Customer Story

Automating International Visa Letter Requests

Customer Story

Automating International Visa Letter Requests

Customer Story

Automating International Visa Letter Requests

Customer Story

Automating International Visa Letter Requests

Customer Story

Automating International Visa Letter Requests

Customer Story

Automating International Visa Letter Requests

Without the right digital tools, many student requests require a highly manual process. When University of Michigan wanted to move away from time-consuming, manual work on letter requests, they paired Formstack Forms and Documents to create a fully automated process.
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The University of Michigan (U-M) is a public, postsecondary institution with nearly 45,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled.
Higher Education
2011
Higher Education Workflow Automation
Forms, Documents
No-Code Integrations, Document Generation, Email Confirmations and Notifications
Customer Story

Automating International Visa Letter Requests

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Customer Story

Automating International Visa Letter Requests

MIN
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About the Episode
Episode Highlights
Meet our Guest

The University of Michigan (U-M) is a public, postsecondary institution with nearly 45,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled. Every year, the school’s Office of University and Development Events plans over 150 events, including official academic ceremonies like commencement. To give all students the opportunity to have a family member attend their graduation ceremony, the events office allows international students to request a formal letter of invitation, which assists guests who have to apply for a visitor visa to attend commencement. To better serve students and families through an automated visa letter request process, U-M turned to Formstack.

The Challenge

When students first started requesting visa letters, it was a highly manual process. A student would send a request via email, and the Office of University and Development Events would manually draft a letter, print it, and mail it through the postal service.

Eventually, U-M introduced some automation by creating an online visa letter request form. The form helped the university get the information needed to draft a personalized letter, but team members were still developing the letters manually after receiving the digital request. Additionally, they only worked on the letters at specific times of the year, which was inconvenient for students.

"Sometimes students were late requesting a letter or they needed it at a different date than we were ready to send them out, and we’d be inadvertently holding up the visa process," said Jenny Freels, Director of the Office of University and Development Events

The university’s international enrollment—which is currently 15.3% of total enrollment—has increased every year for the past several years. This means the number of letter requests has also increased, overwhelming the events office.

"The letters used to require an extreme amount of manual labor from our staff," Freels said. "At one point, we hired a temp employee just do these letters because we were getting thousands of requests in a calendar year."

When the person who was managing and preparing the visa letters got reassigned without replacement, the events team was faced with a choice to take on the added work or find a technology solution.

The Fix

Hoping to avoid absorbing the extra work, Assistant Director of Ceremonial Events Amy McDonald sought to create fully automated workflows for the visa letter process.

"We wanted the process to be totally automatic, so I was trying to figure out how we could produce the letters without being involved," McDonald said.

The Office of University and Development Events had been using Formstack for event registrations and other data collection, so it made sense to use it for the visa letter request process as well. When McDonald discovered the Formstack Documents, she found the perfect solution.

McDonald created a visa letter template in Formstack Documents and connected it to the letter request form in Formstack. She set up the fields on the Formstack form so that she would get the exact output needed to populate the Documents template and create a custom letter.

McDonald sets up the letter in Documents once each year, and then the process runs on its own through the established workflow automation: Documents creates a PDF letter based on the Formstack form submission, and the letter is automatically emailed to the student requester.

Now, students can request visa letters throughout the year—even during an off month when the university normally wouldn’t have the resources to process them.

"This way, international students can do their own letters whenever they’re ready or whenever it’s needed for their graduation ceremony," Freels said.

The Outcome

According to Freels and McDonald, creating a fully automated process for visa letter requests has saved the Office of University and Development Events hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars. Bringing efficiency to the process has also benefited students tremendously.

"Three years ago, students were making a submission on Formstack and getting a manual response from us two to four weeks later. Now, they submit a request via Formstack and get the actual letter very quickly—the same day," McDonald said. "And if they make an error in Formstack, they can submit another request and get the corrected letter the same day as well."

The University of Michigan receives over 5,000 visa letter requests each calendar year. Around 3,500 requests were submitted for the most recent spring commencement. According to Freels, it’s great that students no longer have to wait on her office to get what they need. If family members have a visa meeting in their country a year before the event, the student can easily get them the letter for the meeting.

"We can’t guarantee that a country will let a family member visit based on our letter, but we’re doing what we can to help," Freels said.

On top of the visa letter requests, the Office of University and Development events uses Formstack to seamlessly manage other commencement-related processes, such as special accomodation ticketing, faculty and staff attire needs, and volunteer recruitment. The features and integrations that are most beneficial include:

"I think for all the communications our office sends out, we keep in mind our guests. We want to make their participation as easy as possible and provide them with all the information that they’re going to need to have a successful and exciting experience with us," Freels said. "With Formstack, we’re able to that."

Key Results

Customer Story

Automating International Visa Letter Requests

Customer Story

Automating International Visa Letter Requests

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The University of Michigan (U-M) is a public, postsecondary institution with nearly 45,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled. Every year, the school’s Office of University and Development Events plans over 150 events, including official academic ceremonies like commencement. To give all students the opportunity to have a family member attend their graduation ceremony, the events office allows international students to request a formal letter of invitation, which assists guests who have to apply for a visitor visa to attend commencement. To better serve students and families through an automated visa letter request process, U-M turned to Formstack.

The Challenge

When students first started requesting visa letters, it was a highly manual process. A student would send a request via email, and the Office of University and Development Events would manually draft a letter, print it, and mail it through the postal service.

Eventually, U-M introduced some automation by creating an online visa letter request form. The form helped the university get the information needed to draft a personalized letter, but team members were still developing the letters manually after receiving the digital request. Additionally, they only worked on the letters at specific times of the year, which was inconvenient for students.

"Sometimes students were late requesting a letter or they needed it at a different date than we were ready to send them out, and we’d be inadvertently holding up the visa process," said Jenny Freels, Director of the Office of University and Development Events

The university’s international enrollment—which is currently 15.3% of total enrollment—has increased every year for the past several years. This means the number of letter requests has also increased, overwhelming the events office.

"The letters used to require an extreme amount of manual labor from our staff," Freels said. "At one point, we hired a temp employee just do these letters because we were getting thousands of requests in a calendar year."

When the person who was managing and preparing the visa letters got reassigned without replacement, the events team was faced with a choice to take on the added work or find a technology solution.

The Fix

Hoping to avoid absorbing the extra work, Assistant Director of Ceremonial Events Amy McDonald sought to create fully automated workflows for the visa letter process.

"We wanted the process to be totally automatic, so I was trying to figure out how we could produce the letters without being involved," McDonald said.

The Office of University and Development Events had been using Formstack for event registrations and other data collection, so it made sense to use it for the visa letter request process as well. When McDonald discovered the Formstack Documents, she found the perfect solution.

McDonald created a visa letter template in Formstack Documents and connected it to the letter request form in Formstack. She set up the fields on the Formstack form so that she would get the exact output needed to populate the Documents template and create a custom letter.

McDonald sets up the letter in Documents once each year, and then the process runs on its own through the established workflow automation: Documents creates a PDF letter based on the Formstack form submission, and the letter is automatically emailed to the student requester.

Now, students can request visa letters throughout the year—even during an off month when the university normally wouldn’t have the resources to process them.

"This way, international students can do their own letters whenever they’re ready or whenever it’s needed for their graduation ceremony," Freels said.

The Outcome

According to Freels and McDonald, creating a fully automated process for visa letter requests has saved the Office of University and Development Events hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars. Bringing efficiency to the process has also benefited students tremendously.

"Three years ago, students were making a submission on Formstack and getting a manual response from us two to four weeks later. Now, they submit a request via Formstack and get the actual letter very quickly—the same day," McDonald said. "And if they make an error in Formstack, they can submit another request and get the corrected letter the same day as well."

The University of Michigan receives over 5,000 visa letter requests each calendar year. Around 3,500 requests were submitted for the most recent spring commencement. According to Freels, it’s great that students no longer have to wait on her office to get what they need. If family members have a visa meeting in their country a year before the event, the student can easily get them the letter for the meeting.

"We can’t guarantee that a country will let a family member visit based on our letter, but we’re doing what we can to help," Freels said.

On top of the visa letter requests, the Office of University and Development events uses Formstack to seamlessly manage other commencement-related processes, such as special accomodation ticketing, faculty and staff attire needs, and volunteer recruitment. The features and integrations that are most beneficial include:

"I think for all the communications our office sends out, we keep in mind our guests. We want to make their participation as easy as possible and provide them with all the information that they’re going to need to have a successful and exciting experience with us," Freels said. "With Formstack, we’re able to that."

Key Results

Panelists
No items found.
Infographic

Automating International Visa Letter Requests

When students first started requesting visa letters, it was a highly manual process. With Formstack, they created an automated visa letter request process.
Download InfographicDownload Infographic

The University of Michigan (U-M) is a public, postsecondary institution with nearly 45,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled. Every year, the school’s Office of University and Development Events plans over 150 events, including official academic ceremonies like commencement. To give all students the opportunity to have a family member attend their graduation ceremony, the events office allows international students to request a formal letter of invitation, which assists guests who have to apply for a visitor visa to attend commencement. To better serve students and families through an automated visa letter request process, U-M turned to Formstack.

The Challenge

When students first started requesting visa letters, it was a highly manual process. A student would send a request via email, and the Office of University and Development Events would manually draft a letter, print it, and mail it through the postal service.

Eventually, U-M introduced some automation by creating an online visa letter request form. The form helped the university get the information needed to draft a personalized letter, but team members were still developing the letters manually after receiving the digital request. Additionally, they only worked on the letters at specific times of the year, which was inconvenient for students.

"Sometimes students were late requesting a letter or they needed it at a different date than we were ready to send them out, and we’d be inadvertently holding up the visa process," said Jenny Freels, Director of the Office of University and Development Events

The university’s international enrollment—which is currently 15.3% of total enrollment—has increased every year for the past several years. This means the number of letter requests has also increased, overwhelming the events office.

"The letters used to require an extreme amount of manual labor from our staff," Freels said. "At one point, we hired a temp employee just do these letters because we were getting thousands of requests in a calendar year."

When the person who was managing and preparing the visa letters got reassigned without replacement, the events team was faced with a choice to take on the added work or find a technology solution.

The Fix

Hoping to avoid absorbing the extra work, Assistant Director of Ceremonial Events Amy McDonald sought to create fully automated workflows for the visa letter process.

"We wanted the process to be totally automatic, so I was trying to figure out how we could produce the letters without being involved," McDonald said.

The Office of University and Development Events had been using Formstack for event registrations and other data collection, so it made sense to use it for the visa letter request process as well. When McDonald discovered the Formstack Documents, she found the perfect solution.

McDonald created a visa letter template in Formstack Documents and connected it to the letter request form in Formstack. She set up the fields on the Formstack form so that she would get the exact output needed to populate the Documents template and create a custom letter.

McDonald sets up the letter in Documents once each year, and then the process runs on its own through the established workflow automation: Documents creates a PDF letter based on the Formstack form submission, and the letter is automatically emailed to the student requester.

Now, students can request visa letters throughout the year—even during an off month when the university normally wouldn’t have the resources to process them.

"This way, international students can do their own letters whenever they’re ready or whenever it’s needed for their graduation ceremony," Freels said.

The Outcome

According to Freels and McDonald, creating a fully automated process for visa letter requests has saved the Office of University and Development Events hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars. Bringing efficiency to the process has also benefited students tremendously.

"Three years ago, students were making a submission on Formstack and getting a manual response from us two to four weeks later. Now, they submit a request via Formstack and get the actual letter very quickly—the same day," McDonald said. "And if they make an error in Formstack, they can submit another request and get the corrected letter the same day as well."

The University of Michigan receives over 5,000 visa letter requests each calendar year. Around 3,500 requests were submitted for the most recent spring commencement. According to Freels, it’s great that students no longer have to wait on her office to get what they need. If family members have a visa meeting in their country a year before the event, the student can easily get them the letter for the meeting.

"We can’t guarantee that a country will let a family member visit based on our letter, but we’re doing what we can to help," Freels said.

On top of the visa letter requests, the Office of University and Development events uses Formstack to seamlessly manage other commencement-related processes, such as special accomodation ticketing, faculty and staff attire needs, and volunteer recruitment. The features and integrations that are most beneficial include:

"I think for all the communications our office sends out, we keep in mind our guests. We want to make their participation as easy as possible and provide them with all the information that they’re going to need to have a successful and exciting experience with us," Freels said. "With Formstack, we’re able to that."

Key Results

The University of Michigan (U-M) is a public, postsecondary institution with nearly 45,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled. Every year, the school’s Office of University and Development Events plans over 150 events, including official academic ceremonies like commencement. To give all students the opportunity to have a family member attend their graduation ceremony, the events office allows international students to request a formal letter of invitation, which assists guests who have to apply for a visitor visa to attend commencement. To better serve students and families through an automated visa letter request process, U-M turned to Formstack.

The Challenge

When students first started requesting visa letters, it was a highly manual process. A student would send a request via email, and the Office of University and Development Events would manually draft a letter, print it, and mail it through the postal service.

Eventually, U-M introduced some automation by creating an online visa letter request form. The form helped the university get the information needed to draft a personalized letter, but team members were still developing the letters manually after receiving the digital request. Additionally, they only worked on the letters at specific times of the year, which was inconvenient for students.

"Sometimes students were late requesting a letter or they needed it at a different date than we were ready to send them out, and we’d be inadvertently holding up the visa process," said Jenny Freels, Director of the Office of University and Development Events

The university’s international enrollment—which is currently 15.3% of total enrollment—has increased every year for the past several years. This means the number of letter requests has also increased, overwhelming the events office.

"The letters used to require an extreme amount of manual labor from our staff," Freels said. "At one point, we hired a temp employee just do these letters because we were getting thousands of requests in a calendar year."

When the person who was managing and preparing the visa letters got reassigned without replacement, the events team was faced with a choice to take on the added work or find a technology solution.

The Fix

Hoping to avoid absorbing the extra work, Assistant Director of Ceremonial Events Amy McDonald sought to create fully automated workflows for the visa letter process.

"We wanted the process to be totally automatic, so I was trying to figure out how we could produce the letters without being involved," McDonald said.

The Office of University and Development Events had been using Formstack for event registrations and other data collection, so it made sense to use it for the visa letter request process as well. When McDonald discovered the Formstack Documents, she found the perfect solution.

McDonald created a visa letter template in Formstack Documents and connected it to the letter request form in Formstack. She set up the fields on the Formstack form so that she would get the exact output needed to populate the Documents template and create a custom letter.

McDonald sets up the letter in Documents once each year, and then the process runs on its own through the established workflow automation: Documents creates a PDF letter based on the Formstack form submission, and the letter is automatically emailed to the student requester.

Now, students can request visa letters throughout the year—even during an off month when the university normally wouldn’t have the resources to process them.

"This way, international students can do their own letters whenever they’re ready or whenever it’s needed for their graduation ceremony," Freels said.

The Outcome

According to Freels and McDonald, creating a fully automated process for visa letter requests has saved the Office of University and Development Events hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars. Bringing efficiency to the process has also benefited students tremendously.

"Three years ago, students were making a submission on Formstack and getting a manual response from us two to four weeks later. Now, they submit a request via Formstack and get the actual letter very quickly—the same day," McDonald said. "And if they make an error in Formstack, they can submit another request and get the corrected letter the same day as well."

The University of Michigan receives over 5,000 visa letter requests each calendar year. Around 3,500 requests were submitted for the most recent spring commencement. According to Freels, it’s great that students no longer have to wait on her office to get what they need. If family members have a visa meeting in their country a year before the event, the student can easily get them the letter for the meeting.

"We can’t guarantee that a country will let a family member visit based on our letter, but we’re doing what we can to help," Freels said.

On top of the visa letter requests, the Office of University and Development events uses Formstack to seamlessly manage other commencement-related processes, such as special accomodation ticketing, faculty and staff attire needs, and volunteer recruitment. The features and integrations that are most beneficial include:

"I think for all the communications our office sends out, we keep in mind our guests. We want to make their participation as easy as possible and provide them with all the information that they’re going to need to have a successful and exciting experience with us," Freels said. "With Formstack, we’re able to that."

Key Results

Collecting payments with online forms is easy, but first, you have to choose the right payment gateway. Browse the providers in our gateway credit card processing comparison chart to find the best option for your business. Then sign up for Formstack Forms, customize your payment forms, and start collecting profits in minutes.

Online Payment Gateway Comparison Chart

NOTE: These amounts reflect the monthly subscription for the payment provider. Formstack does not charge a fee to integrate with any of our payment partners.

FEATURES
Authorize.Net
Bambora
Chargify
First Data
PayPal
PayPal Pro
PayPal Payflow
Stripe
WePay
ProPay
Monthly Fees
$25
$25
$149+
Contact First Data
$0
$25
$0-$25
$0
$0
$4
Transaction Fees
$2.9% + 30¢
$2.9% + 30¢
N/A
Contact First Data
$2.9% + 30¢
$2.9% + 30¢
10¢
$2.9% + 30¢
$2.9% + 30¢
$2.6% + 30¢
Countries
5
8
Based on payment gateway
50+
203
3
4
25
USA
USA
Currencies
11
2
23
140
25
23
25
135+
1
1
Card Types
6
13
Based on payment gateway
5
9
9
5
6
4
4
Limits
None
None
Based on payment gateway
None
$10,000
None
None
None
None
$500 per transaction
Form Payments
Recurring Billing
Mobile Payments
PSD2 Compliant

The University of Michigan (U-M) is a public, postsecondary institution with nearly 45,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled. Every year, the school’s Office of University and Development Events plans over 150 events, including official academic ceremonies like commencement. To give all students the opportunity to have a family member attend their graduation ceremony, the events office allows international students to request a formal letter of invitation, which assists guests who have to apply for a visitor visa to attend commencement. To better serve students and families through an automated visa letter request process, U-M turned to Formstack.

The Challenge

When students first started requesting visa letters, it was a highly manual process. A student would send a request via email, and the Office of University and Development Events would manually draft a letter, print it, and mail it through the postal service.

Eventually, U-M introduced some automation by creating an online visa letter request form. The form helped the university get the information needed to draft a personalized letter, but team members were still developing the letters manually after receiving the digital request. Additionally, they only worked on the letters at specific times of the year, which was inconvenient for students.

"Sometimes students were late requesting a letter or they needed it at a different date than we were ready to send them out, and we’d be inadvertently holding up the visa process," said Jenny Freels, Director of the Office of University and Development Events

The university’s international enrollment—which is currently 15.3% of total enrollment—has increased every year for the past several years. This means the number of letter requests has also increased, overwhelming the events office.

"The letters used to require an extreme amount of manual labor from our staff," Freels said. "At one point, we hired a temp employee just do these letters because we were getting thousands of requests in a calendar year."

When the person who was managing and preparing the visa letters got reassigned without replacement, the events team was faced with a choice to take on the added work or find a technology solution.

The Fix

Hoping to avoid absorbing the extra work, Assistant Director of Ceremonial Events Amy McDonald sought to create fully automated workflows for the visa letter process.

"We wanted the process to be totally automatic, so I was trying to figure out how we could produce the letters without being involved," McDonald said.

The Office of University and Development Events had been using Formstack for event registrations and other data collection, so it made sense to use it for the visa letter request process as well. When McDonald discovered the Formstack Documents, she found the perfect solution.

McDonald created a visa letter template in Formstack Documents and connected it to the letter request form in Formstack. She set up the fields on the Formstack form so that she would get the exact output needed to populate the Documents template and create a custom letter.

McDonald sets up the letter in Documents once each year, and then the process runs on its own through the established workflow automation: Documents creates a PDF letter based on the Formstack form submission, and the letter is automatically emailed to the student requester.

Now, students can request visa letters throughout the year—even during an off month when the university normally wouldn’t have the resources to process them.

"This way, international students can do their own letters whenever they’re ready or whenever it’s needed for their graduation ceremony," Freels said.

The Outcome

According to Freels and McDonald, creating a fully automated process for visa letter requests has saved the Office of University and Development Events hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars. Bringing efficiency to the process has also benefited students tremendously.

"Three years ago, students were making a submission on Formstack and getting a manual response from us two to four weeks later. Now, they submit a request via Formstack and get the actual letter very quickly—the same day," McDonald said. "And if they make an error in Formstack, they can submit another request and get the corrected letter the same day as well."

The University of Michigan receives over 5,000 visa letter requests each calendar year. Around 3,500 requests were submitted for the most recent spring commencement. According to Freels, it’s great that students no longer have to wait on her office to get what they need. If family members have a visa meeting in their country a year before the event, the student can easily get them the letter for the meeting.

"We can’t guarantee that a country will let a family member visit based on our letter, but we’re doing what we can to help," Freels said.

On top of the visa letter requests, the Office of University and Development events uses Formstack to seamlessly manage other commencement-related processes, such as special accomodation ticketing, faculty and staff attire needs, and volunteer recruitment. The features and integrations that are most beneficial include:

"I think for all the communications our office sends out, we keep in mind our guests. We want to make their participation as easy as possible and provide them with all the information that they’re going to need to have a successful and exciting experience with us," Freels said. "With Formstack, we’re able to that."

Key Results

The University of Michigan (U-M) is a public, postsecondary institution with nearly 45,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled. Every year, the school’s Office of University and Development Events plans over 150 events, including official academic ceremonies like commencement. To give all students the opportunity to have a family member attend their graduation ceremony, the events office allows international students to request a formal letter of invitation, which assists guests who have to apply for a visitor visa to attend commencement. To better serve students and families through an automated visa letter request process, U-M turned to Formstack.

The Challenge

When students first started requesting visa letters, it was a highly manual process. A student would send a request via email, and the Office of University and Development Events would manually draft a letter, print it, and mail it through the postal service.

Eventually, U-M introduced some automation by creating an online visa letter request form. The form helped the university get the information needed to draft a personalized letter, but team members were still developing the letters manually after receiving the digital request. Additionally, they only worked on the letters at specific times of the year, which was inconvenient for students.

"Sometimes students were late requesting a letter or they needed it at a different date than we were ready to send them out, and we’d be inadvertently holding up the visa process," said Jenny Freels, Director of the Office of University and Development Events

The university’s international enrollment—which is currently 15.3% of total enrollment—has increased every year for the past several years. This means the number of letter requests has also increased, overwhelming the events office.

"The letters used to require an extreme amount of manual labor from our staff," Freels said. "At one point, we hired a temp employee just do these letters because we were getting thousands of requests in a calendar year."

When the person who was managing and preparing the visa letters got reassigned without replacement, the events team was faced with a choice to take on the added work or find a technology solution.

The Fix

Hoping to avoid absorbing the extra work, Assistant Director of Ceremonial Events Amy McDonald sought to create fully automated workflows for the visa letter process.

"We wanted the process to be totally automatic, so I was trying to figure out how we could produce the letters without being involved," McDonald said.

The Office of University and Development Events had been using Formstack for event registrations and other data collection, so it made sense to use it for the visa letter request process as well. When McDonald discovered the Formstack Documents, she found the perfect solution.

McDonald created a visa letter template in Formstack Documents and connected it to the letter request form in Formstack. She set up the fields on the Formstack form so that she would get the exact output needed to populate the Documents template and create a custom letter.

McDonald sets up the letter in Documents once each year, and then the process runs on its own through the established workflow automation: Documents creates a PDF letter based on the Formstack form submission, and the letter is automatically emailed to the student requester.

Now, students can request visa letters throughout the year—even during an off month when the university normally wouldn’t have the resources to process them.

"This way, international students can do their own letters whenever they’re ready or whenever it’s needed for their graduation ceremony," Freels said.

The Outcome

According to Freels and McDonald, creating a fully automated process for visa letter requests has saved the Office of University and Development Events hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars. Bringing efficiency to the process has also benefited students tremendously.

"Three years ago, students were making a submission on Formstack and getting a manual response from us two to four weeks later. Now, they submit a request via Formstack and get the actual letter very quickly—the same day," McDonald said. "And if they make an error in Formstack, they can submit another request and get the corrected letter the same day as well."

The University of Michigan receives over 5,000 visa letter requests each calendar year. Around 3,500 requests were submitted for the most recent spring commencement. According to Freels, it’s great that students no longer have to wait on her office to get what they need. If family members have a visa meeting in their country a year before the event, the student can easily get them the letter for the meeting.

"We can’t guarantee that a country will let a family member visit based on our letter, but we’re doing what we can to help," Freels said.

On top of the visa letter requests, the Office of University and Development events uses Formstack to seamlessly manage other commencement-related processes, such as special accomodation ticketing, faculty and staff attire needs, and volunteer recruitment. The features and integrations that are most beneficial include:

"I think for all the communications our office sends out, we keep in mind our guests. We want to make their participation as easy as possible and provide them with all the information that they’re going to need to have a successful and exciting experience with us," Freels said. "With Formstack, we’re able to that."

Key Results

The University of Michigan (U-M) is a public, postsecondary institution with nearly 45,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled. Every year, the school’s Office of University and Development Events plans over 150 events, including official academic ceremonies like commencement. To give all students the opportunity to have a family member attend their graduation ceremony, the events office allows international students to request a formal letter of invitation, which assists guests who have to apply for a visitor visa to attend commencement. To better serve students and families through an automated visa letter request process, U-M turned to Formstack.

The Challenge

When students first started requesting visa letters, it was a highly manual process. A student would send a request via email, and the Office of University and Development Events would manually draft a letter, print it, and mail it through the postal service.

Eventually, U-M introduced some automation by creating an online visa letter request form. The form helped the university get the information needed to draft a personalized letter, but team members were still developing the letters manually after receiving the digital request. Additionally, they only worked on the letters at specific times of the year, which was inconvenient for students.

"Sometimes students were late requesting a letter or they needed it at a different date than we were ready to send them out, and we’d be inadvertently holding up the visa process," said Jenny Freels, Director of the Office of University and Development Events

The university’s international enrollment—which is currently 15.3% of total enrollment—has increased every year for the past several years. This means the number of letter requests has also increased, overwhelming the events office.

"The letters used to require an extreme amount of manual labor from our staff," Freels said. "At one point, we hired a temp employee just do these letters because we were getting thousands of requests in a calendar year."

When the person who was managing and preparing the visa letters got reassigned without replacement, the events team was faced with a choice to take on the added work or find a technology solution.

The Fix

Hoping to avoid absorbing the extra work, Assistant Director of Ceremonial Events Amy McDonald sought to create fully automated workflows for the visa letter process.

"We wanted the process to be totally automatic, so I was trying to figure out how we could produce the letters without being involved," McDonald said.

The Office of University and Development Events had been using Formstack for event registrations and other data collection, so it made sense to use it for the visa letter request process as well. When McDonald discovered the Formstack Documents, she found the perfect solution.

McDonald created a visa letter template in Formstack Documents and connected it to the letter request form in Formstack. She set up the fields on the Formstack form so that she would get the exact output needed to populate the Documents template and create a custom letter.

McDonald sets up the letter in Documents once each year, and then the process runs on its own through the established workflow automation: Documents creates a PDF letter based on the Formstack form submission, and the letter is automatically emailed to the student requester.

Now, students can request visa letters throughout the year—even during an off month when the university normally wouldn’t have the resources to process them.

"This way, international students can do their own letters whenever they’re ready or whenever it’s needed for their graduation ceremony," Freels said.

The Outcome

According to Freels and McDonald, creating a fully automated process for visa letter requests has saved the Office of University and Development Events hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars. Bringing efficiency to the process has also benefited students tremendously.

"Three years ago, students were making a submission on Formstack and getting a manual response from us two to four weeks later. Now, they submit a request via Formstack and get the actual letter very quickly—the same day," McDonald said. "And if they make an error in Formstack, they can submit another request and get the corrected letter the same day as well."

The University of Michigan receives over 5,000 visa letter requests each calendar year. Around 3,500 requests were submitted for the most recent spring commencement. According to Freels, it’s great that students no longer have to wait on her office to get what they need. If family members have a visa meeting in their country a year before the event, the student can easily get them the letter for the meeting.

"We can’t guarantee that a country will let a family member visit based on our letter, but we’re doing what we can to help," Freels said.

On top of the visa letter requests, the Office of University and Development events uses Formstack to seamlessly manage other commencement-related processes, such as special accomodation ticketing, faculty and staff attire needs, and volunteer recruitment. The features and integrations that are most beneficial include:

"I think for all the communications our office sends out, we keep in mind our guests. We want to make their participation as easy as possible and provide them with all the information that they’re going to need to have a successful and exciting experience with us," Freels said. "With Formstack, we’re able to that."

Key Results

The University of Michigan (U-M) is a public, postsecondary institution with nearly 45,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled. Every year, the school’s Office of University and Development Events plans over 150 events, including official academic ceremonies like commencement. To give all students the opportunity to have a family member attend their graduation ceremony, the events office allows international students to request a formal letter of invitation, which assists guests who have to apply for a visitor visa to attend commencement. To better serve students and families through an automated visa letter request process, U-M turned to Formstack.

The Challenge

When students first started requesting visa letters, it was a highly manual process. A student would send a request via email, and the Office of University and Development Events would manually draft a letter, print it, and mail it through the postal service.

Eventually, U-M introduced some automation by creating an online visa letter request form. The form helped the university get the information needed to draft a personalized letter, but team members were still developing the letters manually after receiving the digital request. Additionally, they only worked on the letters at specific times of the year, which was inconvenient for students.

"Sometimes students were late requesting a letter or they needed it at a different date than we were ready to send them out, and we’d be inadvertently holding up the visa process," said Jenny Freels, Director of the Office of University and Development Events

The university’s international enrollment—which is currently 15.3% of total enrollment—has increased every year for the past several years. This means the number of letter requests has also increased, overwhelming the events office.

"The letters used to require an extreme amount of manual labor from our staff," Freels said. "At one point, we hired a temp employee just do these letters because we were getting thousands of requests in a calendar year."

When the person who was managing and preparing the visa letters got reassigned without replacement, the events team was faced with a choice to take on the added work or find a technology solution.

The Fix

Hoping to avoid absorbing the extra work, Assistant Director of Ceremonial Events Amy McDonald sought to create fully automated workflows for the visa letter process.

"We wanted the process to be totally automatic, so I was trying to figure out how we could produce the letters without being involved," McDonald said.

The Office of University and Development Events had been using Formstack for event registrations and other data collection, so it made sense to use it for the visa letter request process as well. When McDonald discovered the Formstack Documents, she found the perfect solution.

McDonald created a visa letter template in Formstack Documents and connected it to the letter request form in Formstack. She set up the fields on the Formstack form so that she would get the exact output needed to populate the Documents template and create a custom letter.

McDonald sets up the letter in Documents once each year, and then the process runs on its own through the established workflow automation: Documents creates a PDF letter based on the Formstack form submission, and the letter is automatically emailed to the student requester.

Now, students can request visa letters throughout the year—even during an off month when the university normally wouldn’t have the resources to process them.

"This way, international students can do their own letters whenever they’re ready or whenever it’s needed for their graduation ceremony," Freels said.

The Outcome

According to Freels and McDonald, creating a fully automated process for visa letter requests has saved the Office of University and Development Events hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars. Bringing efficiency to the process has also benefited students tremendously.

"Three years ago, students were making a submission on Formstack and getting a manual response from us two to four weeks later. Now, they submit a request via Formstack and get the actual letter very quickly—the same day," McDonald said. "And if they make an error in Formstack, they can submit another request and get the corrected letter the same day as well."

The University of Michigan receives over 5,000 visa letter requests each calendar year. Around 3,500 requests were submitted for the most recent spring commencement. According to Freels, it’s great that students no longer have to wait on her office to get what they need. If family members have a visa meeting in their country a year before the event, the student can easily get them the letter for the meeting.

"We can’t guarantee that a country will let a family member visit based on our letter, but we’re doing what we can to help," Freels said.

On top of the visa letter requests, the Office of University and Development events uses Formstack to seamlessly manage other commencement-related processes, such as special accomodation ticketing, faculty and staff attire needs, and volunteer recruitment. The features and integrations that are most beneficial include:

"I think for all the communications our office sends out, we keep in mind our guests. We want to make their participation as easy as possible and provide them with all the information that they’re going to need to have a successful and exciting experience with us," Freels said. "With Formstack, we’re able to that."

Key Results

The University of Michigan (U-M) is a public, postsecondary institution with nearly 45,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled. Every year, the school’s Office of University and Development Events plans over 150 events, including official academic ceremonies like commencement. To give all students the opportunity to have a family member attend their graduation ceremony, the events office allows international students to request a formal letter of invitation, which assists guests who have to apply for a visitor visa to attend commencement. To better serve students and families through an automated visa letter request process, U-M turned to Formstack.

The Challenge

When students first started requesting visa letters, it was a highly manual process. A student would send a request via email, and the Office of University and Development Events would manually draft a letter, print it, and mail it through the postal service.

Eventually, U-M introduced some automation by creating an online visa letter request form. The form helped the university get the information needed to draft a personalized letter, but team members were still developing the letters manually after receiving the digital request. Additionally, they only worked on the letters at specific times of the year, which was inconvenient for students.

"Sometimes students were late requesting a letter or they needed it at a different date than we were ready to send them out, and we’d be inadvertently holding up the visa process," said Jenny Freels, Director of the Office of University and Development Events

The university’s international enrollment—which is currently 15.3% of total enrollment—has increased every year for the past several years. This means the number of letter requests has also increased, overwhelming the events office.

"The letters used to require an extreme amount of manual labor from our staff," Freels said. "At one point, we hired a temp employee just do these letters because we were getting thousands of requests in a calendar year."

When the person who was managing and preparing the visa letters got reassigned without replacement, the events team was faced with a choice to take on the added work or find a technology solution.

The Fix

Hoping to avoid absorbing the extra work, Assistant Director of Ceremonial Events Amy McDonald sought to create fully automated workflows for the visa letter process.

"We wanted the process to be totally automatic, so I was trying to figure out how we could produce the letters without being involved," McDonald said.

The Office of University and Development Events had been using Formstack for event registrations and other data collection, so it made sense to use it for the visa letter request process as well. When McDonald discovered the Formstack Documents, she found the perfect solution.

McDonald created a visa letter template in Formstack Documents and connected it to the letter request form in Formstack. She set up the fields on the Formstack form so that she would get the exact output needed to populate the Documents template and create a custom letter.

McDonald sets up the letter in Documents once each year, and then the process runs on its own through the established workflow automation: Documents creates a PDF letter based on the Formstack form submission, and the letter is automatically emailed to the student requester.

Now, students can request visa letters throughout the year—even during an off month when the university normally wouldn’t have the resources to process them.

"This way, international students can do their own letters whenever they’re ready or whenever it’s needed for their graduation ceremony," Freels said.

The Outcome

According to Freels and McDonald, creating a fully automated process for visa letter requests has saved the Office of University and Development Events hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars. Bringing efficiency to the process has also benefited students tremendously.

"Three years ago, students were making a submission on Formstack and getting a manual response from us two to four weeks later. Now, they submit a request via Formstack and get the actual letter very quickly—the same day," McDonald said. "And if they make an error in Formstack, they can submit another request and get the corrected letter the same day as well."

The University of Michigan receives over 5,000 visa letter requests each calendar year. Around 3,500 requests were submitted for the most recent spring commencement. According to Freels, it’s great that students no longer have to wait on her office to get what they need. If family members have a visa meeting in their country a year before the event, the student can easily get them the letter for the meeting.

"We can’t guarantee that a country will let a family member visit based on our letter, but we’re doing what we can to help," Freels said.

On top of the visa letter requests, the Office of University and Development events uses Formstack to seamlessly manage other commencement-related processes, such as special accomodation ticketing, faculty and staff attire needs, and volunteer recruitment. The features and integrations that are most beneficial include:

"I think for all the communications our office sends out, we keep in mind our guests. We want to make their participation as easy as possible and provide them with all the information that they’re going to need to have a successful and exciting experience with us," Freels said. "With Formstack, we’re able to that."

Key Results

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