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Artificial Intelligence

Will AI Replace Immigration Lawyers?

AI is transforming the role of immigration attorneys, making their jobs more efficient but not replacing them.

Will AI Replace Immigration Lawyers?

Generative AI has stood out as a beacon of innovation, capturing public interest with a staggering 600% increase since 2020. Bill Gates views artificial intelligence's transformative potential as comparable to groundbreaking milestones like the graphic user interface and the smartphone.

The release of ChatGPT sparked a vigorous debate: could AI replace immigration professionals? Many immigration professionals, including myself, marvel at the early-stage prowess of generative AI, yet I believe its role is not to replace but to amplify the capabilities of immigration experts.

The Road Ahead: Challenges and Opportunities

AI's journey in immigration law has its challenges. Accuracy and bias issues, stemming from training datasets, remain significant hurdles. The American Bar Association (ABA) underscores the importance of privacy, data security, and the need for lawyers' due diligence when engaging with AI technologies.

Yet AI has the opportunity of revolutionizing mundane tasks. As mentioned in our previous article, AI's role in taking over repetitive work is undeniable, from drafting documents to conducting research faster, more accurately and for less cost.

However, the creative and strategic elements of immigration law, along with the oversight in application reviews, I believe will still be done by a human expert.

Current regulations preclude AI from representing clients or making filings. Recent court cases in Texas and New York have highlighted judicial caution towards AI, even leading to restrictions on AI-generated content in legal contexts.

Will there be fewer immigration jobs?

If there is more automation, then the concern is that AI will replace humans and eliminate jobs. The “lump of labor fallacy” is a misconception commonly used by economists. The concept is based on the fallacy that there is a fixed amount of demand for a particular service.

The traditional example is when calculators and computers were introduced and accountants and bookkeepers feared a huge reduction in demand for their time. Instead, the lower unit economics meant that accounting could be applied in many more situations where it wasn’t justified in the past. The lump of labor actually got bigger.

Contrary to fears of job displacement, historical trends suggest that AI, much like past technological innovations, will create new demands and new job roles. In immigration, AI will streamline the application processes, making professional services more accessible and increasing demand for expert guidance.

Rather than only 20% of applications using an agent - the current average in Canada - expert advice will be used for 90% or more. The lower cost for expert advice will mean it can be used more often. Simply speaking, an immigration consultant will spend less hours per application, but have many more applications and be paid a higher hourly rate.

Additionally, AI will redefine jobs in immigration. Immigration professionals may see “prompt engineering” and AI experience as a part of their job requirements in the future.

Just as the transition from physical files to digital platforms reshaped legal workflows, AI adoption will redefine the value and methods of legal practitioners. I suspect that the lawyers and consultants using AI will gradually replace those who do not.

Immigration accessible to everyone

We believe AI will make expert immigration advice accessible to everyone at a lower cost. Rather than only 20% of applications using an agent, it will be 90% or more. If the cost is lower, then isn’t it prudent to always get expert advice for something as life-changing as immigration? There will not be fewer immigration lawyers, but their day-to-day activities and how they add value will differ.

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Jie Chen
Co-founder & Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC, R#707585)Jie Chen
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