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Getting a Green Card for Less Green

August 15, 2018

As seen in the Penn Law Journal


‌Jeremy Peskin L’13 can credit love specifically, his blooming relationship with a Penn Medicine student during his third year of law school — for the success of his new business, which helps immigrants and lawyers with the American green card application process.

Peskin, a Toronto native, attended Penn Law because he wanted to learn more about corporate tax law after working in Morgan Stanley’s global capital markets group in New York. Before that, he had been in the United States on a student visa when he attended Emory University.

After graduating from Penn Law, Peskin, then on a work visa and engaged to Sara Manning GR’13, M’15, worked at Proskauer Rose in New York.

At the same time, he discovered a love for software coding and developed a grant-funded startup called MatchMe, which is a site that organizes crowdfunding for nonprofits.

In 2015, he married his American girlfriend. Upon the happy nuptials, Peskin had two realizations: he needed to apply for a green card, and, with a fresh start in Philadelphia where Manning would complete her medical residency, he wanted to work for a technology startup rather than a law firm.

It all came together when he sat down in front of his computer to apply for a green card. “I was looking for an opportunity, and in the quagmire of applying for my green card, I found it,” Peskin said.

As a tax lawyer, Peskin had been confident he’d be able to handle the legal process as there are similarities between tax and immigration law. He soon realized that accurately completing the complicated forms — which can comprise about a dozen different forms and about 40 pages of paperwork — was going to take too long to do without an immigration lawyer.

He hired James Pittman, an attorney who for the next six months guided Peskin through the process. During that time, a business opportunity emerged and the two of them seized it, figuring out a way to reduce the paperwork for immigration lawyers and help immigrants who can’t afford the steep $2,000 to $5,000 cost for green card applications.

In October 2016, Peskin and Pittman launched two web applications: Borderwise, which immigrants use to prepare immigration applications on their home computers, and Docketwise, which immigration lawyers use to manage their practices. Lawyers buy Docketwise through a monthly subscription; immigrants pay $500 to use Borderwise at home. Borderwise keeps $200 and the remaining $300 goes to the immigration attorneys who review the forms for their clients.

In February 2017, the duo made a radical move: they began offering the immigrant program for $1 to applicants with less than $30,000 in annual income. “The travel ban pushed us into action, that was sort of the final straw,” Peskin said. In the following two months, more than 700 immigrants started preparing applications on Borderwise, and that number has continued to grow. Peskin said the offer will be available in perpetuity, as he and Pittman build a larger network of pro bono immigration lawyers.

Attorneys who work with Borderwise assist in all facets of the immigration process. Initially, Borderwise helped immigrants secure green cards through family sponsorships but now also assists with naturalization applications. Peskin hopes to expand services to fiancé sponsorship and employment-based green card applications by September. To date, more than 100,000 applications have been prepared across Borderwise and Docketwise.

The $1 dollar promotion led to a storm of media coverage, which was a coup for business and a benefit to immigrants who did not know about Borderwise. It also generated offers of help from a wide range of people, including an Iraqi refugee, Philadelphia’s chief data officer, and a number of attorneys. “We really got the feeling that the community was supporting us and loving what we were doing,” Peskin said, “and that really meant a lot to us.”