The United States has long stood as a beacon of hope and greater opportunity. Yet in today’s turbulent political climate, the reality of immigrating to the U.S. to forge a better life has disenchanted the proverbial American Dream. Given the Trump Administration’s approach to immigration – dismantling DACA, separating families at the U.S. southern border, attempting to revoke the country as a nation of immigrants – the American Dream has become the American Nightmare. Ironically, the President’s attempts to reduce immigration comes at a time when the country needs more and younger labor force to support (via taxes) a growing number of longer-living retirees. According to Pew Research Center projections, as the Baby Boom generation heads into retirement, “the most important component of the growth in the working-age population over the next two decades will be the arrival of future immigrants.” In the tech industry alone, studies have predicted that there will be an estimated 1.4 million open computing jobs by 2020, but only 400,000 US trained computer science graduates with the skills to fill them.
As the global economy heats up, so does the need for quality talent. The inability to obtain the proper visa and the right to work denies many the allure of job opportunities abroad. Can technology fix its own needs for skilled workforce? One start-up is attempting to do just that – to disrupt the notoriously difficult and ever-shifting landscape of job migration: PassRight, a company providing software as a service (SaaS) and related technical support to law firms focusing on immigration issues.
PassRight CEO Liran Rosenfeld’s struggle to find work in the United States as a foreigner is a familiar story. After successfully launching an entertainment project“Recast” in Tel Aviv, Rosenfeld wanted to expand his business to the United States. While his company garnered the interest of industry executives in Hollywood and Silicon Valley, Rosenfeld hit a roadblock when he wasn’t able to secure the proper work visa. Like many entrepreneurial immigrants, Rosenfeld found himself stuck in a stressful, convoluted situation.
Hiring an immigration attorney can be financially demanding, and even then, the process is so complex and opaque that having legal support doesn’t necessarily guarantee approval. Such was the case for Rosenfeld: after hiring multiple attorneys, spending tens of thousands of dollars, and navigating through multiple rejections, appeals, and a slew of dubious promises, Rosenfeld was finally able to obtain a green card. While most people would be relieved to leave a traumatic experience behind, Rosenfeld was inspired by his firsthand experiences with the immigration system and set out to create a solution that would help simplify and streamline the visa application process.
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Since launching in 2017 in partnership with McGettrick Law PLLC, PassRight has helped over 800 immigrants, from students and skilled employees to artists and executives, to get their work visas, green cards, and visa renewals.
Unlike traditional law firms, PassRight is designed to offer full immigration services provided by top attorneys with the use of innovative software that gives efficiency and accuracy, and most importantly transparency to the otherwise. complex, confusing process. By being transparent about each step of the application, PassRight enables consumers, employees, and employers to take control of their files and circumvent the long and expensive on-boarding of any traditional law firm.
It’s not a stretch to say PassRight is, in its most literal sense, life-changing. In one case, Peter, a Danish artificial intelligence and machine learning engineer, applied for the H-1B visa (which allows U.S. employers to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations) and was denied. Upon using PassRight, Peter was advised to apply for the O-1 (nonimmigrant visa for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement), was sponsored by the company’s affiliated talent agency, and within 45 days received his work permit. In another case, PassRight was able to help Israeli superstar musician Ninet Tayeb as well as her husband obtain their EB-1A (extraordinary ability green card) in three weeks. While each case carries its own risks and opportunities, and previous results can never guarantee the future outcome, we sat down with Rosenfeld to talk about how PassRight is improving the traditional visa application process and whether there still hope for a return of the American Dream.
How did PassRight come about?
I realized the visa application process is broken. When you hire an attorney, you don’t necessarily know the attorney’s success rate and you don’t know your likelihood for success. Most people don’t know what visa is right for them and what route to take. There’s a lot of money involved and your livelihood is on the line, and you don’t have control of what’s happening.
People make mistakes, and attorneys and paralegals are not immune to making mistakes. Something as basic as submitting your date of birth in the correct format or writing down the wrong category of visa are common mistakes that happens every day. I’m a tech guy and I realized I could make a difference by innovating the old process to make it more transparent and efficient. That’s when I came up with the idea of PassRight – essentially a dashboard for visa applicants that opens up to the process for them. With PassRight, you can see the whole case: you have access and guidance to the correct forms, documents, and
questionnaires. You can follow the steps, backtrack, move things around, and feel confident in the decision-making process. Transparency of the process makes it easier and more empowering.
How has PassRight improved the process? Is there a higher success rate?
I’ve been doing this for over two years now. Today, over 800 people have signed up and we’ve had over 700 approvals. And for those that haven’t gotten approved, we are helping them fight to appeal. We truly care about our customers. We have about 98 percent success rate, while most law firms today average over 60 percent denial rate.
That’s a big difference. What’s the cause of the disparity?
In the traditional attorney-client representation way, you have to connect with a law firm wherein you basically become a number to the firm. Immigration is a high-volume practice, and just scheduling a consultation meeting can be expensive. Even after a consultation, the route the attorney chooses may not be in the client’s best interests. After signing agreements, paying thousands of dollars, going through the initial on-boarding, and waiting for months, you end up losing your rights and waiting for the attorney to make your case. You lose control.
What we’ve done is created a decision tree. You go on our platform, you identify according to the questions we ask you, and choose your right path. Then you get started and fill out the appropriate forms by yourself. You actually have control on what’s going on, and there’s a lawyer there to help you if you need it. We even have an affiliated talent agency to help sponsor clients.
We designed our software with the client in mind, as it was important to make sure the clients felt supported through the process. We developed technologies that help clients from making mistakes. For example, when they upload their documents into our system, we have a computer vision component that scans the quality of those documents, taking numbers and letter and omparing them other information they’ve filled out in the form. This helps us eliminate the human error factor. We also use artificial intelligence to obtain the client’s likelihood for success, the progress of their case, and their place in line. And we’ve encrypted and secure out platform using Amazon services, so all of the client information is private and protected. It’s an entirely different experience, it’s the new age. The best part – it’s a fraction of the traditional cost. We offer 37 types of immigration services (excluding deportations and asylums) and are about four to five times cheaper than the average immigration attorney. Someone who needs to extend their tourist visa today could do so for $59 on our website.
What are some of the criteria you look for as part of your screening process?
Education is a big one. Professional reputation and recognition, like if there are published materials about you, your work, or your company, as well as accolades and exhibits are important. Being able to prove that you’ve participated in something impactful is more important than how much money you make. At the end of the day, it’s about showing the qualifications for exceptional talent you have.
We’ve developed a screening process that happens online, but we always offer the option to schedule an appointment to talk to one of our attorneys. The screening process is very straightforward. With our software, people can figure out their correct visa route and see whether or not they have the credentials to qualify. However, there is a cap for everything in immigration. For example, the O-1, which is the visa for the arts, is part of a non-immigrant category that has two-hundred-forty-thousands spot per year, which is actually a lot more than the H-1B, which is a tech visa for technical. America wants to bring artists and creative people.
Having had over seven hundred approvals, are you seeing any trends that could translate into potential stronger screening process that will yield even better results?
We are seeing a few trends. The H1B is getting harder to obtain, and we are focusing on helping H-1B rejects. I keep telling my clients, ‘the O-1 is the new H-1B.’ Typically when we submit a strong O-1 case, we get a good reply within a few days. The country wants talented, extraordinary people, whether they are in the arts or tech. The more credentials a person has, the greater their likelihood for visa approval.
How do you think your firm can still operate in this complicated and upanddown environment when it comes to immigration law?
When we started building our platform, we knew we had to be flexible and be able to adapt to a changing environment. Because we built our software with flexibility in mind, we can adjust to the changes quickly and independently without having to hire more developers. The landscape is changing, and though it may take longer for certain visas, generally it all works the same
Still, we run into complications. It seems like some people from certain countries are less welcome here. We had a scientist from Syria – a fantastic strong case –and his case was rejected and denied with vague reasoning explaining why.’ Another common complication is with students. How do they get a job if they don’t have a visa? How do they get a visa if they don’t have a job? It’s classic chicken-and-egg problem. That’s why we help employers and employees by sponsoring them through our talent agency.
For someone thinking about working with you through this platform, how can they best prepare before they start this process?
One of the benefits with PassRight is less preparation time. The immigration process is long, complicated, and stressful, and our goal is to simplify it. For new clients, we recommend they have their CVs on hand. Once they get onto our platform, we guide them through the correct documents they need to prepare.
I recommend people to go with what they want to do rather than look for an alternative, seemingly easier way out. I see it all the time with attorneys who recommend certain Visas because they are good at them, not because they are the
right Visas for the clients. The country wants good, talented people. That’s why it’s important for people to be honest and to pick the proper process that’s right for them.
I’ve worked as a journalist, in digital and print publishing, public relations andmarketing for over a decade. I have written and reported extensively about fashion and emerging markets, as well as contemporary culture, lifestyle, diplomacy, education, and the arts.