When Ben Ives tried to get his future wife a visa to come from the Philippines to the United States, he expected to find a computerized system to help out.
"I just assumed I'd go online and fill out some documents," he said.
Instead, he found nothing.
Ives completed the paperwork - and his wife eventually got the visa - but he saw an opportunity to simplify the process by providing a service similar to TurboTax and LegalZoom.
Using his background in software development, he created a cloud-based product called RapidVisa to help users complete the applications for family visas such as fiancé(e) and spousal.
Like income tax forms, Ives said the visa petitions can be repetitive, complex and require supplemental documents. This can make filling out the paperwork a difficult endeavor in addition to being high-stakes.
"Doing this visa application, for our customers, is almost certainly the most important thing going on in their life right now," said Ives, the company's president.
Six years after RapidVisa launched in 2009, the company reports it has helped immigrants from more than 150 countries come to the United States and processes more than 5,000 visa petitions a year.
Ives first worked out of his home and handled about 250 visa petitions during the first year, with the help of his wife, before opening an office in Manitou Springs in 2011. RapidVisa moved to its current space, 720 Village Center Drive in Colorado Springs, in 2012.
The company has offices in China and the Philippines, near U.S. embassies, and Ives said he hopes to open a location in Mexico to meet demand there. The company has 28 employees across its three offices, Ives said.
While he first thought of RapidVisa as a software company, Ives said its role has shifted to be more of a customer-service provider.
RapidVisa reports that its employees handle more than 65,000 calls and 50,000 live chats per year.
"The software is great, but anybody can write the software," Ives said.
"They need someone to hold their hand and walk through this six-month process."