I started writing about immigration tech back in 2018, and published my first article covering big immigration tech industry moves in January of 2019. Since then, as the legal tech space got hotter and hotter, immigration tech did too.
So I continued to publish immigration tech industry round-ups, first 2019 through early 2020, a comprehensive article summarizing immigration tech in 2020 and, last year, reporting and reflecting on immigration tech in 2021.
Turns out immigration tech isn’t cooling down.
So, after a year of prepping and weeks of drafting and editing this article, let's take a look at what the immigration tech world has been up to in 2022.
BDV Solutions acquired Argo Visa
In November 2021, private equity firm Astara Capital Partners announced that it had acquired a majority stake in BDV Solutions, a company that specializes in providing EB-3 Unskilled workers with visa assistance. About five months after this acquisition, BDV Solutions acquired Argo Visa, a tech-enabled provider of consultative visa services led by former U.S. consular officers.
Since its establishment in 2018, Argo Visa — co-founded by immigration attorney and former U.S. diplomat and consular officer Chris Richardson — has been providing professional guidance for visa applicants. The staff of ex-consular officers brings a truly unique collective experience of over 1 million consulate interviews conducted. And with a combined experience of conducting visa interviews in over 150 countries and fluency in many languages, these former officers possess tremendous knowledge when it comes to adjudicating nonimmigrant visas for tourism, studies, and employment as well as immigrant visas for permanent residence in the United States.
“Our acquisition of Argo Visa is an exciting next step in our continued growth and diversification. Not only does it allow BDV to offer potential immigrants to the U.S. a wider suite of services, but it also is a valuable tool for corporations that are looking to bring employees, advisors, and customers into the country” noted BDV Solutions CEO and founder Britt Vergnolle.
I'm excited to see what's next for Argo visa, and even more importantly, I'm excited to see continued outside investment into the immigration tech space. And if you want to learn more about the founding of Argo Visa, check out my interview with Argo Visa co-founder Chris Richardson. (Podcast / audio version can be found here).
Seso raised $25 million in a series A round
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in the past seventy years, farm employment has experienced a significant decline, dropping by an alarming 75%. Migrant workers are essential to the agricultural labor force, and they constitute a majority of all agricultural laborers. Over the years, fewer foreign nationals are migrating to America due to the laborious H-2A program full of bureaucratic roadblocks.
Seso offers farmers a time-saving solution to manage their migrant labor force while keeping government regulations and compliance in check. Seso's management tools streamline the intricate administrative process and, in 2021, the startup provided 5,500 agricultural workers with H-2A visas to work in their industry.
In April 2022, Seso announced that it had raised $25 million in a Series A funding round led by Index Ventures with Founders Fund, NFX, and K5 Ventures also taking part. “Seso’s end-to-end platform automates many of the complexities holding back both farms and laborers who are helping feed our nation,” explained Pete Flint, General Partner at NFX, in the press release. “The Seso team has created a rare win-win-win scenario by helping workers find good jobs, understaffed farms hire skilled laborers, and consumers save money at the grocery store.”
What’s particularly interesting about Seso is that it’s actually more of an agricultural tech (“AgTech”) company that launched by automating the immigration portion — the H-2A visa process — first. Because they aren't just an H-2A tool - their vision is to a broader tech solution for the farming industry, automating everything from staffing to payment to safety and, of course, immigration compliance. Immigration tech here is, therefore, just one part of a bigger machine that’s being built. It’s an interesting and creative approach, and one that I think behooves more founders to consider, and more investors to keep track of.
Lollylaw acquired by Paradigm
In April 2022, Paradigm — a well-known provider of legal software — announced the acquisition of LollyLaw, a cloud-based practice management system designed particularly for immigration law firms. LollyLaw, having won multiple awards, bills itself as one of the most user-friendly legal case management platforms globally, delivering impressive results to family and business immigration law firms.
Compared to some of the other immigration case management platforms out there, LollyLaw is less-known, so here's a bit of background on it. Established in 2014, LollyLaw states that it was designed to make managing an immigration firm easier by providing a fully native, all-in-one case management solution, with features like client intake, calendaring, time and billing tracking, document handling, client portals, and SMS messaging. As with other immigration case management platforms, LollyLaw has focused on automating immigration workflow and boasts LollyForms, a feature aimed at simplifying the form-filing and expediting client intake.
Considering how small of an industry US immigration law is against the backdrop of the broader legal industry, there are a lot more immigration case management tools available than I would expect. I think this is a sign that the immigration tech industry is maturing, that there’s incentive to build better and better technology to meet a more diverse set of needs, and that immigration lawyers are adopting technology at an increasingly higher rate.
Sirva merged with BGRS
In May of 2022, SIRVA and BGRS — two of the top global mobility, relocation and moving providers — announced that they had come to an agreement to form a new entity called SIRVA BGRS.
By unifying two of the world's primary relocation companies, the merged enterprise looks to support clients through an even broader array of products and technology solutions while broadening its international presence with its now even more vast pool of global mobility experts. According to the press release, with 4,000 employees across 66 offices spread out in over 170 countries, SIRVA BGRS is now capable of providing localized coverage and a larger supply chain to clients.
While not strictly immigration tech, both Sirva and BGRS have large technology offerings and play key roles in the international movement of many thousands of professionals across the globe each year. Immigration law being part of the global mobility supply chain makes developments like this important for immigration practitioners, both at law firms, and perhaps more importantly in-house at companies.
Docketwise acquired by MyCase
In May 2022, MyCase — a provider of cloud-based legal practice management software and payment services for law firms — announced its acquisition of Docketwise, an immigration software platform that supports over 6,000 immigration lawyers. As Docketwise was
When Docketwise was established in 2016, its founders imagined a distinctive strategy for handling immigration cases by utilizing smart intake questionnaires to create dynamic immigration applications. Today, Docketwise provides a comprehensive case management solution for immigration law firms and offers features such as case monitoring and tracking, mobile applications, workflows, two-way messaging, billing/trust accounting and more.
Docketwise will remain accessible as a standalone product and continues to integrate with multiple legal software providers. But according to the press release, “[t]he partnership between MyCase and Docketwise [will allow] for a uniquely deep integration between the two platforms, and in the near term will include frictionless sharing of immigration applications from Docketwise to MyCase.”
Following the acquisition of LollyLaw just a month earlier, this is an amazing trend that deserves recognition. Standalone immigration tech platforms are now in a place where the broader legal technology marketplace is taking notice. Indeed, it’s not unreasonable to predict that in the coming years, immigration tech will be greatly enhanced by teaming up with larger legal technology companies to gain access to their financial capital, intellectual capital, and pool of existing clients. Plus, with more integrations to reduce double data entry across platforms, immigration lawyers will benefit from the downstream efficiencies that come out of these acquisitions.
If you want to learn about the CEO of Docketwise and how the company was founded, check out my interview with Jeremy Peskin, who co-founded and was CEO of Docketwise. (Podcast available here)
MyCase acquired by Affinipay
In June 2022, AffiniPay — known in the legal industry as LawPay's parent institution — announced that it was acquiring MyCase, with an aim to expand LawPay’s reach to a total of 65,000 law firms and more than 200,000 legal professionals all over America and Canada.
Why was this important for immigration lawyers? First, LawPay is one of the most significant legal billing and payments software providers, if not the largest, and is widely used by immigration law firms in the US and abroad. Second, AffiniPay is now the ultimate parent company of immigration case management platform, Docketwise. So, if you're currently using either LawPay or Docketwise (or both) along with MyCase, you can likely expect even deeper integrations in the near future.
The goal here, of course, is to increase efficiency and allow for a smoother user experience overall for users of multiple of these apps. Whether or not immigration lawyers that use one of these will be forced to use the other remains to be seen, though my suspicion is that this is unlikely to happen.
One side note here is that AffiniPay is itself backed by a private equity firm, which continues to follow the trend of institutional investment in immigration tech companies. Indeed, we're continuing to shift away from immigration tech platforms as bootstrapped, standalone small businesses run by their founders for decades and toward outside investments and acquisitions by larger companies.
Formally raised $2.3M in pre-seed funding
Formally was initially established as a hackathon project to aid individuals seeking asylum in the U.S. Amélie Vavrovsky, Formally's founder and CEO, has been through the complicated American immigration process first-hand and has been dedicated to making it easier for others who come after her.
What’s particularly interesting about Formally is that it offers more than a status tracker and checklist to ensure users — both individuals and lawyers — are continuously working on their cases. Formally does this by asking how much time they have when they log on and, depending on their response, the platform suggests a task (or tasks) that can be completed in the amount of time the user indicated they have. The goal of this, based on human behavior research, is to help users complete immigration applications with less delay and more intention.
According to their press release, Formally is determined to bring more users into its private beta program and will keep refining user experiences. This investment will enable Formally to grow its team and expand into new areas such as legal compliance. If you want to learn more about the founding story of Formally, check out my interview with Amélie Vavrovsky. (Podcast available here)
One last thing I’ll note is that among Formally’s investors is Unshackled Ventures which focuses on immigrant founders and has deep immigration experience. I’ve spoken with Manan Mehta, founder of Unshackled Ventures, so if you want to hear more about his story and the founding of his venture firm, check out our conversation here.
BAL published white paper alongside product Dunasi and launched TrueVisa
In March 2022, an innovative white paper was published by immigration law firm BAL and one of their spinoff immigration tech products, Dunasi, which, among other things, provides USCIS decision-date estimates. The white paper included a comprehensive analysis of USCIS processing times by leveraging four decades of case data from BAL and comparing that date to USCIS records in order to determine how precise USCIS processing estimates are and highlight patterns in processing timelines.
This white paper commented on the accuracy of USCIS predictions alongside recent processing patterns, and answered frequently asked questions such as: “How do USCIS processing time predictions compare with actual processing times?” and “Which application types are most delayed?”
Also in 2022, BAL introduced TrueVisa, a new consumer-facing immigration tech company aimed at helping individual applicants file for naturalization, permanent residency and likely more down the line.
TrueVisa’s emphasis is on employers, even though it was created with applicants in mind, because it enables companies that are unable to offer assistance for naturalization to now empower their employees to submit their own citizenship applications with a cost-friendly and tech-savvy method.
This is especially intriguing because while all H-1B employers offer H-1B visa support, when it comes to pursuing permanent residency and ultimately citizenship, many employees are left to their own devices. So with TrueVisa, when an employee is finally qualified to apply for citizenship, instead of engaging their own personal immigration attorney from scratch, the idea would be for them to leverage TrueVisa as a do-it-yourself solution, with access to legal counsel as needed.
Although this concept is not revolutionary, as there are competitors offering a comparable solution, the concept of providing this helpful tool to companies as a benefit for their eligible employees is intriguing, especially coming from a corporate immigration law firm that already has numerous existing corporate clients. It will be interesting to see how TrueVisa evolves, and if, and how, the demand for consumer-focused immigration tech continues to grow and evolve as well.
LawLogix was acquired by Equifax
With the acquistion, LawLogix became part of Equifax's Workforce Solutions business unit, which "helps firms manage their hiring and employment needs" according to a press release from them in Feb 2022, thus broadening their selection of employer- and HR-focused products.
As an established and trusted immigration tech, LawLogix will likely enable Equifax to lean even more into the I-9 and E-Verify space. This will also presumably allow them to add an immigration compliance and case management component which, as far as I could tell, they did not have at the time of the acquisition.
Legalpad was acquired by Deel
In August of 2022, Deel, a global employer of record (EOR) and payroll provider, announced its acquisition of Legalpad, which focused on making the work-visa process much easier and more convenient for entrepreneurs, companies, and their workers through technology and automation.
Coming out of the renowned Techstars Seattle incubator, Legalpad raised a $2M seed investment round in 2018, and secured $10M from series A funding in 2020. In 2022, they were acquired by Deel.
What's interesting to me about this acquisition is that it's fairly unique. Perched at the edge of immigration and global mobility, Deel, as an EOR, aims to make cross-border hiring a reality without the need for employers to open offices where they want to hire. Through this acquisition, according to Deel’s press release, Deel intends to “integrate Legalpad’s team of mobility experts and software with our current immigration organization and improve our capabilities in product… Customers will get expanded mobility support, as well as Deel’s all-in-one platform for all of their onboarding, compliance, and payroll needs.”
What I'm curious about is whether Deel, or similar companies on the outskirts of immigration, will start to acquire more immigration tech startups, thus creating even more exit opportunities for immigration tech founders.
And if you also want to learn about Legalpad’s founding, check out my interview with Sara Itucas, one of Legalpad’s co-founders. (Podcast / audio version here.)
Pearl Global Tech was acquired by Topia
In August 2022, Topia — a major player in Global Talent Mobility — announced their acquisition of Pearl Global Tech, an immigration risk engine and knowledge base started by renowned immigration lawyer and entrepreneur Julie Pearl. Pearl Global Tech’s solution provided fast and reliable immigration assessments for employees planning business travel, advising then on any required visas and other considerations depending on where they’re coming from, their nationality, and their destination, among other things.
"Acquiring Monaeo, now known as Topia Compass, enabled us to automate tax compliance for business travel and remote work. Pearl Global Tech lets us automate immigration risk assessments before employees leave home,” said Shawn Farshchi, Chief Executive Officer at Topia, in their press release.
“Combined, these solutions minimize the risks of travel and remote work from anywhere in the world. And by offering end-to-end mobility delivery in a single technology platform, we can help companies gain efficiency and significantly reduce the high cost of external service providers."
This acquisition by Topia, given all its mobility-related products and services, felt natural. Topia already worked closely with global mobility and relocation teams and had a network of immigration law firms all over the world. Having a tool like Pearl Global Tech that provides on-demand access to global visa information feels like a fit.
Visalaw.ai and Siskind Susser partnered with Fastcase
The immigration law firm Siskind Susser and its tech affiliate Visalaw.Ai announced that they joined forces with Fastcase, a legal research and intelligence company, to build an immigration case management system.
To be developed on Fastcase’s NextChapter platform, which originally started as a bankruptcy platform and which Fastcase acquired in 2019, this new immigration law product will include an abundance of practice management resources from Siskind Susser partners Greg Siskind and Ari Sauer's "Cookbook" – the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Law Practice and Procedures Manual, which is enormous by the way, spanning over 3,000 pages across two volumes.
This project is still in early stages, so there isn’t much to report on yet. But it’s a fairly unique development in that it’s yet another permutation of what immigration tech can be - in this case, an established legal technology and publishing company is leveraging a practice manual alongside the immigration law firm that wrote the book to build a new platform. Perhaps this will inspire other creative and unique immigration tech collaborations and partnerships.
Lawfully raised $2.5M seed round
In 2020, Lawfully introduced its premier product: the Lawfully Case Tracker, and according to their press release, Lawfully marked a milestone of 800,000 registered cases on its app, a tremendous 400% jump since the start of 2021. What fascinates me about Lawfully is that, rather than joining the immigration case management “wars” so to speak, they’re building technology focused on immigration case tracking and AI-based analytics of timelines and additional areas.
According to the company press release, they launched three new features at the time they announced the fundraise, including access to tools like statistical data, cover letter templates, tips, and more, as well as “Q&A with Lawfully immigration experts, case processing time analytics and USCIS interview reviews.
Particularly as AI continues to make headlines and impact the legal industry, it will be interesting to see how companies like Lawfully leverage AI to gain new insights, whether about immigration timelines, likelihood of success and more.
And if you want to learn more about Lawfully, check out my interview with Lawfully's co-founder and CEO Joon Ahn.
Mobile Pathways raised $1M in grants
In a nutshell, Mobile Pathways builds mobile technology that sends automated legal updates to nearly 4 million immigrants via text or WhatsApp. They also partner with over 100 local immigration nonprofits around the US and provide them with technology to connect with, support and serve their immigrant or intending immigrant clients.
And according to the press release, Mobile Pathways is going to focus even more on building B2B technology with the new funding, using "[t]he newly raised funding… to improve and expand digital transformation services offered to its immigration nonprofit partnerships... [and] begin using data and machine learning to articulate immigration court outcomes while seeking ways to increase trust in the immigration process."
Indeed, Mobile Pathways already has a lot of data, and it's exciting that the team is going to use machine learning to lean into this data and bring even more value to their immigration nonprofit partners and the immigrants they serve.
Finally, an update on electronic LCA posting and PAF automation with LaborLess
Last but not least, I wanted to share some of the exciting developments at LaborLess.
On the business side, we nearly doubled our revenue compared to 2021 as more immigration law firms and in-house immigration teams came on board, and as existing clients increased their use of the platform. When we launched in 2018, electronic labor condition application (LCA) posting was virtually non-existent… by the end of 2022, there were more law firms and companies posting electronic LCAs and managing electronic public access files (PAFs) than ever before.
I even had a chance to talk about LaborLess and our growth with Aires in a podcast interview!
On the product side, we release a number of new features and upgrades, including:
- The ability to repost LCA notices. As more employees around the US continued to work from home and move within the same MSA, we added an LCA reposting feature so our clients could repost previously posted LCA notices as many times as needed, with that reposting information automatically included in the accompanying PAF.
- The ability to add multiple third party worksites to an LCA posting. For LaborLess users using the “Third Party Worksite” feature who have H-1B workers working at multiple third party entities, we enabled those users to effectively post those LCAs at multiple third-party-specific LCA bulletins (previously, they were only able to post to one third party worksite).
- The ability to create Petitioner “groups.” The “Groups” feature is ideal for petitioners that have multiple legal entities, such as large corporations that technically hire for multiple “petitioners” but for all intents and purposes are one company (and typically have just one in-house immigration tech and outside law firm supporting them).
- Importing PAFs. This feature allows LaborLess users to import already existing PAFs into LaborLess to avoid having PAFs in multiple locations (e.g. new ones in LaborLess and older ones on a local drive, in filing cabinets, etc.) to create a single source of truth for LCA and PAF information.
- Rolled out two-factor authentication. While LaborLess deals with publicly available data, we nevertheless operate at the highest security level, both internally and for our users. To that end, we enabled two-factor authentication for limited clients (and will be rolling it out more broadly soon!) to ensure best practices when it comes to security and data privacy.
If you’re interested in learning more about how LaborLess can help your immigration law firm or in-house immigration team digitize and streamline your LCA posting and PAF management process, please check out our demo and reach out to us directly!
Finally, what do I foresee for immigration tech in 2023?
First, I foresee another immigration case management acquisition, or at least a large public funding round, this year, given that there are a few relatively mature immigration case management startups that would probably be interested in getting the financial backing of an investor or acquirer, especially to compete with the ones that have already received funding or have been acquired.
Second, and on the flip side, I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two more large immigration firms announce their own home-grown tech solutions in lieu of third party case management systems, a la Fragomen, BAL, Seyfarth, WR Immigration and other larger immigration firms’ in-house tech stacks.
And finally, I think AI will make a bigger appearance within immigration tech. Given all the chatter about ChatGPT and Google’s rival Bard, I expect more AI-supported features, if not full-on AI-based immigration tech services in 2023, though nothing revolutionary.
Cheers to a successful and exciting 2023! 🥂