International Entrepreneur Parole: Investment Immigration Solution for High-Growth Startups

By Carolyn Lee

Introduction.

The International Entrepreneur Parole rule (the “IER”) was implemented by final rule published January 2017 to increase and enhance entrepreneurship, innovation, and job creation in the United States. More specifically, the IER is designed to create a means for entrepreneurs to work on their start-ups with demonstrated potential for rapid growth. If parole is granted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), the entrepreneur receives an initial stay of 30 months, extendable by an additional 30 months to oversee and grow the start-up.

The IER’s flight in 2017 was stalled due to the Trump Administration’s efforts in 2018 to block the final rule’s implementation, resulting in a successful lawsuit to overturn the delay. In response to the lawsuit, however, the Administration introduced a new proposed rule to revoke the IER in mid-2018. While the proposed rule did not advance, its introduction made the IER too uncertain then to truly take off.

That cloud of uncertainty is now removed. On May 10, 2021, USCIS announced that the Department of Homeland Security is withdrawing the 2018 proposed rule. Removing any doubt that the USCIS now welcomes IER, the announcement states:

The International Entrepreneur (IE) parole program, first introduced in 2017, will remain a viable program for foreign entrepreneurs to create and develop start-up entities with high growth potential in the United States. The program will help to strengthen and grow our nation’s economy through increased capital spending, innovation, and job creation.

Then-Acting Director Tracy Renaud further stated in the announcement: “The International Entrepreneur parole program goes hand-in-hand with our nation’s spirit of welcoming entrepreneurship and USCIS encourages those who are eligible to take advantage of the program. ”

These are indeed welcoming words. Let’s look closer as we’re now invited to do. The basic requirement is the entrepreneur must establish that the grant of parole will provide a significant public benefit to the United States based on his or her role as an entrepreneur of a start-up entity. Let’s break that down to specifics.

Who qualifies?
Entrepreneurs applying for parole must:

  • Have at least a 10% ownership in the start-up entity
  • Have a central and active role in the start-up entity
  • Up to 3 entrepreneurs may be parole per start-up entity

What kinds of start-up entities qualify?
The start-up entity must:

  • Be a recently formed U.S. business entity
  • Have received within 18 months preceding the IER application an investment of at least $250,000 from U.S. qualified investor(s) or
  • Have received within 18 months preceding the IER application Government awards or grants of at least $100,000
  • Partial satisfaction of one or both above criteria may qualify by providing other compelling evidence of substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation.

How long does the parole last?

  • The initial period of parole may be granted for up to 30 months from the date of parole into the U.S.
  • The entrepreneur may be re-paroled, if requirements for re-parole are met, for up to an additional 30 months.

Can entrepreneur’s family members be admitted?

Yes. Moreover, the spouse may apply for independent work authorization after being paroled. Children, however, cannot obtain work authorization.

Process

The initial parole request is made on the Form I-941 with a filing fee and biometrics fee. Dependents can apply at the same time on the Form I-131 with a filing fee and biometrics fee.

Practical Benefits in Covid-19 Times

The IER is a welcome addition to the U.S. investment immigration landscape, as we do not currently have a visa category meeting the needs of high-growth startups and founders. The IER is a particularly excellent fit for these entrepreneurs because visa delays caused by restricted consular operations during Covid-19 can be unsustainable to these fast-paced businesses. There are many reasons indeed to welcome the May 2021 USCIS announcement: IER is Open for Business.

For more information, register for Carolyn Lee PLLC’s Webcast on September 15, 2021 at 2:00 PM ET.

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