Foreign Nationals and American Companies need a way to easily navigate the complicated and expensive work visa process.

The Solution

A web application that guides the user step-by-step through the work visa application process while keeping everyone aligned on the status of the application.

My Role

I lead the visual design on wireframes and hi-fi mockups and created the design system.

I worked with my teammates on researching, information architecture, sketching, wireframing, and usability testing.

Timeline

3 weeks

Tools Used

The American Dream Starts with a Paperwork Nightmare

We started this project with zero knowledge about the visa process. I was floored after a week of research just how complicated and confusing applying for a visa can be.

There are about 185 visa options for the US, most of which fall into two categories: nonimmigrant visas and immigrant visas. Luckily, Legal Pilot's product scope focused on nonimmigrant visas, specifically work related. But even with a smaller scope we were looking at eleven different work related visas.

Our limited timeframe required we narrow our focus even more. We decided to build the product around the H1B application since our research uncovered H1B as one of the most popular work visas.

Why Should We Care?

Hiring foreign employees creates cultural diversity and gives companies unique perspectives.

This leads to innovation, economic growth and increases the US's ability to complete on a global scale.

1.1 million

temporary workers and their families live in the US

17%

of the US labor force is made up of immigrants

2 of 10 people you know are affected by the immigration process

10/36 pages from the I-129 form
The Challenge

Create a Simple, Streamlined, Transparent Product in Just Three Weeks

We had to create a completely new product with a simple, clean interface that streamlines the daunting, complex visa application process is just three weeks.

Our High-level Goals

Build a scaleable foundation that can support more visas in the future
Give employers and applicants more control over their futures
Make employee sponsorship more accessible for startups

The Kickoff

Climbing the Hill of Comprehension

We gleaned a lot of helpful information from our stakeholders at Legal Pilot, but the amount of information to learn stretched out before us like ever-expanding space.

How would we gain enough knowledge to develop a product from scratch in just three weeks? Honestly, we weren't sure, but we started by casting a wide net of research methods to gather as many insights as we could.

an overview of our research methods

Learning from Unsuccessful Research Methods

We ran into several hurtles while researching the H1B visa that we had to overcome by leaning into other research methods.

We received radio silence from immigration forums. We did make one successful connection, but not the volume of responses we hoped to get. Perhaps people didn't want to share their personal experience with strangers or maybe they were inactive members.

Our surveys yielded too few results to identify patterns. My hunch tells me that limited context plays a huge role in response rate as well as privacy issues and lack of incentive.

A barrier for our competitor's product demos was requests for detailed company/employee information. This gave us insight into the likelihood that these companies' products aren't as automated as they claim to be.

The Discovery

Finding Patterns in User Frustration

Visa application experiences differed widely from person to person, but their frustrations identified what we needed to solve for: poor communication and lack of visibility on the wholistic process. Both employee and employer expect a resource that captures the overview of the process and all the crucial parts like next steps, deadlines, and costs.

If people like engineers and software developers with sophisticated cognitive abilities have difficulty navigating the system, then how do others with limited technology access and language barriers manage? We discovered a huge opportunity to simplify the process for applicants from any country.

With this discovery we set out to bridge the gap of complication and confusion with simplicity and clarity, starting with the H1B application.

Step 2

The employer has to submit a Labor Conditions Approval (LCA) to the Department of Labor stating the various factors of your job such as pay, location, and working conditions.

Breaking Down the H1B Visa Application Process
Step 1

The employee must get hired by a US company who intends to sponsor their visa.

Step 5
Step 4
Step 3

After their LCA is approved, the employer submits Form I-129 that includes fees, education and experience evaluation and documents, training certificates, any professional membership documents, the applicant’s resume, employment agreement, and letter of support.

Applicant completes their application at a US embassy or consulate in their home country.

Wait for approval. There is no guarantee of approval because the DOL caps the amount of granted H1B visas to 85,000. The H1B lottery is a random selection process that the USCIS uses to randomly pick H1B visa applicants to approve.

Reframing the problem

Information Overload Adds Unnecessary Complexity to an Already Complex Process

Gathering the information and materials required for visa applications proves tedious enough without the added burden of researching the process itself and managing communication with everyone involved.

Users expressed frustration about the application process in three key areas:

Not having a wholistic overview of the process, necessary steps, and required documents

Untrustworthy sources were a big concern, and many users stuck to the USCIS website

Lack of communication and confusion on who they should ask questions

“These things affected our future, our life. To attorneys it’s just another case.”

How might we create a product that simplifies the process, lowers the cost, and adds transparency between all parties?

The solution

Simplicity, Authenticity, and Transparency for All

We proposed a product that automates the process through guided questions, error prevention, and auto saving the user's progress; lowers costs by reducing attorney workload; and adds transparency with visual timelines, status updates, real time chat, and notifications.

We designed a product to transform the user experience into a simple, easy-to-use, and frustration-free process.

Simplifying the Complexity

We were building a complex tool with multiple features and a sophisticated database, and we recognized the importance of intuitive information architecture. To make the product as simple as possible, we split up features between the user's dashboard and the a side bar navigation.

Our sitemap below shows the break down of how we organized Legal Pilot's capabilities and resources.

the sitemap for Legal Pilot's one-stop shop for visa applications
Building the foundation

The TurboTax of Visa Applications

We emulated the experience of TurboTax, studying how they broke up a lengthy, complicated process into simple, digestible pieces. They successfully reworked the dreaded process of filing taxes to be an experience that's almost enjoyable.

Easy to Use

We simplified content and form questions into digestible pieces.

Error Free

Error detection plays a crucial role as typos or misspellings could lead to application denial.

Transparent

Features like the calendar, chat, notifications, visual timelines and progress trackers to add efficiency and visibility.

Helpful

Users can get answers to question in real-time via the live chat. We also added quick information pop-ups for confusing terms.

Two Users, One Collaborative Workflow

We created two user personas to help us understand both the employer (Harrison) and the employee (Aarav) side of the process.

Usability testing tells all

Feedback from Experienced Applicants

We developed and tested a wireframe prototype with users who are familiar with the H1B visa application process.

After listening to our tester's first hand stories and documenting their feedback we decided to expand our focus to explore the relationship between the experience of both the employee and the employer.

Top Take-aways

5/5 Users

Change text to normal language

We used language directly from the application forms and the USCIS website. All of our users got confused by terminology at some point during testing. We realized we had to do more than break-up the text. We needed to improve on heuristic #2 by matching our content to real world language and speech.

4/5 Users

Add more detail to the overview pages

Our users appreciated the overview pages we designed, but called for more detail and specificity. There are many types of documentation required as well as important dates and deadlines. To be truly helpful we needed to guide the user, in detail, through every step.

5/5 Users

Live Chat and notifications solved communication woes

Users gave positive feedback on the live chat feature, recalling past experiences when they were uncertain who to talk to when they had questions. They also liked the notification feature that informs all parties when the other makes changes or adds documents.

Prototype iterations

Implementing User Insights

Our users, all experienced in the visa application process, helped us understand how variable the process is from person to person. We used their feedback to iterate our original designs to be more helpful and functional.

Dashboards

We wanted the employer and employee dashboards to mirror each other to ensure that users collaborating on an application would be on the same page. Subtle differences can be seen in the timeline and 'Your Visas' becomes 'Your Employees' for Harrison's view.

H1B Overview Screen

Our original screen displays basic info about the visa, but doesn't touch on the process.

Our users wanted information that helped them understand the application process, so each iteration add clearer expectations of the process rather than just defining the visa.

Application Overview

I originally design this screen as a linear, step-by-step process but we learned from users that the application process wasn’t necessarily linear. I redesigned this screen to be more specific to the user which allows them to see an overview of the steps and their progress simultaneously.  

Documents

I redesigned this screen to be more visually helpful like the application overview screen. The user can see what documents they need to upload as well as thumbnails for the documents they have uploaded.

Next steps

A Good Start, But a Long Way from Done

A product of this magnitude doesn't get solved in three weeks. I would consider our work a strong start, but the work is far from complete. We need to continue iterating and testing as well as hyper-focusing on specific nuances like language and cultural context.