October 16, 2013
While there may be no “clear path” to immigration, as Congress has all but ensured there will be no immigration reform this year, there is Clearpath Immigration. This startup is working within the immigration system to make the immigration process (for those who have a legal right to it) easier, cheaper, and more accessible. For now, it is focused on the 8 million or so people who file upwards of 100 million forms each year. When reform comes, the number of filings could easily double. This represents a significant opportunity for Clearpath.
Given that the immigration process is a multi-step, multi-year process, having a platform that guides, collects, and stores the vital information, while also processing the data to generate actual filings, is of substantial value to millions of immigrants in the USA. Clearpath has built and recently beta-tested its platform that directs users through a series of questions to generate an accurate and complete form. This is more challenging than it sounds as many of the documents and questions call for specific answers that are often confusing or overlooked. Clearpath’s team of former immigration officials and technology experts constantly update the application that monitors the filings to ensure that all errors are detected.
An immigration-specific technology platform is certainly unique and helpful, but accessing the market is a challenge for Clearpath. People seeking some level of immigration status typically are self-directed, relying on family and friends to help them with the forms and process. Others will seek out the assistance of local nonprofits that can educate, explain, and help fill out the forms. Many also seek out lawyers – a costly option in comparison. A technology platform such as Clearpath cannot offer the human touch that many applicants want in the process. As CEO Alan Samuels stated in an interview with TechCocktail, “The [immigration] process is an emotional one. Trust and credibility are often sought after by the applicant in trying to find someone to help them with the forms.” Until Clearpath becomes a trusted and known brand, applicants may not trust it to direct them with the forms. To solve this, Clearpath is forging relationships with the organizations that work directly within the immigration community on a personal level. By accessing these organizations, Clearpath becomes part of the overall experience. The applicants will experience Clearpath as part of a holistic and trusted service, strengthening its brand and increasing its recognition.
While Clearpath does not view itself as a “legal disruptor,” it recognizes that its platform does provide a service that many lawyers offer. As Samuels explained, “It is not our goal to replace lawyers in anyway, rather, our goal is to simply apply the corresponding policies and procedures to the information provided by the customer.” In essence, this makes Clearpath more of an information or legal engineer, not a legal disruptor. Truth be told, lawyers are not necessary for any of the forms or procedures associated with seeking immigration status. The customers who look to lawyers for help are typically not merely looking for help filling out forms, but are seeking a trusted and credible person to work with and explain the often confusing process and options. With Clearpath’s pricing topping out at around $200, it represents a significant cost savings for those applicants who do not want to engage a lawyer but want an efficient method of filing.
For lawyers who are savvy enough, Clearpath could represent the opportunity to create a tech platform add-on to their services. Much like FairDocument, lawyers could use Clearpath as a lead generator for clients as well as a way to augment the process-heavy work. Samuels agrees that this could be an option and shared that they have been approached by law firms large and small to explore options. If Clearpath does forge a relationship with lawyers in this regard, they may likely be called “legal enablers.”
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