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April - 2010 - issue > Cover Story
Hassle -Free Global Immigration in a Jiffy!
Vimali Swamy
Monday, March 29, 2010
On 26 March 2003, a leading banking software product company, received some surprise visitors in its Dutch office. So did the company's four Dutch banking clients. The visitors were from the Department of Social Security, Netherlands, to investigate the violation of immigration laws by the Indian software company's 12 employees. The authorities asked the Indian company's employees to leave the Netherlands pronto. In addition the Dutch government had also sent an application to the UK to extradite the CEO of the company. He was arrested but later released on bail. Though the company maintained that the executives were abroad with all the necessary paper work, the fact was that it had missed out on a few immigration processes.

A few days post the incident, the company has signed up with INSZoom, a California headquartered immigration software company to facilitate in-house processing of immigration and to ensure compliance to rules and regulations. Founded in 1999 by Umesh Vaidyamath, INSZoom is the world's largest immigration software company providing solutions for domestic and global immigration lawyers based in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the UK, corporations, universities, healthcare organizations, and non-profit groups in 68 countries around the world.

Hundreds of companies face problems related to compliance to immigration rules with regard to their employees every year. Statistics report that global companies spend nearly half a billion dollars on immigration processes annually.

In the wake of the rise in terrorist activities since the disastrous 9/11 attack, the immigration laws have become stringent, and immigrants are under constant surveillance. The Immigration Department regularly issues strings of notices requiring companies in the country to provide information on their employees who are nationals of certain countries, landing the human resource departments of many corporations in a tight spot. Most departments often do not have sufficient information on the employee - starting from the current location of the employee. The recent economic recession has only added fuel to the fire. A slip in even a single regulation could leave an organization and its employees in a thick soup.

"Immigration has been and continues to be one of the top most challenges for MNCs around the world. With a large section of employees deployed across different countries, immigration management is a complex and demanding chore that haunts the HR managers in corporations," explains Umesh Vaidyamath, CEO, INSZoom. Local laws and confusing interpretations leave this process a paper-heavy task, requiring much time and intense attention in managing it - from the first immigration applications to various statutes of maintenance, compliances, and so on.

It is this pain point that INSZoom has been addressing since the early part of this decade. Vaidyamath, with an aim to automate this process, started with developing a robust Web based solution that helped attorneys with Case Management, Case Tracking, Immigration Forms Generator, Management Reports, and an Address Book. The solution is built on a DotNET platform, adroitly wrapped around the Adobe PDF for the documentation management streamflow. The idea is that the rules and forms are so generic that once a client creates a case for one employee, it could be templated across many cases. Also, the client may customize the software for many other visas that he or she may be processing. With further inputs from the clients, Vaidyamath took the concept a bit further adding depth in the immigration laws and interpretations.

Over the past few years, INSZoom has successfully licensed out the software to over 1000 attorneys in the U.S. alone. This has also led to a very interesting evolution. The attorneys’ clients were piqued by the online management system and were interested in deploying some version of it within their own enterprises.

"Companies are increasingly moving their employees across the globe, and this is causing immense stress to the human resource teams," Vaidyamath observes. "It is not just a simple task of collecting employee information and passing them on to the immigration attorneys. The department has to keep track of all the employees, their visa status, the various visa compliance issues, availability, and global visa laws, the list goes on. It is not their core competence." The INSZoom team matured the train of thought into a comprehensive list of requirements and mapped them into an automated process of checklists and alerts.

Thus, when the jet paced MNCs decided to move away from the traditional law firms and start the immigration processing in-house, Vaidyamath was only too happy to develop an enterprise version of his solution kit. Today, INSZoom offers a full suite of solutions that help companies improve their practices and businesses and enhance their competitive edge by giving them access to the most robust immigration technology product line available. With the largest online immigration forms library in the world that is updated every 24 hours and a complete set of case management, client, employee, and HR team management, and compliancy solutions, INSZoom places the latest in technology at its clients' fingertips.

What has mainly worked for INSZoom's success among the enterprises was the transparency of its solution. "Immigration is still a paper-heavy process. With information and updates coming in from various sources, the paper trail tends to leave many gaps in the process and duplicity and misinterpretation of information is very common," he says.

For example, an employee from India who has been deployed in New York for six months is suddenly required to be at the company’s offices in Sunnyvale for the last two months, there may still be a few legalities to be taken care of in terms of immigration compliance because laws tend to change from state to state in the U.S. In most cases, the employee is not aware of this and fails to provide an update to the HR or vice versa. Miscommunications also happen if there are updates being done for two or more people with the same name.

To narrow down this margin of human error, INSZoom’s software establishes a single portal of information management. Companies can have their employees register their information and documentation once through the Web portal. The process is transparent enough to allow HR Managers to see what the employee is entering - enabling them to stop errors right at the entry level. Once the employee submits his or her documents, the seamless Web platform runs checks on the package and shapes it into INS-required format. The case now becomes a single item of manageability - clients and attorneys can update the case status, with mutual notifications. Once the case is processed, the client is left with a neat file of information that can be updated in sync with other HR software like PeopleSoft. Since it is a Web based solution, INSZoom also permits the organization to login from anywhere through the Internet, so if a team member is traveling or working off-site, the information can still be accessed.

However, Vaidyamath is not stopping at this. The US is only one market, but most clients have employees in other countries, including the Middle East and Africa, the Far East nations, and so on," he says. The case in this point is one of their top clients, a major Japanese automobile giant. "The auto giant has over 500 people in various countries traveling to other destinations at any point of time," remarks Vaidyamath. After a bake-off with other products from firms like Deloitte and Accenture, it chose INSZoom for its relevance and immediate applicability. Clients can use the software in 15 minutes, says Vaidyamath, as there are no CDs to load and install.

The same is the case with IT services giant Cognizant. "With our employees deployed across 50 different countries apart from the U.S., maintaining the heavy case load was quite a challenge. We faced a varied set of problems, ranging from updating the visa status miscommunication or late communication of a change in some immigration law to a hassle. We have been deploying INSZoom for some time now and it has really eased the burden off the HR departments. It has not only automated majority of the processes but the flexibility of the framework allows us customize and configure the software as the number of users increase periodically. Overall, it has brought in a disciplined effect on the usually most nerve wrecking and haphazard process in the organization," explains Murali Kakolu, Director and Head – HR and Immigration, Cognizant Technologies. The 24/7 support is an added bonus for the customers, so that they never have to face any disruption in their day-to-day operations.

Though there are numerous other solutions available in the market today, success has come in INSZoom's stride because of its first mover advantage and the end-to-end immigration solutions it has to offer for its clients. For Pro-Link, a US based law firm, the greatest challenge was simply finding the best way to maintain full compliance for all its clients throughout the world. Earlier, Pro-Link tracked compliance data manually and through excel spreadsheets and a calendar program. Information was scattered in numerous software and varied locations; consistency and a core location for data were direly needed.

"With INSZoom, all our data is in one place," says Michele Longley, GMS, VP Global Business Delivery, Pro-Link GLOBAL, PA. "It has certainly increased our efficiency tremendously. We're able to pull reports and find assignees in one place. With offices around the world, our consultants are able to access data in realtime on a single platform." INSZoom’s products gave Pro-Link the power to more effectively stay on top of all aspects of client immigration compliance. While the company's original system did get the job done, INSZoom's case management helped Pro-Link carry out that job better, faster, and more effectively. "We're able to stay on top of our expiration dates," says Longley. "Are the assignees staying in country? Do we need to review their case? Being able to provide timely reports for our clients reassures them of our commitment to quality service."

When searching for a case management solution, Pro-Link tried a number of companies' products. "We tried other companies that were developing global software and we tried to create something with other programs, but INSZoom's infrastructure was already established," says Longley. The company was able to work with what INSZoom has and to customize within that framework. It could create its own process maps within INSZoom for the countries it works in and track, maintain, and handle all its cases through INSZoom.

The company also sets itself apart from competition in terms of number of customers and revenue. Apart from the 1000 attorneys in the U.S., INSZoom also boasts of a varied set of clients in the enterprise segment including top firms like Microsoft, IBM, Wipro, Cognizant, and Patni. Along with these, the company also serves small organizations that have a strength ranging from 50-100.

Currently, the company has opted to offer the solution on a licensed model, which seems to be paying off, as clients are attracted to the low entry cost. As of today, the company has managed to extend its services to over 1,000 law firms and corporate organizations.

"I have been practicing in the immigration arena for over ten years and have seen INSZoom grow from its humble beginnings. I've watched Vaidyamath literally create an industry where none existed before. He saw the opportunity to provide solutions to a variety of global immigration and compliance management concerns faced by companies with an expat workforce. Many of these employers are not even aware that they have a problem until it's too late. Vaidyamath and his team are dedicated to create an awareness of the issues and provide solutions that will help the corporates proactively face the growing intensity of immigration enforcement worldwide," says Jake Lipman, senior attorney, Lipman & Wolf, one of the earliest clients of INSZoom.

As an attorney user of INSZoom, he has been able to offer his clients a far higher level of service. The firm developed its own "version" of INSZoom by creating custom templates and workflows for each kind of process that it handles. The software reminds them what needs to be done and when. It uses the reporting function to manage the continual deadlines that seem to arise and the communication portal to keep its clients up to date and to document each step along the way. "INSZoom has been an integral part of our firm's business plan as we realize that becoming a power user places us in a dominant position among other firms who may not see the future role that INSZoom will play within the global mobility market," adds Lipman.

Despite a successful run of its solutions amongst the enterprises and law firms, big and small, Vaidyamath feels there is more to be done. Regardless of INSZoom having dominated the immigration software space for a decade now, it is surprising that enterprise software giants like Oracle and SAP have still not set their foot in this arena. "One of the main reasons for this is the ignorance that corporates have in this field. Either the companies do not know about the need for compliance or if they know, they do not give it much importance and are reluctant to spend on technology in this space," says Vaidyamath. It was just two years back when several top MNCs in the U.S. were fined millions of dollars by the Department of Labor for not being compliant to LCA (Labor Condition Application). Hence, the company has taken it in its hands and in the past few years it has gone across geographies holding seminars and conferences to educate the industry folks about the necessity for compliance.

The company developed a portal, www.migrantplanet.com that updates all information in terms of immigration laws and rules happening across the geographies. The portal that was launched last October aims at providing realtime updates to the company's entire customer base, thus adding value to the existing set of solutions. "My idea is to make this portal a one stop shop for all news and information on immigration and related areas," he says.

For Vaidyamath, the horizon ahead looks very bright. Amidst organizations working on increasing their global presence on the one hand and governments coming down hard on legalities on the other, opportunities galore. The recent announcement by the U.S. government to audit 25,000 companies for compliance reflects an immense opportunity for its business. No wonder the company is eager to spread its presence in several regions like Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. As of today, the company offers immigration services in 68 countries and hopes to increase this number rapidly. It does not end here. Vaidyamath is also looking forward to offering consulting services to the clients. "We already have a strong network of attorneys in over 60 countries across the world that is already using our solutions. These are also firms that offer the best practices in this space. I'm working on forging partnerships with these firms to service the enterprise vertical. Suppose, a company is eager to send some of its executives to small and lesser known countries then we shall help them connect to the best law firm there that will help them in handling the entire immigration process," he explains. This will be mutually beneficial.

Other plans in near future include increasing its head count. With about 150 plus employees placed in offices in the U.S., the UK, and India, the company hopes to add more resources and open offices in other locations to maximize business. For the company that is self-funded from day one, the risks taken so far have been very fruitful and it is confident of replicating a similar growth in years ahead.

Vaidyamath's desire to rule the roost in this space has been long achieved, and at the end of the day he continues to create a process that is so simple and efficient that 'immigration' does not remain a tedious and painful job any more. "Ten years in this space and I still feel there is so much more that requires to be done. A few years down the line, I hope to help create a system where immigrating becomes as simple as traveling within one's own country," he wishes. That day is not far, if you go by Vaidyamath's grit and determination.
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