Legal Immigration is a Mess. These Startups are Trying to Help

Boundless and Borderwise are helping people get green cards by demystifying immigration’s mad bureaucratic maze–and might even change policy in the process.

This story is part of our Startup Resistance series, which profiles the entrepreneurs and activists addressing issues that have been neglected or opposed by the Trump administration.

When Xiao Wang arrived in the United States as a boy, his parents spent five months’ worth of rent money on lawyers to help with the family’s green card application. And in their community, everyone had a story to tell about navigating the maze of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, with its infinite forms, confusing questions, and thousands of dollars in legal fees.

“It was always assumed that immigration had to be difficult and it was a right of passage to stay in America to get through this system,” Wang says. “It was a tragic badge of honor to have more challenges through your process than other people.”

But a few years ago, Wang began speaking to more immigration lawyers, families, and policy experts to try to understand just why it is that the process of immigrating to the United States legally is so difficult. He couldn’t find a good explanation. So in February 2017, he launched Boundless, a service that helps applicants fill out their applications for green cards online for $750 a pop (much less than typical lawyer fees, which range from $2,000 to $5,000). But this is no Turbo Tax for immigration–Boundless also cultivates a network of vetted lawyers who review each application to make sure it has no errors. On Boundless’s website, about 7,000 people a month begin their applications, and so far the company has a 100% success rate once applicants reach the interview stage of the process.

For Wang, this is just the start. By analyzing how different applications are processed–like how long it takes to hear back from the government in different parts of the country, or if certain extra documents will likely be requested even if they’re not explicitly required in the application–the Boundless team can start to anticipate how to build stronger applications. For instance, while the government may only require one year’s worth of tax documentation, Boundless includes the fact that the government actually wants at least three years.

BY KATHARINE SCHWAB for FAST COMPANY
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