Seattle startup Boundless helping immigrants navigate visa maze

The startup is building a website that walks people through the often complicated process of applying for visas, focusing on spousal visas first.

In 1989, when he was just 3 years old, Xiao Wang boarded a plane in China, bound for the U.S. He was traveling to rejoin his parents, who had immigrated to Arizona.

Their sole focus “was how soon we could get reunited as a family,” Wang said this week from his office in Seattle’s Pioneer Square.

His parents paid the equivalent of five months’ rent for a lawyer to help the family get legal permanent residency visas, often referred to as green cards. The expense was worth it to them, because the stakes were so high, Wang said, and his parents didn’t want to risk getting anything wrong in the confusing web of government forms.

Wang has now started a company — Boundless — to help U.S. immigrants apply for visas to bring their families into the country, at less than the cost of a lawyer. Boundless is focusing on spousal visas first, something any U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident can apply for.

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The startup, the fourth spinout of Seattle studio Pioneer Square Labs, is building a website that walks people through the often complicated process of applying for visas. Boundless collects information online from applicants and uses technology to fill out the forms for them, offering advice and support along the way.

Wang — who previously worked for Amazon and helped launch the Amazon Go cashier-less convenience store — and his two co-founders have spent the better part of this year interviewing more than a hundred immigrants and found some common themes: People want to find out if they are eligible to apply for certain visas, and they want help completing the forms.

The lowest moment for an applicant often comes right after mailing the application packet, Wang said.

The Boundless team refers to it as the “pit of despair,” the moment when the envelope has left your hands and you are left wondering if everything in it is complete and correct.

Boundless aims to take away some of that stress. Its website puts all information about spousal visas in one place, and it tracks applications after they are submitted, sending applicants regular alerts about how their applications are progressing through the system.

“The idea is that we can help people through something very stressful and get them success very quickly,” Wang said.

Anxiety around immigration issues has certainly increased under the Trump administration, Wang said. But those concerns weren’t what sparked Boundless — instead it was what the founders saw as a complicated, confusing process that could be simplified through technology.

“Starting a new life is hard enough as is,” Wang said. “The extra amount of complexity is heartbreaking.”

The startup helps legal immigrants navigate the federal system, and the technology…

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