An accurate flow of information is essential for avoiding delays in the submission of immigration applications. Although often overlooked, gathering accurate information upfront through the legal questionnaire paves the way for a smooth and timely submission of an immigration application.
To avoid delays and streamline the immigration process, HR teams can develop and implement a coherent questionnaire completion strategy that fully consolidates the responsibilities of the foreign national employees, hiring managers and others within the organization.
Gathering the Information Required for an Immigration Application
Like the different U.S. visa options, the information required to prepare and submit an immigration application varies. While visa applications like the H-1B and TN require general employment and personal information, applications like the L-1 and PERM can require extensive detail and research. Most legal questionnaires can be broken up into four parts requiring varying levels of detail:
- Personal and family information about the foreign national. This typically includes the foreign national’s biometric information, address and information about their spouse and/or children, if applicable.
- Employment history, education credentials and immigration history of the foreign national. This information about the employee’s background is key to exhibit eligibility for the desired visa category. This includes the highest level of education they have achieved, as well as any relevant licenses, etc.
- Information about the company sponsoring the foreign national for the immigration application. The company must show that they meet the criteria to be eligible to sponsor the employee for the desired visa category.
- Details on the company’s proposed position for the foreign national. The position that the employee will hold if the immigration application is approved must be within the scope of the desired visa category. A detailed job description and a list of skills required to perform the role are essential for this determination.
In addition to this information, the employee and company are typically required to provide supplemental documents such as scanned copies of passports, university degrees, offer letters, and company financial documents, to name a few.
Providing accurate information and adequate detail in these areas is crucial for legal counsel to prepare and send a strong immigration application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and other government agencies.
Stakeholders in the Immigration Questionnaire Process
For most organizations, the HR team or a dedicated mobility team drives the immigration process for employees and candidates in coordination with legal counsel. That said, hiring managers and other individuals within the organization may need to play a direct or indirect part in the process as well, especially in the information-gathering phase.
Here is a look at the different responsibilities stakeholders within an organization may hold in the questionnaire completion process:
- HR/Mobility Team is typically responsible for completing the legal questionnaire directly or facilitating its completion by connecting the legal counsel with the internal stakeholders relevant to the immigration case (foreign national, hiring manager, etc.).
- Foreign National is responsible for providing personal details – including family information, previous employment, education credentials and immigration history, if applicable – either directly to the legal counsel or to the HR and mobility team.
- Hiring Manager can be responsible for directly or indirectly providing varying levels of detail – depending on the visa category – about the proposed position for the foreign national, as well as the attributes that make the employee best suited for the role.
- Recruiters may be the first stakeholder within an organization to gather the personal and employment details of a foreign national candidate and may directly or indirectly share this information with the legal counsel to get a jump start on the immigration process.
- Finance/Accounting Team may need to provide up-to-date company financial information that is required to submit immigration applications for multiple visa categories.
Understanding the distinct roles of each of these stakeholders provides HR teams with the ability to establish an efficient process to gather the information required for the legal questionnaire and push the immigration application forward.
A Structure for a Coherent Questionnaire Completion Strategy
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach for establishing a questionnaire completion policy, there are several strategies that make up the foundation of an information-gathering process in a strong immigration program. These strategies include:
- Establishing consistent responsibilities for internal stakeholders and a cadence for when information should be gathered. For some organizations, this strategy could mean that at the onset of an immigration case, the foreign national and hiring manager are directly responsible for providing the information required in the legal questionnaire. For others, it could mean the HR or mobility team gathers the relevant information from the foreign national, hiring manager and other internal stakeholders and then provides it to immigration legal counsel.
- Organizing secure and efficient lines of communication between internal stakeholders and legal counsel for follow-ups to clarify information. Some information will inevitably be lost in translation in the questionnaire process, be it gaps in a foreign national’s immigration history or a lack of detail in a hiring manager’s job description for the proposed position. To keep the preparation of the immigration application on track, it’s crucial that legal counsel be able to gather or clarify the additional information needed to push forward.
- Implementing a system to track and manage the progress of questionnaires to ensure timely completion. If multiple immigration cases are in progress at the same time, it’s essential to be able to quickly reference the progress of a questionnaire to ensure applications are on track.
- Leveraging the offerings of immigration or HR technology systems to manage and organize questionnaire completion, including:
- Direct access for HR teams and other internal stakeholders to complete legal questionnaires.
- Storing reusable employee and company information and documents.
- Secure communication on immigration matters compiled into one platform.
- High-level view of the progress of questionnaires for all immigration matters.
These strategies are flexible and can vary to fit the size of an organization and the scope of its immigration program.
However, delays are a major pain point for HR teams managing immigration cases, regardless of the size of the organization. Gathering accurate information upfront through the legal questionnaire helps create a smooth and efficient application preparation process and can be the difference between an immigration application taking weeks to complete versus months.
For HR teams, developing a coherent questionnaire completion strategy is the crucial first step in ensuring a seamless transition into what’s most important for the employee and the organization – enabling the employee to begin work.
For more content on strategies for managing an immigration and mobility program, check out Envoy’s HR Strategies page.
Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Waleed Salaheldin, who is a Supervising Attorney at Corporate Immigration Partners, and Amrita Jolly-Sodhi, who is a Managing Attorney at Global Immigration Associates. Corporate Immigration Partners and Global Immigration Associates are the two independent U.S. law firms Envoy exclusively works with on the Envoy Platform (the "U.S. Law Firms").
Content in this publication is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an attorney at one of the two U.S. Law Firms working with the Envoy Platform or another qualified professional. On non-U.S. immigration issues, consult an Envoy global immigration service provider or another qualified representative.