Happy First Birthday, ApplyProof!

ApplyProof was born one year ago when Phase 0 went live. On September 18, 2019, we started ApplyProofing some Letters of Acceptance for a partner university. Since then ApplyProof has toddled, walked, learned to run—and become a full-fledged solution helping students around the world. 

The birth was both a long time coming and the outcome of a rapid implementation plan.

The Pain Point

The ApplyBoard team had a sense that there was a problem in the Canadian international enrolment funnel. As we helped more and more students gain admission to a Canadian college or university to meet their educational goals, we felt the pain of too many of those students being denied a study permit.

The numbers were concerning, but the pain was personal. Iman Hassani, who is now Head of ApplyProof, remembers one day in particular when he was working with students applying to come to Canada. On that day, he had to call three students who had received a study permit refusal. 

These were students who just a few weeks before had celebrated with us and their families when they received a letter of admission from their Canadian college. One had been admitted to a construction management post-grad program that dovetailed with the engineering bachelor’s degree he’d done at home. He saw the program as his route to a productive career and life in Canada. Another had been admitted to a business program in Vancouver where she’d planned to live with her cousins who’d come to Canada before her. A third student was so excited that they had their bags packed and were ready to join their program in a matter of days. 

Imagine trying to answer the question “Why?” for students who had invested so much time to get so close—only to feel that their dreams were shattered. Iman made a personal pledge to himself to find a way to solve the problem—not just to answer the “Why?”, but to find a way to improve the process and bring more trust and confidence to ensure that qualified students could succeed. If there was a way to break down barriers for future students, ApplyBoard was determined to find it. What we discovered led to the invention of ApplyProof.

The Search for a Remedy

Research revealed that as many as 50% of students who were admitted to Canadian colleges and universities were not able to enroll because they did not receive a study permit. Not only were students disappointed, but significant investment in outreach and recruitment did not realize its intended return. 

Extensive consultation with school partners, industry leaders, and immigration officials  revealed gaps in communication and a need for building greater trust in student’s documents.. Some discussions led to stronger advising processes so that students could put together the best case possible in their study permit application. A clear, substantive, and realistic study plan was an essential element.

Even with a thoroughly prepared application dossier, however, students faced another challenge beyond their control. Immigration officials had the responsibility to ensure that documents submitted in study permit applications were authentic and valid. Canada depends on these officials to ensure that no one enters the country under fraudulent circumstances. But the tools they had for verifying documents could be laborious and time-consuming. Without an efficient and secure system to verify the authenticity of documents, it could be difficult for them to distinguish a legitimate student’s letter of admission from one that had been fraudulently produced. A secure tool for verifying students’ documents would increase efficiency, as well as trust and confidence in legitimate students’ applications. 

ApplyProof is Born

ApplyBoard systems for maintaining the integrity of documents throughout the admission process were at the top of industry standards. And ApplyBoard developers had the knowledge and technology to engineer a solution. 

When Minister of Immigration Ahmed Hussein visited ApplyBoard’s new office in April of 2019, Martin, Meti, and Massi Basiri told him about an idea: we could put in place a solution that would allow students and immigration officials to verify the authenticity of their documents—securely, online, and in a matter of seconds. By viewing the digital original held securely by ApplyProof, immigration officials could mitigate the problem of  fraudulent documents in the visa application process. What is currently accomplished through workarounds and time-consuming manual processes, can be accomplished in seconds. Lack of trust was the problem. Enabling verification would build trust. 

A rapid implementation plan for what would become the ApplyProof platform was put into place. A small team including Iman and product designer Moe Saad set out to create a portal for verifying international student documents. The aim was to extend the availability of this portal to all the relevant stakeholders in the student’s application journey through a single login page and a document dashboard that held all documents in one place. 

By mid-September 2019, the dream became reality, and the first documents were ApplyProofed.

First Steps to Giant Leaps

Since then, there have been many meetings with immigration officials, school partners, students, and ApplyBoard team members. The intelligence of Canada’s fastest-growing tech company informed the continuing development of ApplyProof, and in March 2020 it was determined to make ApplyProof a stand-alone platform. Since then, many milestones have been passed, including:

  • September 18, 2019: ApplyProof Phase 0 launched.
  • February 2020: ApplyProof early-adopter opportunity shared with Canadian postsecondary institutions. Mohawk College, Trinity Western University, Yorkville University and Bow Valley College became early adopters.
  • March 2020: ApplyProof leadership meet with IRCC in Ottawa. ApplyProof called “a promising solution” by immigration officials.
  • April 2020: All students applying through the ApplyBoard platform have their Letters of Admission ApplyProofed.
  • June 2020: Algoma University and Laurentian University become early adopters.
  • September 2020: More than 40,000 LOAs ApplyProofed.

Realizing the full potential of ApplyProof will be a process. But already students have been reassured by their ability to verify the authenticity of their documents. Our partner institutions have been pleased to see that integrating ApplyProof with their systems is efficient. And recruitment partners around the world have begun to see ApplyProofed documents. With each new institution launching ApplyProof, communications go out to our trade and immigration contacts; and with each announcement, we get positive feedback and engagement from immigration stakeholders abroad. Additional partnerships and usage development will continue to prove the value and potential of the ApplyProof solution. 

Happy birthday, indeed!