Move to Las Vegas helps put visa processing company in a good position

Like so many businesses, RapidVisa was born of an idea to solve a problem.

Started in 2009 in Colorado by software developer Ben Ives, the immigration document processing firm has handled more than 50,000 visas, and was started after Ives and his wife, Jocelyn, were dismayed by the petition process.

“When I met my wife, who is from the Philippines, I realized the process was harder than it probably should be,” Ives said. “At that time, you couldn’t do it online, which was a bit shocking to me, so I started writing the software as a hobby.”

Ives, 57, says his intent was to develop software and shop it to attorneys and other businesses.

Instead, he and Jocelyn started a company that now has about 50 employees and offices in Las Vegas and the Philippines.

RapidVisa, Ives said, is on schedule to earn about $8 million in revenue this year and has handled applications for people from 170 countries and all 50 U.S. states.

“I couldn’t initially get anyone to understand the value of what I was doing,” Ives said. “I talked to hundreds of lawyers and nobody could see the vision. Now, we’re eating those same people’s lunch. It’s really worked out well.”

Most of what the company does is centered on what Ives refers to as “family reunification” work — people wanting to bring a spouse or other family member to the U.S.

Partly because of Las Vegas’ robust immigrant community and partly because Jocelyn prefers warmer weather, the couple moved their family and the business here in 2016. And this past year, RapidVisa’s headquarters moved from Chinatown to a building that Ives paid cash for on West Charleston Boulevard.

“There’s a lot of immigrants in Las Vegas,” Ives said. “We have a lot of local clients, but we work with people from all over. We get a lot of our business from the Philippines, far and away the biggest country for fiancé visas. … There’s also a large Filipino population here.”

The company also does a lot of business with people from Mexico, Canada, China, Columbia and Thailand.

For a U.S. visa, a person must meet certain government requirements—including a medical check and an interview—and pay the necessary fees.

RapidVisa’s fees are $400 to $500. Including government fees, Ives said clients often spend about $2,000, though that doesn’t include money spent on travel, which is often part of the process.

Some clients get their visa in as little as six months, but it usually takes longer. The typical application that RapidVisa handles, Ives said, requires information for about 300 different data points.

“There’s a lot of anxiety along the way,” Ives said. “We get a lot of calls—probably about 25% of the calls we receive are from people who are just worried. … People have a lot of time, energy and money invested, but most people are not denied.”

Pam Ruelan, who came from the Philippines to live full time with her husband in the U.S. in 2013, said the process of being approved for a visa or green card can be daunting.

Ruelan, who worked as a lawyer in her native country, found RapidVisa online toward the end of the process, but later was hired by Ives. She’s now a document preparation manager for the company.

“I can understand how people are feeling—I can connect with them and tell them I’ve been through it,” Ruelan said. “They really scrutinize you now. Immigration can be a long and complicated process.”

While RapidVisa’s success is very high, Ives said the Trump administration has established a pattern of dragging cases out.

“This administration does things in a non-traditional way,” Ives said. “(President Donald Trump) at one point put out a presidential decree that said everyone needed to have health insurance, but fortunately a court stopped that. That’s just one example.

“I think our current president doesn’t understand government at all. Government moves very slowly, and you just can’t enact things and have them in place tomorrow.”

Despite the change in administration, Ives says RapidVisa hasn’t experienced a drop in petitions that are approved.

As for the future, Ives said he’s looking at opening an office in Costa Rica.

“The company has already gotten a lot bigger than I thought it would,” Ives said. “My wife and I talk about whether we want this to be a giant company. I go back and forth on it. I could see us getting some investors and really growing this thing, but I also like to be home on time at night.”