important than perhaps ever before. So if there’s anything we can do to help you, or if you have any questions as to how INSZoom can support your law firm or team, please reach out to us today.
The situation with COVID-19 is changing quickly. As a product company, we are preparing for a wide range of outcomes. Our priorities are to keep INSZoom employees safe, to support our customers, and to ensure that INSZoom does not contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
Ensuring the safety and well-being of our employees, customers and partners is always our top priority.
We have set up a task force as part of the business continuity plan to mitigate the impact that the Coronavirus may have on our operations.
Implementing flexible work arrangements for employees and a rotating roster of workdays/shifts for on-property employees whose jobs are more manual in nature and do not easily lend themselves to remote working. During an infectious disease outbreak, it is critical that employees do not report to work while they are ill and/or experiencing the following symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people with an infectious illness such as the flu remain at home until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever (100 degrees F or 37.8 degrees C) or signs of a fever without the use of fever-reducing medications. Employees who report to work ill will be sent home in accordance with these health guidelines.
We have paused all non-essential business travel, globally, and advised employees to avoid large gatherings. While it remains an individual decision, we are encouraging employees to reconsider personal travel.
We have set up alternate teams of employees (e.g. Team A & Team B) who can be deployed at different work schedules (e.g. Team A working in the office at alternate weeks, while Team B telecommutes). The teams have been physically segregated to avoid the risk of infection between teams. We have cross-trained employees and established covering arrangements are made to minimize disruptions.
We don’t yet know how severe COVID-19’s consequences will be. While its impact may be limited, we would like to take precautionary steps before they’re required. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and send out communications to our customers on a need basis. For a detailed overview on our business continuity plan in this unusual time, please follow the link INSZoom Disease Outbreak Business Continuity
H-1B registration has been the talk of the town over the past few months. First we weren’t sure if it was actually going to happen. Then when USCIS announced it was happening, we weren’t sure when and how. Shortly thereafter USCIS answered those questions too, sending immigration law firms and employers around the country scrambling to learn as much as they could about the process and figure out how the registration portal was going to work.
On Sunday, March 1, 2020 H-1B registration opened. Some lawyers experienced glitches and hiccups while others had a smooth experience. But at the end of the day, H-1B registration became yet another step in the H-1B process. It’s also not the most efficient – there’s double data entry, system errors, etc. – and while not that much information is needed to complete an H-1B registration, it’s repetitive and, if volumes are high, time-consuming.
As soon as the registration instructions were published, however, automation was on our minds. INSZoom has been pioneering immigration case management and other software since 1999, and with this large process change, we knew we had to take action.
The INSZoom team got together to brainstorm automation. There had to be a way to make it happen, right? But how?
Turns out the answers were looking right at us. Figuratively look at us, but in some ways literally as well. That’s because the answer was INSZoom’s first-ever bot, the Zoomee virtual assistant http://bit.ly/INSZoom-Zoomi
Zoomee is an intelligent process automation bot for immigration teams – it’s the immigration industry’s very first virtual assistant.
As a virtual assistant, Zoomee can take care of tedious administrative processes that are often done by overworked paralegals or legal assistants. A few examples include reading USCIS receipt notices and other paper documents through optical character recognition, automatically updating corresponding foreign national (FN) cases in INSZoom, bulk case creation and more.
Powered by artificial intelligence, Zoomee learns too. So the more tasks Zoomee completes, the more it knows its user’s processes and preferences and therefore gets more and more efficient as time goes on.
So when the H-1B registration system was announced, we knew there was a way to create automation around it, and we knew Zoomee was perfect for the job.
If you’re handling the H-1B registration process, whether you’re an immigration law firm or in-house immigration team, Zoomee can help, particularly if you have a high volume of registrations.
How does it work? It breaks down into four basic steps:
1. Zoomee receives your data in a standardized Excel format – we provide the format, you populate the data.
2. Zoomee then updates the data in INSZoom, namely by:
a) Creating a corporation and entering relevant petitioner information if it’s not in the INSZoom system already, and
b) Creating the FN record under the corporation’s profile and entering relevant FN data.
3. Zoomee then logs in to myUSCIS. Zoomee does need a bit of your help here to complete multi-factor authentication for the first login attempt, so be sure that a lawyer or case manager will be available if there are login issues.
4. Zoomee then follows the registration process, creates profiles for your FN registrants and enters the data you gave it.
Once all the FN profiles are created and the initial data is entered, you complete the registration and submit it.
By using Zoomee to create FN registration profiles and fill in crucial data, you can be certain that the data was entered correctly, that nothing was missed, and that all fields are included. Imagine the alternative, particularly in a high-volume situation – you or your staff are creating dozens if not hundreds of registrations in myUSCIS, so you need to be efficient somehow. One way is by using copy & paste to avoid typing in the same text over and over, but pasting the wrong information can be an H-1B death sentence.
There could be lots of other mistakes, such as typos or skipping an important field altogether.
So why risk it?
The H-1B registration system is new, requires double-data entry and most importantly takes time. But it’s the only way to get into the H-1B lottery. Given the importance, shouldn’t you do whatever you can to minimize the risk of error?
Because at the end of the day, automation helps avoid error, promote efficiency, and increase speed. That’s right – INSZoom’s Zoomee is here to the rescue.
This year, H-1B cap season is a little busier than usual. That’s because for the first time ever, USCIS will run an electronic lottery through a new online registration portal. This means that both immigration lawyers and employers must, to some extent, get acquainted with and learn an entirely new government-run technology portal and then implement a process around it.
As a quick summary, here are some important points about the registration process per USCIS:
We know that law firms and their clients have been strategizing different approaches to this new H-1B registration process, which is why the INSZoom team responded to these changes quickly, building out a process of our own.
Since this is the first year of the new H-1B registration system, we, just like you all, are learning as we go. But building technology is in our blood, so in response to USCIS, the INSZoom team cooked up some new and updated workflows for our clients and the immigration industry more broadly.
We broke it down by phase: pre-registration, registration, selection and filing.
While the registration process technically opens on March 1, 2020, registering is possible through March 20, which still gives us just over three weeks to get everything together pre-registration. During this phase, an INSZoom user would gather the name and other required information of each registrant and upload that data in one shot right into INSZoom, at which point the system checks the information for completeness and automatically creates or updates INSZoom records for that registrant.
The idea here is that while not every registrant might get a full H-1B petition created for them, creating their INSZoom record right away allows the user to (a) make sure they have all the information they need for the registration process and (b) have a head-start for every registrant that’s chosen in the lottery and will have an H-1B petition filed on their behalf.
Between March 1st and March 20th, when the user is ready, they would initiate the registration right from INSZoom. Yes, it still needs to be submitted through the USCIS portal but going through INSZoom allows for re-checking of the data and fast application creation. Once in the USCIS portal, the user has to complete the G-28, pay the $10 fee and submit the registration.
After March 20th, the selection process begins. As the user monitors the status of their applications within the USCIS portal, they can easily transfer that status data into INSZoom to keep the INSZoom records up-to-date. That way, when a registration is accepted or rejected, the accompanying INSZoom record reflects that and can communicate that status to the registrant and kick off next steps as needed.
Ultimately, H-1B cap cases still go through a lottery system. That means some cases will be selected while others will be not selected or denied (duplicated). When a case is selected in the lottery and the user gets the green light from USCIS to move forward with putting together a full H-1B visa petition, they are already steps ahead via the registration process, and can proceed with next steps during the extended 90-day window.
Whenever a new government procedure is put in place, there is a desire to create an efficient and effective process around it as quickly as possible to enable law firms, employers and ultimately the individuals who are applying for their H-1B visas to have the smoothest possible immigration journey. At INSZoom, we always balance our proactive approach to creating efficiency and process around such new government procedures with input from our clients.
The new H-1B registration process is the prime example of this. As we all go through the H-1B registration process together for the first time, we will be learning from our clients, tweaking our process, and building the best possible H-1B registration technology solution.
If you’re a current INSZoom client and you want to learn more, reach out to your INSZoom rep. And if you’re not an INSZoom client but are interested in leveraging our technology to support your law firm or corporate immigration program, visit us today to see why we’re been leading the way for the past twenty years!
When companies invest in enterprise-level software such as case management, the value they get out of that software is directly proportional to how well they know it. Typically, well-trained staff who know how to use software without making mistakes, how to find information quickly and perhaps even know some shortcuts are the go-to “super-users” at organizations.
Take Microsoft Excel. Most people have used it one way or another, yet there’s a big difference between, say, knowing how to make a simple list or chart and knowing how to perform complex calculations, create pivot tables and program macros. Given Excel’s wide range of capabilities, how well someone “knows” the platform can be the difference between a project taking hours with lots of mistakes and taking minutes with automated workflows and flawless execution. And when you boil it down to its core, this can mean the difference between, say, providing good client service and upsetting or even losing a client.
That’s why Microsoft, along with many other software companies, have certification programs that officially train, test and certify users, ensuring that these users learn how to use the software correctly and proficiently.
So we’re excited to announce INSZoom’s very first certification program!
After talking to many of our clients, we realized that creating a certification program would bring tremendous value to three specific groups: lawyers, paralegals and end clients, all of whom interact with INSZoom one way or another. Here’s the value an INSZoom certification will bring to each of these groups.
When lawyers hire paralegals or even attorneys, one important skill they look for is whether they know how to use case management software. For law firms that use INSZoom, it’s important that their hires are well-versed in INSZoom as well, especially for more senior roles.
Talking to law firms, however, we’ve learned that even though candidates may say they know how to use a certain platform, how well they know it ends up being the determining factor. Indeed, some candidates stretch the truth in terms of their INSZoom proficiency. Others do in fact know the software but use it incorrectly or inefficiently. All of this ends up costing lawyers time and money, whether around further training new hires that ultimately are not as proficient as needed, or via turnover if someone is hired to hit the ground running and they simply can’t.
With an INSZoom certification, that all changes. If a candidate is a certified INSZoom user, that certification shows an objective level of proficiency with and knowledge of the platform. Rather than hoping a candidate’s self-evaluation of their knowledge of INSZoom is aligned with what the hiring attorney is looking for, certification creates built-in confidence in the candidate’s skill level and ultimately their success at the firm.
On the flip side, paralegals can benefit from INSZoom certification in various ways as well. When looking for a job, if a candidate can point to a certification showing their proficiency in relevant industry software, it makes that candidate much more valuable and ultimately more hireable.
We’ve spoken to numerous lawyers who have been burned by candidates promising they’re INSZoom experts while actually barely knowing the software. With an INSZoom certification, it takes the guesswork out of whether a paralegal candidate knows the software and can use it effectively. So when a paralegal is on the market for a new job, having certification makes hiring attorneys more confident in their skill, and in turn makes them more hireable and able to demand a higher salary.
And if a paralegal isn’t looking for a job, they can still leverage this certification internally. Asking for a raise or promotion, or maybe stepping into a management role training other employees on INSZoom, may be more likely with official INSZoom certification.
Finally, having well-trained staff ultimately trickles down to better client service. As we spoke about in this article – Reimagining Law Firm Customer Support with INSZoom Certification about law firm customer support, being able to easily and correctly answer a client’s question can be the difference between mediocre-to- good customer service and great customer service.
Particularly in a high-volume practice with hundreds of clients in and out of the immigration process at any given time, it’s nearly impossible to have each client’s lawyer answer every question they have. Yes, some questions are technical or legal in nature and require setting aside some lawyer time. But very often, clients call to ask about whether something was filed or not, when it was filed, the status of their case, and so on. These are more administrative questions, and if the answers can be found within INSZoom, training staff on how to use the system will enable them to easily locate the right answer and complete the client’s request.
So when a client calls in and reaches an administrative assistant or dedicated customer service representative, if those employees are trained in INSZoom, they can answer client questions quickly and correctly, thereby ensuring that lawyers, paralegals and other staff can concentrate on their case work while clients are left happy and satisfied.
Interested in learning about the new INSZoom certification?
Check out our certification page INSZoom Certification for more information, chat with us on our website, or reach out to your INSZoom representative.