What is International Entrepreneur Parole?
Contributor: Van T. Doan
The United States has long been called the “land of opportunity.” This country is known for innovation, including the many start-up companies developed by entrepreneurs with a good idea and investors who believe in it.
But what if you are an immigrant without a green card, or someone with a non-immigrant status who wants to remain in the United States to build your company? Many people come to the U.S. to attend college or graduate school, with the intention of getting a job in the technology sector or another burgeoning industry. They’ll get an employment-based visa, and from there, eventually qualify for a green card (lawful permanent resident status) and perhaps citizenship. Then, secure in their ability to remain in this country, they’ll leave their job and start to build a company of their own.
Unfortunately, that plan doesn’t always work out, and there are hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Asia alone who have waited years for a green card. Fortunately, there is another option: the International Entrepreneur Rule Program (IER).
What is International Entrepreneur Parole?
In short, IER allows entrepreneurs to legally remain in the United States while they build their businesses. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the Secretary of Homeland Security has discretionary authority to temporarily parole any noncitizen who applies for admission into the United States for various reasons, including significant public benefit. This discretion is exercised on a case-by-case basis.
Entrepreneurship, innovation, and the creation of jobs can confer a significant public benefit, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a final rule in January 2017 containing criteria for entrepreneurs with an active role in a start-up basis who were seeking parole on the basis of providing a significant public benefit. While in 2018 there was a proposed rule that would have rescinded the 2017 final rule, that proposed rule was withdrawn in 2021, signaling DHS support of the International Entrepreneur Rule program. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has now issued policy guidance on the program.
Who is Eligible for International Entrepreneur Parole?
An applicant for international entrepreneur parole must meet certain criteria, including:
- A central and active role in a start-up based in the U.S. created within the last five years;
- An ownership stake of at least 10% in the start-up;
- Can demonstrate that within the 18 months immediately preceding their application for parole under the IER, the startup received either an investment of at least $250,000 from one or more qualified U.S. investors, or government grants or awards of at least $100,000.
An applicant with a start-up that meets the first two criteria, but only partially meets one of the investment criteria, may still be eligible for parole if they can demonstrate the company’s potential to grow and create jobs.
Are Entrepreneurs in Non-Immigrant Status Eligible to Apply for Parole?
Yes. So long as other criteria are met, individuals in nonimmigrant status may apply for parole under the IER. However, if they have not maintained their nonimmigrant status, such as by overstaying a visa, they may need to leave the United States and be paroled back in. They may also face other immigration consequences. If you are concerned about this issue, be sure to consult an experienced immigration attorney before applying.
How Long Does International Entrepreneur Parole Allow an Entrepreneur to Remain in the U.S.?
An entrepreneur who is granted parole into the United States under the IER may remain in the country for as long as five years. However, the initial grant of parole is for 30 months. In order to obtain renewal, or “re-parole,” the entrepreneur must meet certain criteria, including maintaining at least a 5% ownership stake and a central role in the start-up, as well as meeting certain benchmarks for investment, job creation, or revenue.
Are Spouses and Children Covered by Parole Under the IER?
Yes. Spouses of qualifying entrepreneurs, as well as minor children (under the age of 21 and unmarried) are also eligible for parole under the IER. In addition, spouses are eligible for employment authorization. Minor children are not eligible for employment authorization.
Can More Than One International Entrepreneur per Start-up Apply for Parole Under the IER?
Yes. Up to three international entrepreneurs from the same start-up may be granted parole under the International Entrepreneur Rule program.
How Can I Apply for International Entrepreneur Parole?
An applicant for International Entrepreneur Parole must complete Form I-941, Application for Entrepreneur Parole, and pay the $1,200 application fee. There is also an $85 fee for biometric services. In addition, applicants must be prepared to provide documentation that their start-up meets the eligibility criteria.
To learn more about International Entrepreneur Parole, contact our law office to schedule a consultation.
Categories: Immigration Law