When Valarie McConico’s husband asked her to help a friend with immigration challenges she figured it wouldn’t be too difficult. The curious neuroscientist set out to assist a group of workers in completing immigration documents. What she learned launched her on a passion driven journey culminating in a new career.
“I’m a reader. When I started looking for immigration consultant books I couldn’t find any, but I did come across what’s called an ‘immigration provider license,” Valarie said.
Valarie learned it was illegal to help immigrants in Georgia file applications without a license. The larger problem? The state lacked resources or training for people wanting to become licensed immigration consultants.
“Immigration instructions are as complicated as filing taxes,” explained McConico. “These documents are between fifteen and thirty pages and are extremely difficult. If I do something wrong the applicant could be rejected or even barred from the country,” she added.
Valarie’s frustration with the lack of resources coupled with mounting heated rhetoric surrounding the 2016 presidential election set her off on an irreversible course.
“I’m a parent. I’m a human. I’ve experienced discrimination. I couldn’t let it go. The passion kept building and growing. I said, ‘Valarie, you’re going to see this all the way through.’”
And, she did.
Valarie utilized her background in neuroscience to build a simple to understand curriculum for immigration consultants. In December, 2016, Valarie launched Smart Pathways, an immigration consultancy agency that strives to empower and educate individuals seeking to become an Immigration Assistance Provider. Smart Pathways training manuals not only coach professionals through the application process, but emphasize the social and emotional components of immigration as well.
“I want people to understand the psychology behind immigration,” stated McConico. “Sometimes immigrants don’t speak the language or must lose part of their culture in order to integrate. The political landscape can create another layer of fear. Even people with green cards don’t want to leave because their countries could be put on the ‘banned list’ and they won’t be able to return,” she explained.
Smart Pathways currently operates statewide providing a range of services, including immigration consultancy training, tools to create independent immigration consultant businesses, and handbooks for assistance in filling out immigration documents.
Valarie says demand for her services is high. According to the website, Smart Pathways plans to roll out additional immigration application courses to meet the demands of specialized consultants.
“I envision my business becoming a one-stop-shop service provider with multiple locations,” says Valarie.
It seems her vision may not be too far off into the future.
For more information visit: www.smarterpathway.com.