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Keystone Crossroads: Rust or Revival? explores the urgent challenges pressing upon Pennsylvania's cities. Four public media newsrooms are collaborating to report in depth on the root causes of our state's urban crisis -- and on possible solutions. Keystone Crossroads offers reports on radio, web, social media, television and newspapers, and through public events.Our partner stations are WHYY in Philadelphia, WPSU in State College and witf in Harrisburg. Read all of the partner stories here.Pittsburgh’s WQED joins the collaboration as an associate partner. Support for this project comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

New App Helps Immigrants Deal With Complicated Tangle Of Forms

Jennifer Lynn


For the 2 million people who move to the U.S. every year who wish to live and work here legally on a permanent basis, one big step involves paperwork — and lots of it. Filling out immigration forms can be tedious, confounding, and it comes at an expense.

In an effort to streamline the process, attorneys Jeremy Peskin and James Pittman have created Borderwise, a Philadelphia company with an app that prepares immigration applications based on answers to simple questions.

"If someone wants to apply for a green card, one thing they would do is go onto the government's website and try to figure out what forms they need to submit," Pittman said. "In order to put together a green card application, you'd need to fill out five or 10 of these forms."

Pittman said that there are good options and bad ones in terms of finding help with green cards, many of which involve the expensive process of finding an immigration attorney.

"I am Canadian, and I had been in the U.S. for about 10 years," Peskin said. After marrying an American citizen, Peskin tried to go through the process of getting a green card but found the online process unbearable. 

"After about three hours of trying to find out exactly which forms I needed, I gave up and hired an immigration lawyer," Peskin said. That lawyer was Pittman. 

The Borderwise app condenses the process into a simplified set of questions meant to cut back on the hassle of filling out numerous forms. The app is set up to show a much less cluttered screen as well.

"The first question that we ask is are you applying for a green card for yourself of a spouse," Peskin said. "The system intelligently responds to the answer, and the user is also alerted to potential problems with their application."

The actual immigration process can cause frustration to those seeking to legally become citizens, but it could easier with qualified help.

"Immigrants tend to need help, and if they rely upon individuals who are not qualified to give them advice, it can cause problems in the case," Pittman said. "There may be many people who with just the right amount of help would be able to handle most of the work themselves. The application we've developed would result in thousands of dollars of cost savings to your average immigrant."

Find this report and others at the site of our partner, Keystone Crossroads