International entrepreneurs who have established a business in the United States, can demonstrate significant U.S. funding, and show that their business has substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation may be eligible to apply for up to five years of authorization to stay in the United States under the International Entrepreneur Parole Program, which is being revived by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The Biden Administration is relaunching the program to fill a gap in the U.S. immigration system and allow promising foreign entrepreneurs who might not meet the eligibility criteria of existing visa programs to remain in the United States to grow their businesses and make contributions to the U.S. economy. The relaunch is part of the Administration’s initiative to reduce barriers to U.S. immigration. The entrepreneur program was originally established in the last days of the Obama Administration, but was quickly put on hold and slated for withdrawal by the Trump Administration. The program has been largely dormant since that time.
The program does not provide an immigration status to approved applicants. Rather, qualifying entrepreneurs receive parole – a discretionary and temporary permission to enter and remain in the United States. Entrepreneur parolees are not eligible for permanent residence unless they qualify under another U.S. immigration program.
Who qualifies for International Entrepreneur Parole?
Foreign entrepreneurs must meet the following criteria to be eligible for parole:
- The applicant must have established a U.S. start-up business within five years before the application for parole;
- The applicant must hold an ownership interest in the startup of at least 10 percent;
- The applicant must play an active and central role in the operations of the business, and not merely be an investor; and
- The start-up must have received a capital investment of at least $250,000 from qualified U.S. investors or at least $100,000 in grants or awards from qualifying U.S. federal, state, or local government entities. Foreign nationals who only partially satisfy the funding criteria must provide additional compelling evidence of the start-up’s substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation.
No more than three foreign entrepreneurs may be granted parole per start-up entity.
How long can an approved entrepreneur remain in the United States?
Approved entrepreneurs are paroled into the United States for an initial period of up to 30 months, with authorization to work for the start-up entity only. Qualifying dependents receive parole for the same period as the principal, and spouses are eligible to apply for employment authorization.
An additional 30 months of parole may be available if the entrepreneur demonstrates that:
- The business continues to operate;
- The entrepreneur retains at least a five percent ownership interest and continues to play a central role in the business; and
- The business has:
- Created at least five qualifying jobs;
- Received at least $500,000 in qualifying investments, government grants, or awards, or a combination thereof; or
- Generated at least $500,000 in U.S. revenue and averaged 20 percent annual growth during the initial parole period.
As with the initial grant, applicants for re-parole who only partially satisfy the investment, job creation and growth criteria may meet the standard by providing other reliable and compelling evidence of the start-up’s substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation.
As a discretionary grant, parole can be revoked by the U.S. government at any time if the start-up is no longer in operation or otherwise ceases to provide a significant public benefit to the United States.
What this means for foreign entrepreneurs
Today’s announcement is welcome news for foreign entrepreneurs with start-up businesses in the United States who do not qualify for other U.S. immigration programs. However, the program has some limitations. Entrepreneur parolees do not have a direct path to permanent residence; if they wish to become U.S. permanent residents, they must qualify under an established U.S. immigrant visa program. In addition, the grant of parole is highly discretionary; DHS may terminate or revoke parole at any time, which subjects parolees to some uncertainty.