Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Finance & Innovation

This ‘Robot Lawyer’ Is Helping Refugees Apply for Asylum

If smartphone technology makes it easier to moderate your personal life — from water consumption, to physical activity, to daily screen time — it also has the capacity to help you become a more engaged Global Citizen. 

Global Citizen is highlighting apps that give people the tools to engage with the global community with nothing more than a smartphone. 


Navigating the ins and outs of any bureaucratic system — from filing tax returns to applying for financial aid to appealing a traffic violation — can be incredibly daunting. 

But these minor headaches pale in comparison to the process of applying for asylum in a foreign country, often with only a tenuous grasp on the language. 

This is why 20-year-old designer and Stanford student Joshua Browder wants to simplify the process for asylum seekers —  with a bot. 

The creator of DoNotPay, a messenger bot that has helped more than 160,000 people successfully appeal parking violations, is taking on the challenge of helping refugees apply for asylum. 

The messenger bot, a sort of “robot lawyer,” will help asylum seekers in three countries — the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom — navigate the steps of the asylum process by simplifying the language into comprehensible terminology. 

Read more: Refugees Are Paired with With Volunteer Translators Instantly With This New App

The bot walks asylum seekers through the necessary forms for making an asylum claim, and also determines whether that person is eligible to make a claim to begin with. 

In the United States, asylum seekers must follow a seven-step process in order to apply for asylum. This involves filling out a 12-page form, the I-589, that calls for a detailed description of the refugee’s asylum case. 

In Canada, the process is similar, and oftentimes the wait time for refugees to be granted an asylum hearing is quicker than it is in the US.

Since the election of US President Donald Trump, the amount of refugees fleeing the US for Canada has skyrocketed, leading to a surge in asylum applications in Canada. Though Browder did not initially include Canada in his messenger bot, he added it in after Trump’s election, “because of the changes in the political background in the US,” Browder told the Guardian. 

Read more: Want to Protest? This App Will Tell You Where to Go

In the UK, asylum claims can’t be made online, but the bot can help refugees work through the Asylum Support Application Form, which prepares them for the rest of the application process. 

Along with appealing parking tickets and filling out asylum claims, Browder’s messenger bot has also served as a resource for homeless populations looking for temporary housing, helped ensure payment protection insurance for mortgages and credit cards, and even helped disgruntled plane and train passengers lodge delayed travel claims. 

In 2017, it seems as though we’re finally learning that it is possible to teach a robot how to love.