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Indiana University Maurer School of Law

AutoVisas: Data-Scraping Legal Technology in Immigration Law

Navigating early-stage startup complexities with a game-changing artificial intelligence platform

“The U.S. immigration system is confusing, even for legal professionals. If you violate the terms of your visa, the consequences can be disastrous. The government might cancel your visa, ban you from the country for 10 years, and deport you at your expense. If you are working, studying, or simply living in the U.S. on a visa, many factors determine how long you can legally stay. Fortunately, [AutoVisas] makes things easy by actively monitoring your status and keeping you informed of critical deadlines, unexpected changes, and, most importantly, your current legal status.”

AutoVisas Inc.



AutoVisas joins LawyerMetrics as one of the few early-stage startups covered in the Business Planning course, providing a framework for later-stage startups like PactSafe and VisaNow. In addition to laying the groundwork for early-stage startup business considerations, this case study introduced the class to one of the most important topics in legal technology, specifically using and implementing an artificial intelligence platform in the legal field.

What is this case study about? 

In May of 2022, Stephan Eggum established AutoVisas Inc. (“AutoVisas”), a cutting-edge legal tech start-up that utilizes a generative AI platform to accelerate the American immigration process. Stephan’s unique personal background and experiences in the law positioned him well to generate a product that solves a complex immigration issue plaguing thousands each year.

The path to founding AutoVisas was not necessarily smooth and involved significant risks, as Stephan departed one of the top immigration law firms in the world to pursue the venture. This case study delves into Stephan’s journey to founding AutoVisas, capturing Stephan’s experience—and hardships therein—at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy LLP (“Fragomen”).

Guided by Stephan’s devout intent to rectify the intricacies and deficiencies in the American immigration space, this story outlines the success and legal concerns of implementing a revolutionary legal product that could impact thousands of individuals and organizations across the globe.

This case study will begin by detailing Stephan’s background and journey to law school, contributing to his decision to begin a career in immigration law. Next, the study will describe the path to creating AutoVisas and the major immigration issues that it attempts to resolve. Stephan has encountered several critical business and legal questions since founding AutoVisas. The case study will detail a few of these by examining AutoVisas’ sales approach and entity selection before concluding with the legal risks that the product faces today.

This case study is organized into the following four sections:

  1. Stephan Eggum and the origins of AutoVisas: One principle guided Stephan’s life up to and through law school—a desire to help others. 
  2. The Problem AutoVisas Solves: Navigating nuanced visa requirements in American immigration law is hard. Implementing a working legal product into the American immigration space is even harder.
  3. Open planning issues: Governance and intellectual property are intricacies in early-stage startups that require quality planning.
  4. Software-use risks: Success is not always as simple as creating a working product. There are legal risks that must be navigated every step of the way.

1. Stephan Eggum and the origins of AutoVisas 


A photo of Stephan Eggum from his LinkedIn profile. 

A. Stephan’s Unique Background

Stephan Eggum’s personal background is much less conventional than that of the typical law student—and it likely contributed to his desire to create a company that solves a significant bottleneck problem for real people. Stephan grew up in Phoenix,

Arizona, and was greatly influenced by his father, who has extensive experience providing humanitarian aid and running non-profit organizations.
His father now runs a non-profit that helps provide wells and clean water to villages in sub-Saharan Africa. This work has expanded outside of Africa to countries like Nepal and the Philippines. Stephan’s early exposure to charitable work significantly shaped his future interest in international law.

“I went on a mission to Mexico [for the] first time when I was five years old, like using a pickaxe in trenches for a sprinkler system for an orphanage in Mexico [and] went to Russia for the first time as well. I’ve been to different countries on like 12 different trips with them. So, it certainly made immigration more appealing to me.

School, in general, was not always appealing to Stephan. He attended Arizona University for the first semester before deciding to drop out. Stephan worked temporary jobs for a period of time before deciding to return to college after realizing that he would eventually need an education to impact change. Stephan decided to enroll in Glendale Community College. He completed a couple of years before transferring to Northern Arizona University and graduating at the age of twenty-five.

Stephan then turned his focus towards applying to law school. He scored incredibly high on his LSAT and applied to a number of schools across the country. Stephan was admitted into several elite law schools, including The Indiana Maurer School of Law. Like many law students, tuition costs were a major concern. Fortunately, Stephan received a substantial scholarship offer to attend Maurer, which made it even more cost-effective than staying in-state, and ultimately decided to attend Maurer.

B. Law School and First Job at Fragomen

Much like his path to law school, Stephan’s journey to his first job at one of the largest immigration firms in the world was somewhat unconventional. Stephan arrived at Maurer initially thinking that he would work in public defense. He spent his 1L summer at the Marion Public Defender Agency but did not have the experience he was anticipating. He found himself struggling with the thought of defending individuals he knew to be guilty of severe crimes and decided to pursue a different practice area other than public defense.

He spent his 3L summer at a full-service firm in Phoenix and received a return offer. However, during his 3L year, Stephan learned that the firm would be moving to Tucson, Arizona, a location he was not eager to work in. Instead, Stephan prioritized finding a job in Phoenix and began contacting alumni in the area. He connected with Bonnie Gibson, the co-managing partner of Fragomen in their Phoenix office and a member of the Maurer alumni board.

Stephan met with Bonnie several times over the summer to ask about the Phoenix legal market and some of the practice areas he was interested in. After taking the Arizona Bar, he was offered the opportunity to help on a temporary project at Fragomen centered around immigration law.

He was initially tasked with aiding the senior attorney on the project but was forced to lead the assignment when the senior attorney decided to take time off. This level of responsibility that was given to Stephan was not typical for young associates, and he was heavily relied upon to lead the project. Fragomen was so impressed with the work product Stephan produced that they offered him a full-time associate position at the firm.

C. Evolution of Immigration Work While at Fragomen

The full-time offer began Stephan’s seven-year career at Fragomen. He initially started working in Fragomen’s Phoenix office. However, the Phoenix office would merge with the Silicon Valley office, which resulted in a move to California. He tried working out of the Silicon Valley office for about a year but ultimately requested to return to Phoenix.

One of the most significant motivating factors behind his request was the repetitive and increasingly dull nature of the work assignments he was being provided. Fragomen is set up uniquely when compared to other large law firms.

“So I’d say the biggest difference is there are about ten support employees, paralegals, and admin assistants for every attorney.”

This differs from what he estimates is three paralegals for each attorney at other law firms. Stephan stated that he would be managing somewhere between sixteen and twenty-five paralegals at any given time of the year. Paralegals were responsible for much of the casework, while attorneys reviewed the work product and input corrections to the paralegal’s draft. Stephan estimates that in his first year working in the Silicon Valley office, he filed around 4,000 visas.

“It became so second nature that I was just doing it subconsciously right. I know exactly what the case looks like, because it looks like hundreds of other cases, and so I could flip through it really quickly. I could review . . . one time I did like 25 in an hour.”

Upon returning to Phoenix, Stephan was placed on a team with much greater case variety. In Silicon Valley, the work revolved around one Fortune 500 client repeatedly doing three types of cases. In Phoenix, this changed to working with around fifteen clients and doing different assignments more frequently. Stephan liked working with a wide array of clients and learning about their varying businesses. Overall, his satisfaction with work at Fragomen drastically increased once he was back in Phoenix.

However, this would change with the election of President Donald Trump. The change in presidential administration made legal immigration work much more challenging. Fees did not go up, but cases became more demanding and time-consuming.

“Basically from January to the end of March it was more like, you know, 80-90 hours a week, without any kind of additional compensation.”

Fragomen’s business model often involved a locked-in contract with a company for around three years while charging a flat fee. Despite increased work difficulty, the firm could only re-negotiate fee structures once the contract expired. Stephan found himself working much more demanding hours but saw no benefit from the increased time commitment.

Stephan valued the salary that the prominent law firm provided, but he found himself unable to even enjoy any of the monetary benefits due to the job’s demands. Furthermore, he began to see adverse health consequences as a result of the long and stressful work hours. This came in the form of cluster headaches that could prevent him from working for hours.

“I’d get a cluster headache in the middle of the day, and there’s nothing I could do. . . . I mean, they’re completely debilitating. [O]nce it was done, I’d work for a few hours. Get another one, work a few hours more, you know. Sometimes, I was working till midnight or one in the morning just to make up for hours that I missed in the middle of the day while incapacitated.”

His health became such a concern that his wife, also an attorney at Fragomen, begged him to quit. Three days after quitting, Stephan went out to his father’s ranch in Oklahoma and spent ten days there. He did not have a single cluster headache during that time.

D. Early Days of AutoVisas

The idea for Auovisas did not come to Stephan immediately after leaving Fragomen. Instead, Stephan began doing contract work for a few small firms before enrolling in computer programming courses. Stephan had seven years of legal experience at one of the top law firms in the world and had seen first-hand some of the technological struggles that firms, particularly those in the immigration space, faced.

Fragomen was very good at streamlining manual processes. However, this was not the case for the firm’s technology capabilities. Stephan believed that firms could implement minor software changes to make attorney life more efficient and manageable. Simple technological tools, like Excel, could have made work more efficient and cost-effective. Furthermore, Stephan believed several tasks that paralegals and attorneys were responsible for could be automated.

Computer programming school was more challenging than anticipated for Stephan. He was ultimately unable to learn how to code fully and was not personally able to build the applicable technical system that he envisioned. Despite this apparent setback, Stephan developed an equally valuable skill – the ability to speak the language of programmers.

“I didn’t learn how to build the tech myself. But the most important thing that I learned was the language of computer programming. I mean how programmers talk to each other, how software engineers talk, the lingo, and so I could communicate with them.”

An equally valuable development from his enrollment in computer programming courses was meeting his future Chief Technology Officer, Aaron Brown. Aaron was working for Capital One at the time but made an effort to help Stephan with homework for his courses.

Additionally, Stephan founded Easy Green Immigration to continue getting income following his time at Fragomen. Stephan continued to do much of the same work he had previously done at the firm but with less of the stress and scheduling. He continues to do legal immigration work, often providing services to previous clients who call him for assistance. Stephan estimates he could work part-time just with Easy Green Immigration and make around $200,000. Easy Green Immigration continues to provide a steady income stream for him to this day.

The founding of AutoVisas was thanks to the investment and suggestion of a former client of Stephan’s. Stephan was on vacation when he received a WhatsApp message from a former client that he had helped keep in the United States after getting him a green card in 2015. The two caught up on the phone, and the former client told him that he had recently sold his startup for $80 million and hoped to launch a new venture. The client described the idea and mentioned wanting Stephan to run it.

E. Current Structure of AutoVisas

Stephan was surprised by his angel investor’s initial proposal for the equity distribution of the company. He anticipated a proposal along the lines of a 50/50 split of ownership. To Stephan’s surprise, the client only asked for 10% of the equity, with the other 90% going to Stephan.

Furthermore, the client offered to take care of all the fundraising efforts and to provide the initial corporate clients for the venture.
The proposed venture centered around improving legal immigration technology by creating a platform that automatically monitors clients’ legal status in the United States to prevent overstays and immigration violations.

Stephan turned to technology to care for much of the legal work necessary to incorporate the AutoVisas venture. AutoVisas is a Delaware C corporation, and all the paperwork required to become properly incorporated was done using Legal Zoom. Although there may be a need to re-look at the bylaws in the future, Stephan is currently pleased with the documentation he received via Legal Zoom for incorporation.

Stephan’s previous client obtained his 10% equity interest while Stephan became the majority owner. His Chief Technology Officer also obtained equity in the entity. Today, the company is structured as a law firm connected to a technology firm, with the technology firm being funded through angel investors.


2. The Problem AutoVisas Solves

A. The Complexities of United States Immigration Law

Immigration to the United States has become increasingly difficult since the passing of the Immigration Act of 1924, which has made everyone in the world ineligible to immigrate to the United States unless they can demonstrate they fit into an eligible category. Applicants face incredibly slim chances of success and are tasked with navigating a very complex immigration system.

Chart Large

David J. Bier, “Why Legal Immigration Is Nearly Impossible,” Cato Institute (June 23, 2023).

There are five exceptions to the worldwide ban on immigration: 1) the refugee program, 2) the diversity lottery, 3) family sponsorship, 4) employment‐based self‐sponsorship, and 5) employer sponsorship. See David J. Bier, “Why Legal Immigration Is Nearly Impossible,” Cato Institute (June 23, 2023).

Employer sponsorship would appear to be a category eligible to anyone, given the applicant has an employer sponsor. However, this exception cannot be utilized very easily. Typically, applicants will initially come to the United States on a temporary visa, such as an H-1B. The H-1B visa will normally allow an individual to stay in the United States for three years, but only 85,000 can be issued nationwide each year. See David J. Bier, “Why Legal Immigration Is Nearly Impossible,” Cato Institute (June 23, 2023).

To gain a temporary visa, an applicant must get approval from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”). USCIS will issue an applicant an approval notice with a document called an I-94, which states how long the applicant can stay in the United States. Temporary visas can be renewed and are frequently used by companies to allow employees to begin working in the country while they wait through the lengthy green card process. Many workers will end up being in the United States for ten to twenty before they actually obtain a green card.

Keeping track of the expiration date on temporary visas can be challenging for applicants, particularly when a non-permanent resident travels outside the United States.

“When you come back through customs, Customs and Border Protection issues a new I-94, that supersedes the one that you’ve got from USCIS. Problem is, people will have this document from USCIS [saying] they can stay in the US for another 2 years. Well last time they entered the U.S. and Customs and Border Protection issued a new entry document that’s online.”

The I-94 document is given to all non-United States citizens upon entering the country and will provide an expiration date that often contradicts the temporary visa expiration date. See USCIS Form I-94. For example, an I-94 may state that an individual can stay in the United States for six months even though the temporary visa indicates the individual can stay for two years. Overstaying is problematic because overstaying in the country can lead to harsh penalties for those on temporary visas.

Overstaying will result in an individual being barred from returning to the United States for three to ten years. These penalties become more and more severe the longer one overstays without proper authorization. See Overstaying Visa In The US.

Stephan found that often while assessing documents for an extension application, a client’s visa would have already expired after pulling the record from customs. Many individuals forget to check their new records upon re-entering the country to confirm they have the correct dates entered by customs.

Correcting customs errors became increasingly difficult after the Trump administration entered the White House. Overstaying a visa and being forced to return to one’s country can be devastating professionally for individuals and collectively for businesses in general. Monitoring client data and notifying clients of upcoming visa deadlines became the issues that Stephan and AutoVisas attempted to resolve.

B. AutoVisas’ Solution

AutoVisas offers a suite of products that aim to provide clients with security by actively monitoring immigration status and keeping users informed of critical deadlines, unexpected changes, and current legal status. The service’s main draw is its product, Status Protector, which proactively checks client immigration information every month to minimize the risk of overstaying in the United States.

This video shows a Status Protector Demo from AutoVisas’ Youtube Channel.

The program automatically scrapes the Customs and Border Protection website and pulls new entry documents while extracting necessary data. The company built optical character recognition technology that extracts data from an entry document and compares it against the other immigration information in the client’s file.

If any unexpected changes are detected, the program will send an automated alert to the client to inform them of a mistake on their most recent entry. No competitors offer a product very similar to what AutoVisas does with Status Protector, thus making it a potentially appealing product for companies and firms dealing with immigration issues.

Stephan has not yet filed a patent on the product, but he has indicated that this is something he will likely do in the near future. Obtaining a patent would prevent a competitor from copying AutoVisas’ unique technology and allow Stephan to sell the patent down the line.

Individuals can sign up for AutoVisas’ services, but the main targets have been enterprise customers, particularly law firms. For immigration work, most law firms have legal professional liability built into their contracts with companies to maintain the immigration status of employees.

Typically, firms will have paralegals or administrative employees manually check if their clients have returned to the United States and had a mix-up with paperwork. This requires typing in biographical information from passports, which is a tedious process.

“So 4,000 employees, you’re looking at checking 10,000 records every 6 months.”

These checks typically aren’t done frequently enough, and certainly not on the month-by-month basis that AutoVisas is capable of. Stephan calculated how much money a large immigration firm, Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP (“Berry Appleman”), would save by automating this process. The total amount saved came out to $3 million.

C. Unresolved Sales and Marketing Issue

Stephan has had to refine his sales approach and is still attempting to find the ideal client base for AutoVisas. There has yet to be a clear pathway to consumers for the product, which has resulted in a dispute between Stephan and his co-founder.

As mentioned, AutoVisas’ target clients have been enterprise customers, particularly large law firms. For some time, Stephan was in contact with Berry Appleman about the firm potentially utilizing AutoVisas’ services and products. The large firm would have been a significant sale for the company, considering the size of Berry Appleman and the amount of immigration work that the firm is engaged in. Unfortunately, Berry Appleman has not committed to any agreement despite the significant amount of time Stephan has put into attempting to close the deal.

This has led to a shift in sales strategy. Instead of targeting large law firms, Stephan has begun pitching medium and small-sized firms with much greater success. Proposing AutoVisas to large firms requires dealing with firm bureaucracy and the various internal committees that must approve adopting a new product. Small and medium-sized firms are much more receptive to adopting new technology and do not have as many bureaucratic hoops to jump through for approval.

Stephan has dealt with a founder dispute over AutoVisas’ sales approach, highlighting the importance of identifying a cohesive sales approach. One of Stephan’s earlier employees, his Chief Operating Officer, developed a growth strategy of utilizing AutoVisas’ services in-house instead of selling to enterprise clients, such as law firms. The approach would aim to become like some of the more prominent immigration firms, such as Fragomen.

Stephan does point out that the Chief Operating Officer was never an immigration lawyer and did not fully understand Stephan’s desire to avoid that approach. Stephan was much more interested in building a technology company as opposed to building another legal firm. The dispute over the sales approach ultimately led to the Chief Operating Officer’s departure from Autovisas. He did have equity in the company but was able to leave somewhat amicably. However, resolving his exit has been time-consuming and has delayed the growth of AutoVisas.

“I had to tie up some loose ends with that before I was comfortable, you know, going out and trying to get a bunch of clients.”

With his founder dispute concluded, Stephan hopes to expand his sales pipeline and identify the ideal market for the AutoVisas product. Ultimately, it is an unresolved issue as to what this exact market is. If Stephan can expand his client base and potentially penetrate the large law firm market, AutoVisas has the opportunity to grow exponentially.


3. Open planning issues

AutoVisas has an appeal that is both practical and virtuous. The company helps keep individuals in the country, enabling them to continue following their dreams or stay with their families, while saving time and money for all parties involved. In so doing, AutoVisas establishes a moral sentiment that is found less often in the corporate world which could easily garner widespread support. 

“It’s preventative medicine for immigration [sorrows].”

Should the right market be found, the potential popularity and ability to scale suggests that AutoVisas could grow exponentially. Yet, such growth necessitates a degree of planning that isn’t present in AutoVisas’ current state. This section briefly explores some of the business considerations that AutoVisas should dwell on.

A. Governance

The creation of a successful business is no small task. That’s why Dwight Drake says, “[q]uality planning requires knowledge of specific client objectives.” See Dwight Drake, 15. For AutoVisas, the goal is wide-scale product implementation and use to help alleviate issues in the immigration system, which is reinforced by a low product price at a mere $10 per person. AutoVisa’s business formation and governance should reflect these objectives.

Yet, AutoVisas’ governance is not a great reflection of its ability to scale because it lacks tailored planning. This deficiency is clear from the use of LegalZoom for the governance document and the functional creation of partners early on in AutoVisa’s development. Moreover, AutoVisa’s entity selection could have been given additional thought but this need not be discussed here. For an in-depth discussion on entity selection, see Lawyer Metrics.

As for LegalZoom, it is an online legal service that generates legal documents, including incorporation documents. While the use of a service like LegalZoom is great for many individuals, the one-size-fits-all approach is not always the best; that is to say, successful companies’ incorporation documents need to be narrowly tailored to avoid issues with scaling in the long run: especially when it comes to authorizing and issuing shares—something that may be in AutoVisas’ future.

AutoVisas also granted equity early on in its development to officers and investors. Problematically, founder disputes have already occurred with the COO seeking to take AutoVisa’s services strictly in-house. Interests should be aligned prior to granting equity in the company. Compare this situation to Lawyer Metrics, which also involved a diverse board undergoing founder disputes.

B. Intellectual Property

What’s more is that AutoVisas has chosen not to protect its intellectual property with a patent. This is noteworthy given that AutoVisas offers a unique but relatively simple data-scraping product that could be developed by other companies.

The lack of a patent could reduce investors’ trust in AutoVisas. Compare this to Bob Meltzer’s VisaNow product, which was an online platform that prepared and filed visa applications by having clients upload their information onto an online portal. The VisaNow product provided a simple, but niche service that amassed value because it was successfully patented. See Lawyer Metrics for a discussion on IP and governance, and Appendix Attachment 4: Patent Licensing Agreement.


4. Software-use risks

Artificial intelligence is one of the hottest topics in the legal field. Lawyers and firms across the globe are considering when, and how, to implement such programs into their services. Yet, the solution is not as easy as purchasing and integrating an AI software into one’s daily work. Artificial intelligence comes just a few short years after computer law exploded in the late-20th century. Thus, its use must comport with recently developed computer law—something that could prove to be problematic for AutoVisas’ automated software.

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) was enacted in 1986 as an amendment to the first federal computer fraud law. The Act covers a broad range of conduct concerning computer activity, and most notably prohibits intentionally accessing a computer “without authorization” and “in excess of authorization.” There has been an amalgam of disputes concerning the CFAA’s authorization language over the years, and the case law is anything but consistent.

As the case law stands now, AutoVisas can avoid a CFAA claim, but could be liable on a breach of contract claim or could be enjoined by the government if the government so chooses. See Van Buren v. United States, 141 S. Ct. 1648 (2021) (holding that the CFAA does not apply to individuals who are authorized to access a website then violate the website’s terms of service by obtaining information for an improper purpose). But See Southwest Airlines Co. v., Inc., 2021 WL 4476779 (N.D. Tex. 2021) (holding that breach of contract may be a suitable remedy when CFAA is not applicable for data-scraping victims).

The concern lies with AutoVisas’ Status Protector service that accesses the U.S. Government’s Customs and Border Protection Website. As mentioned above, Status Protector functions by scraping data off the Customs and Border Protection website, pulling new entry documents and comparing it to an individual’s immigration file. Consider the following screenshot, which is taken from the Customs and Border Protection website.


This is a screenshot from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website. These terms are up to date through December 2023. [click on to enlarge]

In developing AutoVisas’ Status Protector, Stephan spoke with the general counsel from Berry Appleman, who voiced concerns about its use. Correctly so, the general counsel said that the term “unauthorized” in the terms of service provided above did not allow for the use of automated data-scraping software. Stephan was unpersuaded, however.

In Stephan’s eyes, he has the authorized consent of his client and is addressing a lawful interest, which certainly reduces the general legal risk. But the issue is that the term “unauthorized” refers to actions unauthorized by the domain host. An AutoVisas client cannot merely determine whether the use of an automated data-scraping program on a government website is allowed.

This is not to say that AutoVisas’ Status Protector will never be able to be used. Perhaps the government is willing to give consent to AutoVisas since the company is serving the general public interest. After all, there is no substantive difference between an automated program and a paralegal pulling the same information.

In the alternative, AutoVisas could continue to operate as-is, without consent. The government may never know of the software’s use, and, even if they did, the likelihood of an action being brought against AutoVisas is relatively low. That said, the threat of enjoinment—even if minimal—will be a risk to investors and adopters across the market.


Conclusion — Connection with other case studies

AutoVisas’ story is uniquely positioned between the rest of the case studies in this course. In one vein, AutoVisas trails behind VisaNow, PactSafe, and Chamberlain Group—three companies studied in this course that found successful acquisition through technological innovation. In another vein, AutoVisas exemplifies an action and theme discussed by Marty Klaper, Re:Land, and Chocolate Moose—people helping other people. Stephan’s calling with AutoVisas is not short of heroic as he uses his own passion to solve an intricate immigration problem that affects thousands.


  1. Letter to Client — A template for a letter to a client that provides pertinent considerations on selecting the appropriate business entity.
  2. Entity Tax Considerations — Checklist to assist lawyers and business owners on tax issues and considerations when organizing a corporation.
  3. Entity Selection Checklist — Checklist to assist lawyers and business owners on the general advantages and disadvantages of various business entities.
  4. Patent Licensing Agreement — A patent licensing agreement is a contract under which a licensee can utilize, manufacture, and distribute a patented invention. This form provides a checklist to assist lawyers and relevant parties with the key considerations in forming a patent licensing agreement.