Ask Your Visa & Passport Services Provider These 10 Questions

By BCD marketplace partner CIBTvisas

One of the biggest challenges of running a company with global operations is navigating the immigration requirements involved in sending or hiring employees overseas. Very few countries make their immigration and visa policies easy, simple, and clear to understand—and yet the penalties for making a mistake or getting it wrong are costly in terms of both time and money.

Whether you’re expanding your already-sizable footprint overseas or just sending your first employee on a company-sponsored stint abroad, the best course of action is to hire a passport services provider. These firms should know the ins and outs of immigration policies around the world, as well as all the potential pitfalls associated with sending your personnel overseas.

If you’re looking to hire a consultant to help, here are 10 questions to either consider or ask your visa and passport services provider.

1. How long have they been in business, and do they have a good reputation?

In the visa and passport services industry, experience and reputation matters. Try to find out if the firm you’re considering retaining has been in business for more than a few years—10 years is a good benchmark—and seek out reviews on an independently sponsored review site, not just on their own website.

If you are considering a firm or consultant who is relatively new to the field, proceed with extra caution and perhaps research some other vendors as well. Remember, you don’t always want to go with the firm that promises the fastest turnaround times and guaranteed results. Sometimes experience wins.

2. Do they specialize in visas and/or immigration law?

Immigration law is complex and changes all the time. You want the firm you’re hiring to not only have consultants who walk you through the visa process, but also have the legal know-how and expertise on staff to navigate the immigration court system, if necessary.

If any unique situations or sudden law changes arise during your application process, you’ll be glad you’re working with a firm that can provide you with in-house legal counsel, rather than having to retain another lawyer. This is especially true if you’re sending employees overseas with their families or dependents.

3. What is their experience with businesses like yours?

Not all immigration and visa cases are created equal. As mentioned above, there is a huge amount of complexity in immigration law, so you’ll want to retain a firm that not only has experience, but experience in the unique types of cases you need help with.

If they have not dealt with a case or business like yours before, or if it’s a truly unique situation, they should be up front about that and explain why they are confident they can help you get your desired outcome.

4. Do they have experience in the country or countries you are doing business in?

While visa and immigration procedures are never strictly easy, some countries have a lot more onerous or complicated processes for granting employment visas to foreigners. Ask the provider you’re considering if they have specific experience working in the countries you are sending your employees to or doing business in. This is especially important if it’s a country with particularly burdensome immigration policies.

5. How do they handle sensitive information?

The passport and visa process involves a lot of sensitive, identity-compromising information. For your own sake and that of your employees or applicants, you’ll want to retain a firm that takes those vulnerabilities seriously.

Ask if they invest in tech-secure technology and whether they use any immigration management platforms to ensure data security. If they can’t provide you with their established data-security policies when you enquire, you may need to look elsewhere.

6. What is their scope of services?

The visa and immigration process is a time-consuming, pedantic, and often frustrating one. If you’re looking to outsource as much of the administrative side as possible, make sure the firm you’re considering is full service.

A full-service provider will complete paperwork on your behalf, submit it to the appropriate authorities in the proper format, and monitor any updates or further requirements. It’s also good to ask if they will attend interviews and/or court hearings with you, if necessary.

7. How long does the contract last?

Some firms provide a white-glove service that literally covers the entire immigration process—in other words, until you have your valid visa in-hand and you’ve safely arrived in your destination country. Ask the firm if they provide such post-landing services, and whether they might be required for your particular situation.

8. How much does it cost, and what is the billing procedure?

Once you have a feel for the company’s scope of services, ask about the billing process. Will you pay on retainer, or is it a fixed cost for the visa services you require? In addition, ask for an estimated quote of all possible fees associated with your case, and inquire about whether they offer any payment plans or require payment up front.

9. How long do they expect your case(s) to take?

Getting a sense of how long your process will take, from preliminary document-gathering all the way to the approved visa, is essential. It can often take much longer than you expect. Your consultant or firm should be able to provide you with a realistic estimate, which will give you a sense of how long you’ll be working with them for.

10. What is their success rate?

Once you’ve considered all of the questions above, you should simply ask them what their success rate is and how confident they are that they can get you the result you want.

However, this comes with a caveat: If you detect exaggeration or overconfidence, be wary. While you want professionals who know what they’re doing, they should be honest and realistic about the fact that the immigration and visa process can often contain surprises or unforeseen challenges. No one can guarantee 100% success.

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