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Is artificial intelligence the future of immigration in Canada?

By Jesse Caplan

A new program is being introduced into the world of artificial intelligence (AI) that claims that when it launches, it will be the “best artificially and emotionally intelligent virtual immigration advisor in Canada,” according to its website.

Founded in July of 2017 by CEO Nargiz Mammadova, Destin AI is AI-based chatbot created to guide immigrant applicants through the Canadian immigration process.

Destin AI is one of six start up technology companies chosen to compete for a four-month residency with Ryerson University’s Legal Innovation Zone (LIZ). The challenge is sponsored by LIZ and the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, and aims to encourage and support Ontario-based technology companies that want to integrate AI into legal applications.

Destin AI offers a self-assessment eligibility checker, helps to prepare necessary documents, and leads users through the steps of their application. It is currently being programmed in English, however its services will soon be available in different languages. Mammadova said the development of the program was “intensive.”

“We involved immigrants from various countries, as well as immigration lawyers in each step of production. We also received feedback from 100 pilot users.”

She also added that the team members are immigrants themselves, which makes the success of the program personal.

“We want to offer a service that meets the needs of users all around the globe.”

Second-year business management student, Rei Bajraktari, said that as a concept Destin AI sounds like “a really great program” but he worries that not all immigrants are “tech-savvy.”

“My family and I came from a farming background. Computers and apps would be really confusing for someone who isn’t used to them, which is the case for a number of immigrants. It would have to be pretty simple.”

He does admit, however, that the program could mean making the immigration journey easier.

“I’m from Albania, where they don’t have a Canadian embassy. We ended up having to go to Poland, which was where the closest embassy was located. Because of that, it took a long time for our visa to get processed, and financially it cost more too.”

He said that if Destin AI could keep immigrants from having to take extra steps and spend more money, that would be incredibly positive.

“My parents immigrated from the Philippines in 1997,” said second-year business management student Janine Dizon. “My mom was already fluent in English, and they were financially stable so getting here wasn’t too hard.”

Dizon added that her uncle’s immigration in 2014 was also relatively simple.

“He had my mother as a sponsor,” she said. “So financially he was being supported. And she helped him figure out all the paperwork too.”

She recognizes, however, that not everyone has such luck.

“For people who don’t have that support, a program [like Destin AI] could be really helpful.”

But she worries about the price the program might cost.

“It would probably be expensive. Most immigrants come for a better life and to make money in a new country. They don’t necessarily have the money to get there.”

“Currently immigration services can be costly due to the high legal fees,” explained Mammadova. She said that with Destin AI, clients would be able to get answers to their immigration-related questions for free.

She also said that the program will allow clients to choose between making an appointment with a lawyer, or preparing the documents themselves while being guided by Destin AI for “a fraction of the normal cost.”

Bajraktari said that he was concerned such advanced technology would replace the presence of a real person.

Mammadova said that isn’t the goal of Destin AI.

“Technology and humans should work in tandem,” she said. “Some lawyers approach us, scared we’re trying to take their jobs. In reality, we work with lawyers to help them serve their clients’ complex cases.”

She explained that Destin AI could be of service to lawyers, cutting down the amount of time they spend filling out repetitive documents or exchanging emails with clients.

Clarification: A previous version of this article said that Destin AI was “primed to be the first AI-chatbot created to guide immigrant applicants through the Canadian immigration system.” In fact, AI chatbots with the same intent have already been created. 

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