Clearpath Updates its “TurboTax for Immigration Paperwork” Platform

While politicians trade verbal jabs over immigration reform, a New York company has unveiled a new version of its software that simplifies paperwork—and may whittle down some costs—for filing immigration documents.

Alan Samuels, the CEO of Clearpath, says his company has been working on a new design and multi-language platform that presents such government forms in a straightforward way online. “There’s really no excuse to not be taking advantage of the simple things technology brings to the table,” he says.

Clearpath makes a variety of forms available for such needs as becoming a permanent resident and applying for family members to immigrate to the U.S. The online platform includes error checking on the way users complete the forms and guides them to answer only the sections that pertain to them. “We populate the form for you so you don’t need to take it to a lawyer for review,” Samuels says.

Currently the platform offers documents for citizenship and deferred action for childhood arrivals in both English and Spanish. Within the next 10 days the company plans to add translations of these documents in Portuguese and Korean, says Samuels. “I would like to get to 10 to 15 languages over the next three to six months, but it’s a matter of prioritization,” he says.

And that priority is on addressing language groups with the highest volumes of filings. By the company’s estimates, 100 million forms are submitted each year to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. Clearpath adopted a model comparable to TurboTax software and online legal documentation service LegalZoom, Samuels says, using technology to walk through the process of filling out forms. People with complex cases such as those seeking refugee or asylum status will need to speak with attorneys, he says, but the majority of people may only need to complete basic filings documents.

Though Clearpath helps users fill out forms online, government agencies do not accept immigration documents through e-filing, Samuels says. That means applicants must print out and mail the finished forms themselves (with instructions on where and how to submit). The company would like to see a transformation of the process, he says, to accommodate electronic submissions.

Citing the methods by which identities are verified in the commercial world, Samuels believes it is time for more efficiency to be put into play with immigration filings. “If you’re trying to get a credit card or open a bank account, the way that businesses prove your identity is through technology, data-driven solutions,” he says. “There are more robust ways of confirming? identity than a paperwork-driven process.”

The route to immigration can seem daunting, says Samuels, especially when a four-page form comes with 11 pages of instructions. “Lawyers are going to charge you from $4,000 to $12,000 to help you through that, and in many cases you don’t need them,” he says. Samuels, who originally hails from Britain, says he has personally been through the rigors of obtaining U.S. citizenship. “Some parts I did with lawyers, some parts I did myself,” he says.

Clearpath was founded in 2008 by its chairman Michael Petrucelli; Samuels joined the company last year.

Intensely divisive politics may dominate the national debate on immigration reform, but Samuels says the company focuses only on streamlining the filing process. “If you have the right to be a legal permanent resident, to be a citizen, you should be able to do that in the smoothest possible way,” he says. “If you’re not eligible for a government status, we can’t help you become eligible.” Even if immigration reform does not come to pass, Samuels says, the cumbersome, painful paperwork process still needs to be addressed.

There is a backlog of some 8 million people, he says, who are eligible to file for different immigration statuses but have not done so. “There’s potentially up to 11 million people who are here in the country in an undocumented fashion,” Samuels says. “If immigration reform comes through, some amount of that population will get new pathways to an official legal status in the country.”

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