September 11, 2018

The Frustrating Reason H-1B Employers Resist Electronic LCA Posting and Public Access Files

I knew selling immigration compliance software wouldn’t be easy. Even as an immigration lawyer with sales and tech experience I’d have to find my rhythm.

I do my homework when I pitch, too. I know how many LCAs each H-1B employer I talk to filed over the last 10 years. I know whether or not they get overwhelmed during H-1B cap season based on LCA volume from January through March. I’m ready for almost every question, and if I don’t have an answer, I always follow up with one.

And even when an employer decides that LaborLess isn’t right for them, I learn. I learn about how corporate timelines, department budgets and in-flight projects impact decisions.

But there’s one reason why H-1B employer resist automating their paper LCA posting and PAF processes that completely baffles me. And I’ve heard more than I ever expected.

We’ve always done it that way.

That’s right. It’s not a budget or timing issue. It’s not because they’re changing management and don’t have the capacity to entertain new software. It’s simply because they’re comfortable posting hard copy LCAs and storing hard copy PAFs and simply don’t want to change.

Here are just a few examples of what I’ve heard (slightly paraphrased):

  • “Our director prefers to continue doing things the way we do them now.”

  • “We’re interested but it’s hard for us to onboard new software because of stringent legal requirements.”

  • “We post physically but our process works for now.”

  • “Our immigration counsel advised us against electronic LCAs.”

Complacency Can Be Expensive

Harvard Business Review wrote about the importance of regularly asking “why are we doing it this way?” Sure, HBR’s examples were large organizations that needed to question their core strategies to remain competitive, but that doesn’t mean the same principles don’t apply on a lower level. Forbes tended to agree. After all, successful managers and department heads run their teams very much like CEO’s run entire companies.

And this is how I view the dozens of global mobility managers, international student and scholar directors and other immigration professionals I’ve spoken to. They manage teams of people who follow certain processes day in and day out and they’re responsible for making sure everything runs smoothly and efficiently.

Except that many of these very same teams are wasting time on their LCA compliance processes by printing and posting paper LCAs and then storing hard copy PAFs in a cabinet or desk drawer somewhere in the office.

I’ve even written about how inefficient this process is.

And here’s where it gets expensive.

  1. First, employee hours equal payroll dollars. Instead of having a team of immigration specialists spending at times over an hour printing, stapling and filing paperwork, and then manually retrieving it in the event of a DOL audit, they should be doing all that digitally, in a fraction of the time. Electronic LCA posting has been allowed since 2000, and now that the DOL deemed electronic PAFs compliant in March 2017, there’s no excuse.

  2. Second, by having an automated LCA compliance process, H-1B employers can more easily control the quality of their LCA postings and PAFs. That way when an audit does happen, they won’t get fined for being out of compliance.

  3. Finally, for large organizations and immigration law firms that compile PAFs centrally and FedEx them around the country, having digital copies of everything means saving thousands a year on shipping fees. It sounds trivial, but I spoke to a law firm that spends over $10,000 a year on just mailing PAFs to clients around the country.

All these financial benefits are being stymied by the “we’ve always done it that way” philosophy.

Not Going Digital Makes Room For Competition

This might be more relevant to immigration law firms than to H-1B employers, but being tech savvy in today’s world translates into competitive advantage.

Law firms, especially smaller ones (which most immigration firms are), are still perceived to be stuffy establishments with mahogany furniture, rows of legal textbooks and mounds of overstuffed accordion folders. And while sometimes that rings true, many law firms have transitioned or are in the process of transitioning to legal tech solutions.

For example, immigration law firms that use tech platforms to manage their cases and client relationships often mention that as a selling point. I’ve seen H-1B employers change firms based in part on the fact that the new law firm was able to offer a better service by way of technology for similar or even lower fees. And that’s not undercutting the competition — that’s smartly investing in technology to make better use of attorney time.

And that’s what LaborLess offers to immigration law firms — the ability to provide electronic LCA posting and electronic public access file services to their end clients. So law firms that create PAFs for their clients on paper would save heaps of time by automating the process. Firms that send PAF instructions but put the onus on their end clients to manage LCA postings and PAFs could use LaborLess and start doing it for their clients, providing a value add with minimal additional effort.

Trying Something New

I’ve seen the benefits of organizational change at some of the places I’ve worked in the past.

It’s not easy, especially when change is not budgeted for or even welcome, and when short term losses (e.g. onboarding, sign-up fees, etc.) overshadow long term gains (e.g. efficiency and money saved over time).

But I’m confident that as more willing companies test out new technologies, including immigration tech like electronic LCA posting and public access file management, the skeptics will eventually follow suit.

For now, as a young startup, I’m just rolling with the punches.