Posted on: 08/21/2017

Kaushik Ranchod - Helping Startups Navigate the H1B Visa Process

Kaushik Ranchod

Founder - Ranchod Law Group


Podcast Summary

Kaushik Ranchod of the Ranchod Law Group stopped by to outline the H1B Visa Process for Startups. Kaushik walks us through all the deadlines and best immigration practices. The Ranchod Law Group has an excellent track record with Kruze Consulting's team members and is recommended to all of Kruze's clients.

Podcast Transcript

Scott Orn:

Welcome to Founders and Friends podcast was Scott Orn at Kruze Consulting, and before we get to a great podcast with Kaushik Ranchod of Ranchod Low Group, I'd like to give a couple shout outs, first to Kruze Consulting my employer, my wife started the firm five years ago and we're one of the biggest and I think the best startup accounting firms in the world. Please check us out if you need 409A valuations or financial modelling, or just regular old monthly accounting and don't forget taxes, we do tons of tax work, and as Vanessa says, everyone needs tax attorney. And then also shout out to Gusto, a big payroll partner of Kruze Cnsulting, and now is processing R&D; tax credit claims, so Kruze Consulting preps the R&D; tax credit and Gusto makes it easy to apply to your payroll taxes, if you are a startup. Check it out, and thanks Gusto for doing this for free for this quarter, I really appreciate the help and support; and now on to a great podcast with Kaushik Ranchod. Thanks. Welcome to Founders and Friends podcast with Scott Orn at Kruze Consulting, and my very special guests is Kaushik Ranchod of the Ranchod Law Group. Hey Kaushik, how are you doing?

Kaushik Ranchod:

I am fantastic Scott, thanks for having me on today, I am looking forward to our talk today.

Scott Orn:

Yeah so Kaushik is our immigration lawyer at Kruze Consulting, we sponsored a lot of folks on H1B visas, he's done a tremendous job along with wonderful Candice in his office, and so I wanted to have him on the podcast because for us, the H1B process and immigration in general, for employment is just really kind of confusing and we didn't really know kind of how things work, and so Kaushik has guided us through this whole process for a couple years now, and plan to keep doing it in the future. So he's an expert and I just wanted to have on the podcast. How did you get into the law, how did you get into immigration law specifically, because it's a highly kind of specific and nuanced area of the law?

Kaushik Ranchod:

I began the immigrant journey myself when I came over here from South Africa at the age of one, why my parents came over here, and so I went through the whole immigration process as far as getting citizenship, and whatnot, and now it's part of my background. I never actually thought about it too much, what was always really important to me is this fighting for justice, and doing the right thing and making sure that people are taken care of. So when I went to law school I didn't have immigration on my radar, I actually wanted to do employment law, and I ended up going and working for a plaintiffs employment law firm after law school and I just realized that that was not the right fit for me, because I really like to work together with organizations, with people to come together to find common ground and a solution and make things happen rather than litigation, which is employment law where you're fighting the other side, where it gets contentious and whatnot.

Scott Orn:

Also, it's like your family experienced this firsthand or you experienced it firsthand, you know how important it is and you know how it changes people's lives.

Kaushik Ranchod:

Yeah absolutely, and then that's how immigration really came into play for me, because it really affected our life in a deep way, and not only that I just always had an innate interest in working with other cultures, I love travelling, I've travelled all over the world and that is just something that is fun with it, that learning about other cultures in the process, and then also working with the companies such as yourself, helping support other companies grow by hiring talent, that allows businesses to grow, so all of that really make immigration law something that I'm passionate about.

Scott Orn:

That's awesome. Did you go, what was your career route, did you work for a different law firm before starting yours, or how did you get into starting your own law firm, that's a pretty big step?

Kaushik Ranchod:

Yes, so going back to my story there, I decided, I actually after working for employment law firm, I decided that I wanted to, this is during the dotcom sector I was disheartened with the contentious aspect of employment law, so I went and worked as a consultant for fortune 500 companies during the dotcom era for a software company, and during that time I had some colleagues and friends who were doing immigration law, and they were telling me about how wonderful it is, and how interesting it is. And I was working for the dotcom company than the dotcom bubble happened and I said why not try and open up my own law firm, and that was kind of if you read the EMyth, which I'm sure a lot of you know entrepreneurs have is the entrepreneurial seizure happening, but it was one of the best things I've ever done, I started my own law firm of course it's come with a lot of— whenever you start a business and every prison owner knows this, you have many challenges that you face, but it was definitely the right fit for me, for the reasons that I mentioned earlier, just for the fact that you really get to help empower people on a really deep level and you really are working together on a common solution when you're filing for an immigration application for a company or for an individual.

Scott Orn:

For sure. Well, I mean, you have a great story having kind of lived this and it's cool to hear you being entrepreneur yourself because you know, at Kruze we're were, Vanessa started our firm five years ago and we're kind of a bootstrapped professional services firm too, so we have a lot in common and I think that's another reason why we like working with you. Maybe you can kind of walk the audience through like the basics of what they need to think about in immigration law, especially you know, probably a lot of people listening to this podcast are startup people who either are going a sponsor H-1B visas, applications or maybe they are someone who is going to apply for H-1B visa, maybe walk the audience through that process.

Kaushik Ranchod:

I'd love to do that. Many people who are coming in, who are eligible for H1B they start off as a student, they are here going to school, they're here on F1 visa and then when they graduate, they are looking for an employer, so you might get contacted by someone who's on F1 status and you might have questions, well what can I do for this person, this person looks great, should I sponsor them, and one way to do this is through the H-1B visa, so the H-1B specialty occupation visa, what that means is that the person has to have a bachelor's degree to qualify, but more importantly the position needs to require a bachelor's degree, and a specialized area, so for instance accounting, or software engineers, those are an area of a specialty occupation. And, once we determine whether or not this position qualifies as a specialty occupation than to get started in the process, what we do is we make sure that the market wage rate is in line with what the DOL sees as the market wage rate, so whatever you are paying, the employee, the department of labour puts out what the market wage rate is and we make sure that that's in alignment, and the next step in the process is filing an application with the department of labour called an LCA, and that whole process takes about two weeks, but before you even get to that step, if you are a new company, you need to make sure you're registered with the department of labour, so we do that with the respective company to make sure that the department of labour recognizes you as a legitimate organization. That's a process that normally takes about a week or so, but a lot of times companies are surprised that there's so many hoops to jump through before you even file for the actual H-1B application, with USCIS. So this whole process—

Scott Orn:

And for us, like the wage thing, I didn't even know that but it makes perfect sense, because the goal of the H-1B visa is to bring over a kind of highly specialized, highly you know accredited people, and the goal is not to like substitute kind of lower wage folks for those jobs, and so they want to make sure that you're paying the market rate and that the people that are working with you that are going to apply for the H-1B visa are making the market rate; this isn't like a labour cost kind of arbitrage situation, this is, these are tough jobs to find qualify people for, and that's why it makes sense to have the visa and to let kind of more people you know, stay in the United States, who have these specialized skills. So it makes total sense to me, but I actually didn't know that was part of the process, I didn't know that we actually had to like benchmark our salaries versus what the market should be.

Kaushik Ranchod:

Right, well and that's what we are doing behind the scenes, you know, for you, making sure that that's all in the alignment. So, and that's part of the labour condition application, before we even get to that point, we're making sure that the wages that you're paying is benchmarked against what the department of labour says, and if it's not, then we come back and have a conversation with the employer, and let them know that maybe it's not in alignment. So that whole process there takes about a month, and you are right, this is not a way to circumvent and try to pay lower wages, what it is, is it a way to get top talent. And I'm sure for any growing organization as we know, people is one important component of your business, and you want to have the best and brightest talent, and sometimes that doesn't mean it's someone who is a US citizen, sometimes you need to think outside of the box, and look at other opportunities out there, and a lot of times there's very talented people who are, who have come to study here and aren't eligible, and that's why the H-1B visa is a great option. Now, there is H-1B visa cap of only 65 thousand that are allowed every year, and about 20 thousand additional for people who are in a master's degree or higher, so that's a total by 85 thousand H-1B, so there's not that many available and more and more people are applying every year. So, we normally file, once we go through that whole labour process then we follow with the USCIS on April first for an October first start date, and in the last few years there's been a lottery, so out of all applications that you file, not all of them are going to be accepted, and the ones that are accepted then the USCIS will review the application and then make a final determination and then if it's approved, employee can start October first. Now, there's also another fantastic way besides just filing on April first, that you can get an H1B employee faster to begin working with you and that is if they're already in H-1B status, then you don't have to wait till April first to apply, you can file what's called ''change of employer application'' and they can start working for you as soon as you get the receipt notice from the USCIS and because they are already counted against the H-1B cap.

Scott Orn:

So those folks have like, have they gone through the process with another employer or something to that effect?

Kaushik Ranchod:

Yeah, they have gone through the process with another employer, so that's why they've already are counted towards the H1-B cap, so generally when someone comes here on H1-B they are able to work here for a total of six years, in three or increments, so you know once the employees working for you they get a work for you for three years, and then they get a renew for another three years for a total of six years. And you can extend beyond the six years if you decide that you like this person, that they are adding value to your organization, then you can file for a green card application for them. And that green card application, the first step, the labour certification in the green card process has been pending for more than a year, which usually it is either the labour certification or the IO140 many times it is, then you can extend the H1-B either in one or three or increments.

Scott Orn:

It is like a tremendous amount of paperwork, I really like the way you guys made it just easy for us, like you and Candice would just kind of prompt me, there's a lot of documentation you have to fill out, and really you just had really good template set up, and I felt like you must have invested in kind of the frequently asked questions behind the scene or something like that, because I felt like every time I was asking you guys a question, you and Candice would be right back with kind of the exact answer I was looking for; which was great for me.

Kaushik Ranchod:

Well yeah, that's just because I've been doing this for over 15 years, so over that period of time, you're right, you have the frequently asked questions that clients constantly ask, or that they ask and you know exactly how to answer those questions based off of just doing this for so long, you know what pitfalls to look out for and whatnot.

Scott Orn:

Yeah, when should people start planning for this, like the April, I believe it's the April first deadline, like it's really critical to file on that day, right like it's kind of you got to get in—

Kaushik Ranchod:

Yeah, we try to get all of our applications in by April first.

Scott Orn:

So working backwards, like when does it start making sense for you know a company like ours, or a venture funded start up to reach out to you and start planning for this?

Kaushik Ranchod:

In November and December of the prior year that gives us plenty of time for both, the employer and us to work together to file a very thoroughly prepared application. So that would be the ideal time which means that, right now we're, its June 30th and as a company, I would recommend you start recruiting, because as we know, recruiting takes time, and then you might get that candidate around November, December, and we start preparing the application address any issues that we might face, that we need to overcome, there are many hurdles that come up and then have the application all ready to file and file it on April first.

Scott Orn:

That's great advice, and just to make sure, like because we've had a couple folks who were students, so they would come to us right around graduation or right after graduation, we would hire them, and most of them would have I think this is correct right, like a one year kind of work visa that they could stay in United States, is that how that works?

Kaushik Ranchod:

Yes, it's called, what it's called specifically is optional practical training, so once they complete school, if they apply for and obtain optional practical train than they can work for your organization, assuming all the requirements are met. And then that also allow them to also apply for the H1-B visa, and if they are working for you then you can get a sense of whether or not they are a good fit for your organization as well.

Scott Orn:

That's exactly how we do it, but we've been fortunate that everyone who kind of has come with that, in that visa situation, we've been able to sponsor, so it's worked out really well for us. What are, you mentioned earlier in the conversation that there's more and more people applying for the H1-B visa— how many people are applying every year now, and what's the probability of getting selected?

Kaushik Ranchod:

Well, I believe it was over 200 thousand this last filing, so that's about one in three or one in four odds in getting selected. Now, if you don't get selected, your application gets sent back to you, you don't have to pay the government filing fees, but the odds are going down, because more people are applying and I think part of it is also because this administration might change the whole H1-B game, there's talks of basically prioritizing people, applicants who make over a hundred thousand, over people who are paid less. So whoever is paid the most basically will get priority in the application process. So I think that was also a large part of the push last year and then also the economy's good, so when the economy is good there is more hiring.

Scott Orn:

That makes sense. That's interesting on the hundred thousand dollar threshold, is the logic that just like those are the most specialized, most kind of qualified people, is it as simple as like hey the market assigns a dollar amount to these people and we're just going to follow that?

Kaushik Ranchod:

I think god that might be part of it, and the other part of it is that coming from that perspective that that ensures that people are not undercutting other US workers.

Scott Orn:

Oh yeah, that makes sense.

Kaushik Ranchod:

But, as you know, there's a lot of people paid less than a hundred thousand that are highly talented, that are still being paid well, that are not being undercut, so we'll see if that's actually going to go through or not, but that's definitely been talked about by the Trump administration and I think a lot of people were fearful of that and that's why there was such a large push in the last H1-B filing. But I have not since heard of this moving forward, since last H1-B filing, but that might be because Trump's been distracted by the whole Russia incident and whatnot.

Scott Orn:

Or like the other ten things that are going on with him. I remember, there was also this I think when Trump administration first came into power, they cancelled something called like expedited processing, can you kind of explain what that was and has that really gone away or is that still happening?

Kaushik Ranchod:

Yes, that's an awesome question Scott, so there is something called premium processing, and what that allows someone to do is get a decision in 15 days, and you pay the government an additional fee of 1225 as of now and that fee is always changing to get that decision faster and they temporarily suspended premium processing, and the reason behind that I think is because so many applications are coming in, they wanted to be able to have the time to be able to process the H1-B cases with H1-B cap, but I think that after October first, they are going to again allow for premium processing, so I think that's only a temporary suspension.

Scott Orn:

So how does that work, do people they still go through the lottery or is it like a separate lottery, it's a little confusing?

Kaushik Ranchod:

Yes, you still go through the lottery; so the premium processing, you're not buying your way into the lottery, premium processing will only go into effect if you are selected for the lottery and then if you're selected for the lottery, then you'd get the decision faster. So sometimes employers want to have a decision as soon as possible, and that's why they go ahead and do it, but right now USCIS is posted that they're taking about three months to process applications, that's pretty fast, so that should be, so you know, for April filings that means by the end of July hopefully we'll be getting some decisions from USCIS. Now, of course they change these processing times every month, but that was actually something that I was happy to see that they've sped up on their processing times with the H1-B applications.

Scott Orn:

That's great. So basically, if I'm a startup I should be thinking recruit in the summertime, you know, locate the people you want, approach you know your law firm sometime in November or December, answer a lot of questions, get the basic paperwork set up, do the benchmarking on salaries, make sure everything's in line, your team will start sending over documents to be filled out and signed, and then, assume you basically want to finish things that maybe in January, February if possible by yourself, so you're not going right up to the deadline of April first right?

Kaushik Ranchod:

Absolutely, you'll be surprised how many people like call us like March you know, or even like mid March wanting to file, and it's really not in your best interest or company's best interest to do that, because we have less time to file and we just plan it out like you just mentioned it, then we ensure that every i is dotted, at every t is crossed, that just we're not going to run into any surprises, so that when they do review the application, there is a very high likelihood of success in getting approved and that we won't run into surprises.

Scott Orn:

That's exactly how we've done it the last couple years, it was so much more relaxed; we planned ahead thankfully, and it's way more relaxed and I think one thing that people, if it's a startup, they don't maybe factor in is that the stress level for the team members who you're applying for, I mean, it's a really big decision, it's a really critical kind of moment in their life and so, you're really hoping, you want to take care of everything, you want to dot all the is, cross all ts, and not add additional stress to them throughout the process.

Kaushik Ranchod:

Yes, absolutely, you highlighted a really good component, because it's not only stress for you, whoever it is on the company's end, but the employees end, and if you can mitigate that, it just makes it you know, by starting earlier, it makes it easier for everybody, because you know everyone knows like when you're rushing something, it just makes it more stressful and there's also a lot of there's more issues also with the startup filing for H1-B, then there is for let's say Microsoft, and what those issues are is like the USCIS wants to see that you're a legitimate organization, because unfortunately there's H1-B fraud, there's people filing fraudulent applications, so then when we look it over the application we want to make sure that we've addressed that issue if need be, and so that takes extra time. And then also, there's a learning curve for startups as well, because you don't have a dedicated HR manager who's done this a hundred times like in Microsoft, so you're learning this process for the first time as well. And so, it takes time for your first H1-B filing to get up to speed on what might needs to be done, and so the time that needs to be built in for that as well because there's going to be a lot of questions that you are going to have as an organization since you've done this for the first time.

Scott Orn:

I know I did, I'm not even an HR expert, I'm just the COL and had to handle this kind of stuff but I did have a ton of questions, and that was another— tip of the cap to you guys for being just awesome to work with, and answering all those questions. Is there any other resources out there that you would point people to, is there a good book on Amazon or terrific content on your website that people can just kind of read and get smart on the H1-B visa process?

Kaushik Ranchod:

Well we have a lot of articles on our website if you go to ranchodlaw.com, and when you get to the homepage just click on the employers link and we have a lot of articles on the H1-B process, and employment based green card process that will get you more familiar and that I also have a YouTube channel under Ranchod Law Group and I have a lot of videos on H1-B process and those are also on my website as well. That will help educate you on the H1-B process if you have more questions. And then Scott, also I just wanted to thank you for being a great client as well, and this is a team effort and you know, you've always been great to work with and provided information that we needed timely, so it really helps when we're working together as a team.

Scott Orn:

Thank you so much. Well, I'll make sure my boss Vanessa Kruze hears that segment of the podcast. I didn't know about the YouTube videos, I will check those out. I would recommend to folks, there's just a lot going on, and there's a lot of documentation and I really recommend your services and you don't want to go through this alone, there's just way too much stuff to try to tackle by yourself. And I can just testify that Kaushik and his team was really awesome to work with. Well that's kind of about it, is there any kind of parting thoughts for the audience or any ways of kind of increasing their chances, and I mean anything we can do as a company, or our startup listeners can do as a company to make sure the people are taken care of and have a better shot at the H1-B visa?

Kaushik Ranchod:

I think the biggest thing you can do as company is just start the process early, and if you're looking at an employee, the base minimum requirement is that they have a bachelor's degree, and if they have a three year bachelor's degree, contact our firm as soon as possible so we can take a look at it, because that raises some questions as to whether or not they're going to be able to qualify, and by starting the process early, we can address a lot of questions and issues that may come up to find the appropriate solutions for you.

Scott Orn:

That's great advice, and we follow that advice and it is so much better to plan ahead and get started in November or December, that's exactly what we'd done, and it's a great distressor, so I highly recommend that. Kaushik, thank you so much for coming on the podcast, it was Kaushik from Ranchod Law Group, you can just find them at rancholaw.com. Thank you sir, I really appreciate your help and thanks for being on the podcast.

Kaushik Ranchod:

All right, thank you so much Scott, it's been fantastic.

Scott Orn:

Alright man, you take care. Bye bye.

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