SimpleCitizen is launching today to make applying for a green card as simple as doing your taxes. Every year, 1.4 million people who have entered the U.S. for work, study or travel, apply for a green card, according to founder and CEO Sam Stoddard.
Stoddard was prompted to start SimpleCitizen after struggling to complete the citizenship process with his wife, who is originally from South Korea.
“We realized we had two options: pay a lawyer thousands of dollars to do the paperwork for us, or do it on our own,” says Stoddard. They picked the latter, which took about four months of researching and filling out forms on nights and weekends.
“It ends up being about 80 pages of government forms that you put together in a packet, and there are a lot of complexities around how you assemble it,” says Stoddard. “The forms need to be in a specific order, and some need to be printed on special paper.”
SimpleCitizen won’t complete the application for you, but it provides tutorials to simplify every step of the process.
This includes instructing users on where to find specific information, allowing them to take pictures of and quickly upload documents, and helping them schedule an interview at the nearest U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office.
SimpleCitizen’s application service costs a flat fee of $249, and if a user is still overwhelmed, the company offers a personalized lawyer review for an additional $99.
During a one-month beta, SimpleCitizen conducted hundreds of interviews with people who had completed the process to determine where people struggled the most. Only 20 beta users have completed the application process through SimpleCitizen so far, but the company reports that over 4,000 people have signed up.
Stoddard estimates that filling out the green card application will take an average of two weeks with SimpleCitizen, although one user who was traveling was able to complete the entire process on his phone in under an hour (he had already prepared and uploaded the majority of the documents).
Today’s release, available for English, Spanish, and Chinese speakers, is just phase one of SimpleCitizen, Stoddard says. The company will continue to build out additional services, like a collaborative editing platform, and integrate with databases like LinkedIn to automate more of the form-completion process.
“We want to be the online, go-to source for all things immigration,” says Stoddard. “The green card application is really the beginning of an at-minimum five-year path to citizenship, and we want to guide people from start to finish.”