SimpleCitizen is TurboTax for immigration

by Y Combinator6/20/2016

SimpleCitizen helps individuals and families navigate the complex process of applying for green cards, green card renewals, and citizenship. Filing with SimpleCitizen costs just $249 and only takes a few hours instead of months.

Immigrants, especially those from low-income families, face numerous obstacles when applying for U.S. citizenship. Knowing where to start can be confusing and visiting the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) presents them with hundreds of forms and little instruction. And if English or Spanish is not their first language, then they’re out of luck.

Most people hire a lawyer to help them figure out which documents they need to file. Tacking on legal fees makes the process even more challenging, with some lawyers charging over $18,000.

How it works SimpleCitizen is TurboTax for immigration. Users follow the guided application until the checklist is finished. If additional documents are required, users can upload them directly to the site.

The application, upon completion, is sent to a SimpleCitizen-approved immigration lawyer for review to ensure users have the best application possible.

If a user has any questions during the application process they can reference SimpleCitizen’s library of educational videos or ask the SimpleCitizen team directly through chat. SimpleCitizen also has a growing community where users can ask and answer immigration-related questions.

Why now? Since the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986, the application process for citizenship has not changed much. President Obama instituted a few executive orders that have affected immigration policy, but the application process remains the same as it has been for the past few decades.

That’s not to say that the U.S. government hasn’t tried. The USCIS has poured $3.1 billion into digitizing the application process, but still has no working product after a decade of trying. The decreasing costs of technology and lack of bureaucracy make it the perfect time for a private company to create software that streamlines this outdated process.

SimpleCitizen estimates that 3 million people go through the green card, green card renewal, and citizenship process every year. And while nothing can be done to increase the number of people accepted, SimpleCitizen aims to help as many of those people successfully apply while shortening a multi-year process.

What’s next? SimpleCitizen has been exclusively working with individuals to help them apply for their green card or citizenship. Soon they’ll offer other services such as visa applications.

SimpleCitizen’s long-term vision is to power the entire immigration system — streamlining the experience for individuals, families, attorneys, NGOs, HR departments, and governments.

What YC likes about SimpleCitizen

“We believe there is a huge opportunity for software to help make it easier and more affordable for people to deal with immigration. This is a sound business with a good team working on an important problem.”
Dalton Caldwell, Partner, Y Combinator

How did it start? Sam Stoddard met his wife, EunJoon Yoon, while he was getting his Master’s degree in accounting. Soon after getting married, Yoon had to go through the immigration process. When they approached a lawyer, they were told that the process would cost $2,500 in legal fees despite being an easy case. Stoddard attempted to do the application by himself but quickly realized that it was far more complex than he originally thought. He started looking for digital solutions but could not find anything that brought all the pieces together, so he set out to build his own.


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