Making Government Work

For Immigrants Waiting on Paper Bureaucracy, This Online System Could Be the Answer

October 21, 2014
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For Immigrants Waiting on Paper Bureaucracy, This Online System Could Be the Answer
FileRight attempts to digitize the immigration process. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Will politicians allow applicants to use the online software?

One of the problems stemming from the recent surge of child refugees into the U.S. from Central America? Each applicant could wait years before their immigration cases are processed, thanks to our backlogged system (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, or USCIS, receives millions of paper applications each year).

The people behind a San Francisco-based company, FileRight, think they have the solution: an online system for filing immigrant claims, which will allow individuals to fill out their own forms without hiring expensive lawyers — similar to the way that the software TurboTax enables citizens to complete their own taxes online. These forms can then be digitally processed, potentially speeding up the process.

Now, FileRight just has to convince the government to allow online applications.

According to Megan R. Wilson of The Hill, FileRight hired lobbyists in January and has been meeting with Obama administration officials.

Cesare Alessandrini, founder and chief executive of FileRight, is the son of Italian immigrants who got the idea for the program when he was trying to help his soon-to-be Argentinian wife apply for citizenship. “I had two options: I could have hired a lawyer for $5,000 — which I didn’t have — or I could do it myself,” he tells Wilson. “How hard could it be?”

Alessandrini found the application process confusing and complicated — even for a native English speaker. So he began designing FileRight, a system that could help some applicants avoid denials for small errors such as spelling mistakes or writing on the wrong line, which are routine with the current, paper-based system.

FileRight isn’t the first company to attempt to digitize the immigration process. As we reported in February, Clearpath Inc. is also developing software to streamline the visa application process.

Regardless of which company’s software proves the most effective, it seems likely that digitizing the process will certainly help relieve some of the immigration backlog.

MORE: Meet the Entrepreneur Creating a ‘TurboTax for Immigration’

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