Aora ND Primer

Introduction

Aora is a rule-based artificial intelligence and knowledge-based system, which has incredible potential to transform access to high-quality legal opinions, delivered in a short time scale.  This technology is at the forefront of computational law (complaw) – the branch of legal informatics concerned with the mechanisation of legal reasoning.

Aora’s proprietary platform uses industry-leading computational logic programming and knowledge-representation technology to provide fully automated legal opinions in a format and style consistent with those produced by human experts.  It is multi-purpose, providing several complaw applications, including taxation, financial contracts and nationality law.

Aora Nationality Determiner (ND) models nationality laws of the UK and its former colonies.  Every legal provision, paragraph of Home Office guidance, judgement, and page of Laurie Fransman QC and other authorities is modelled, hence each citizenship evaluation, for all types of British nationality, is tested against every applicable law and policy rule.

Background

Aora ND is the result of a ten year research and development project (Legal Technology Research becoming Aora) founded by Alan Millington and Bruce Mennell, which was triggered by interest in a seminal paper The British Nationality Act as a Logic Program authored by Kowalski et al.  At Stanford’s recent Codex FutureLaw 2021 conference, Bob Kowalski and his co-authors were awarded a prestigious inaugural prize to recognize that this paper has had a significant and enduring positive impact on the research field.

Aora ND is a robust, fully-fledged, end-to-end commercial application of computational law, featuring many original ideas conceived and developed throughout the R&D project, including solving the problems raised by Kowalski et al of counterfactual conditions and negation as a failure.  Aora collaborates with Bob Kowalski from time to time, he is an advisor on some experimental work.  Aora has applied for patents over certain features of its platform.

 Aora ND is currently in daily commercial use by several immigration practices, to evaluate clients and prepare citizenship applications for the Home Office and HM Passport Office.

Challenges in determining nationality

Every year large numbers of determinations of British nationality are made by the UKVI and HM Passport office, for confirmations and grants of nationality, and grants of UK passports.  At present this process requires caseworkers who need considerable training and expertise.  The laws affecting UK nationality are voluminous, evolving, wide-ranging and complex and include long-defunct laws and laws of other countries.  It is difficult for a caseworker to recall all laws and policy and to check every possibility for every application processed in the time available; errors are inevitable and caseworkers cannot be tested with a large number of test cases like software.  Each year the number of people whose claim to British citizenship depends on the status of a parent or grandparent increases.

The Aora ND Solution

Aora ND has analysed applicable legislation, case law, authorities and Home Office documents, specified rules representing the law and entered these into the Aora ND system, along with data for former colonial territories.  All British Nationalities and Residencies are catered for:

When an enquiry is run in Aora ND, it asks questions until it reaches an outcome.  Currently, the interface to the rules engine is either via:

  • An interactive question and answer session (shown below); or

  • A .xml file created from a previously created questionnaire or application form.

The outcome of the enquiry is the purpose of Aora ND.  It lists each UK nationality and indicates whether the applicant has the actual nationality or is eligible to acquire it, indicating the likelihood – certain or doubtful.

Each outcome report includes a “Status Trace” which sets out i) the relevant data supplied by the system user and ii) a nationality history of the person being assessed (and where relevant antecedents) with statements citing provisions of law and Home Office guidance.  All data which an outcome relies on, including questions, answers, system defaults and assumptions, is stored.  At any time, this data can be edited, if a mistake is noticed, or additional information comes to light and an enquiry re-run.  An extract from a Status Trace, produced directly from Aora ND, using natural language processing:

Benefits

The benefits of using the Aora ND for establishing British citizenship (or eligibility) is that it is automated, consistent, comprehensive, robust and logged (hence auditable), and it can be tested and updated as laws or policies change.  

A detailed analysis of each evaluation is provided. the reasons behind the legal opinions advanced to conclude in either a positive or negative outcome to a claim are referenced to the applicable nationality and immigration laws.  The benefit for the applicant is the assurance that all potential avenues for a claim are explored.

Using Aora ND leads to workflow efficiencies, time reduction, knowledge retention, and a reduced risk of errors.  Skilled caseworkers can apply more time on matters where discretionary waivers could be applied or rejected or reviews of evidence.