E-Consent Is Vital To Immigration Law Firms For Two Reasons

Umesh Vaidyamath |

Data privacy and consent are more important now than ever before, including for immigration law firms. Firms have learned — some the hard way — that when collecting personal information from clients, it’s vital to get informed and voluntary consent beforehand.

Consent is simple and straightforward with written documents where it usually occurs through a handwritten signature. Electronic consent (otherwise known as e-consent) works on the same principle and is equally as important when confirming who the signer is and that they agree to the terms.

Of course, the concept of consent — both electronic and handwritten — is well-known from a legal point of view, but law firms may not realize how important it is from a business point of view as well.

So let’s dive into a little refresher about recent data privacy and protection laws and then go through the two reasons e-consent is important for immigration law – not just important from a legal point of view, but also for immigration law firm business development.

Understanding GDPR and CCPA

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The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as well as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) have changed the way organizations around the world collect and use personal data. Europe’s GDPR is probably the most comprehensive piece of data privacy legislation, and it affects American businesses, including your law practice. No matter where your business is located, you need to worry about the GDPR and the CCPA. Need a quick primer on what these laws cover? Here are the basics:

At a high level, per Forbes, GDPR is “a legal framework that requires businesses to protect the personal data and privacy of European Union (EU) citizens for transactions that occur within EU member states. It covers all companies that deal with the data of EU citizens, specifically banks, insurance companies, and other financial companies.” In other words, it’s a set of rules and regulations restricting the use of personal user information that many of today’s largest companies collect, store, and sometimes sell as part of their business.

According to TechCrunch, “CCPA, is a state-level law that requires, among other things, that companies notify users of the intent to monetize their data, and give them a straightforward means of opting out of said monetization.” CCPA became California law on January 1, 2020.

So what does any of this have to do with your immigration practice?

Collecting personal information is required in the immigration process. A visa candidate’s name, date of birth, home address, family member information is just a start. You may also need to collect financial data and health history. In the age of GDPR and CCPA, it is important that immigration law firms collect all of this personal information in a safe and secure manner.

Refusing to implement privacy protections can put your organization at risk of fines and penalties. But complying with the current laws and regulations should not be your only motivation for using e-consent to protect yourself and your clients’ data.

Specifically, there are two important business-related reasons to prioritize e-consent: it’s best practice for your law firm and it’s becoming increasingly common in requests for proposal (RFPs).

E-consent is key for immigration law firms for these two reasons

Many companies have learned the importance of protecting client privacy through highly publicized privacy fails. Avoid joining their ranks! Privacy protections must be in place for collecting, storing, processing, accessing, transmitting, sharing, and disposing of the data. Yes, I know this list is long, but by prioritizing privacy you’re protecting your clients and your business.

For immigration law firms, one of the ways to prioritize privacy is by providing e-consent to clients who collect personal foreign national information. And here are two major reasons e-consent is great for your firm: it’s a good best best practice to protect you and your firm, and it’s also a powerful business development tool, especially when it comes to RFPs.

1 • E-consent is a good business practice

Some companies make the mistake of assuming that their established business ethics policies or a code of ethics are enough. Ethics policies typically ensure that confidential information will be handled responsibly, but more must be done to actually protect personal data.

As far as the immigration industry is concerned, law firms’ clients are increasingly demanding that their privacy be proactively protected. That’s why e-consent and other privacy measures should be viewed as not just something legally required of us, but a standard practice across all our operations.

By adhering to GDPR and CCPA data privacy requirements, we’re ensuring both your employer clients and the foreign nationals they hire and support feel secure and worry-free. This next-level data protection is also excellent marketing for your firm because potential clients choose law firms based not only on the ability to file cases but for the broader client experience and support, including robust data privacy.

2 • E-consent can be a deal-breaker when it comes to RFPs

A Forbes Insights report found that 46% of organizations suffered reputational damage as a result of a privacy breach. And a Pew report found that it was important to 90% of Americans to control the specific types of information that was collected about them.

Almost 75% of internet-using households in the US had significant concerns about online privacy, and according to an Australian study on the impact of data breaches on reputation, 65% of people whose personal data was breached lost trust in the organization that they entrusted to protect that data.

Convinced yet?

That’s why corporate clients are starting to demand more technology and data protection from their immigration law firms, particularly during an RFP when they are looking to switch firms or perhaps add an external immigration provider during a period of growth. Don’t have good privacy practices? They’re not interested in doing business with you.

That’s why law firms that implement privacy protections — such as e-consent — will strengthen and grow their business as they become preferred over their competitors which do not provide such privacy protections.

Did you know that INSZoom has an e-consent module?

INSZoom’s E-Consent module can be used to protect yourself and your organization. It ensures the accuracy and validity of the information your clients provide, gives your clients the ability to pre-consent to your Terms of Service, and allows you to customize the e-Consent message per your organization’s needs. E-consent in INSZoom is a customizable way for organizations to manage and track consent, whether it is terms of service, terms of use, or a statement of truthfulness.

Here’s an example of how it works. If your law firm wants to send a questionnaire to a foreign national to collect personal information or documentation, you can have an e-consent pop up that asks the foreign national to accept or decline a customized message. You can either send this via email, or directly in INSZoom’s foreign national portal.

Ultimately, if an employer needs to procure and track foreign national consent, or if they need to get an official declaration from their users that some information they are providing is accurate, e-consent in INSZoom is the answer.

Want to learn more about how INSZoom’s e-consent module, or get information from our team if you’re going through an RFP and e-consent is part of the engagement? Reach out to connect with a Mitratech rep to learn more!

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