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The "International Entrepreneur Parole Rule" Is Back as an Immigration Option for Startup Founders

After a 2-year hiatus, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) relaunched the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER), allowing it to exercise its discretion to grant temporary entry to foreign nationals who will provide a “significant public benefit” to the United States based on their role as an entrepreneur of a recently formed start-up business.

Under the IER, DHS may use its parole authority to grant a period of authorized stay, on a case-by-case basis, to foreign entrepreneurs who demonstrate that their stay in the United States would provide a significant public benefit through their business venture and that they merit a favorable exercise of discretion.

Under this final rule, entrepreneurs granted parole will be eligible to work only for their start-up business. The spouses and children of the foreign entrepreneur may also be eligible for parole. While spouses may apply for work authorization once present in the United States as parolees, the children are not eligible to work. IER parole may be granted for up to three entrepreneurs per start-up entity.

Threshold Requirements

The applicant for IER:

  • Must possess a substantial ownership interest in a start-up entity created within the past five years in the United States that has substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation;

  • Must have a central and active role in the start-up entity, such that he or she is well-positioned to substantially assist with the growth and success of the business;

  • Will provide a significant public benefit to the United States based on their role as an entrepreneur of the start-up entity by showing that:

    • The start-up entity has received a significant investment of capital from certain qualified U.S. investors with established records of successful investments;

    • The start-up entity has received significant awards or grants for economic development, research and development, or job creation (or other types of grants or awards typically given to start-up entities) from federal, state, or local government entities that regularly provide such awards or grants to start-up entities; or

    • The applicant partially meets either or both of the previous two requirements, and provides additional reliable and compelling evidence of the start-up entity’s substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation; and

  • Otherwise merits a favorable exercise of discretion.

The entrepreneur can prove the requisite “significant public benefit” by meeting one of the following three standards:

1. Significant Capital Investment

  • The start-up has received capital investment of at least $250,000 in the past 18 months from one or more U.S. investors with an established record of successful investments. This requires that, during the past five years:

    • Each investor must have invested at least $500,000 in start-ups; and

    • At least two of these recipient start-ups must have created five qualifying jobs for U.S. workers for generated $500,000 in annual revenue with a 20% growth rate.

  • The start-up can be a corporation, LLC, partnership, or other entity organized under federal or state law. Investments by the entrepreneur, immediate family, or entities owned by either do not count. Qualifying jobs are those located in the United States and held on a full-time basis by lawfully employed workers, excluding the entrepreneur, immediate family members and independent contractors; OR

2. Government funding

  • The start-up has received domestic, federal, state or local government funding totaling at least $100,000 in economic development, R&D or job creation awards or grants (excluding contractual commitments for goods/services); OR

3. Partial Capital Investment and/or Government Funding and Other Compelling Evidence

  • If the start-up received some but not all of the capital investment or government funding required under the above two standards, parole may be available based on other “compelling evidence” of substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation. For example, the entrepreneurs can show that they have a strong start-up track record, been accepted into a reputable accelerator, created new technologies, or produced cutting-edge research. Evidence of substantial potential may include letters from government agencies, investors, and business associations, press coverage, patents, educational credentials, or corporate financial records.

Parole Period and Requirements for Extension (“Re-Parole”)

A grant of IER parole allows the entrepreneur to enter and remain in the United States to work in the start-up for up to 30 months (2.5 years). After this, an entrepreneur can apply for 30 more months of re-parole by showing that the start-up meets one of the following four criteria:

  • Additional Funding. It has received $500,000 in additional capital investments and/or government funding; OR

  • Revenue. It has generated $500,000 annually at a 20% growth rate; OR

  • Job Creation. It has created at least five qualifying jobs; OR

  • Alternative Evidence. Entrepreneurs who only partially meet one or more of the other three criteria can still qualify by producing other compelling evidence of the start-up’s substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation.

Parole Eligibility for Family Members

The entrepreneur’s spouse and minor unmarried children must apply separately for parole by filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, which may be granted for the same period that was granted to the entrepreneur. Spouses may apply for work authorization as described below.

Other Important Considerations

Parole is discretionary. DHS has the discretion to grant parole on a case-by-case basis, is not required to do so in any given instance, and can revoke it. Denial of parole is not appealable or subject to a motion to reopen or reconsider. Of key importance: the applicant and family members must merit a favorable exercise of discretion, which could be precluded by a record of criminal conduct, fraud, national security concerns, or other derogatory evidence.

IER does not provide a path to a Green Card, and requires the entrepreneur to find a way to remain in the United States once parole expires.

IER parole is limited to three entrepreneurs per start-up.

Maintenance of Income. A parolee under the IER must maintain household income of at least 400% above the poverty level (which currently amounts to $51,520 for a single person).

Filing Fees: As of July 2021, the USCIS filing fees per application are $1,285, and are subject to change.

If you need more information on eligibility for IER, we encourage you to contact our office at info@gradyfirm.com, or call us at (949) 798-6298.

You can also book a call on our calendar at https://www.gradyfirm.com/schedule.

The Grady Firm works with dynamic employers and employees across the country to prepare successful employment-based visa and Green Card applications. In addition, we help individuals, families, employees, business owners, and investors obtain non-immigrant and immigrant visas (B-1/B2, H-1B, H-2B, L-1A, L-1B, O-1, TN, E-2, E-3), as well and Green Cards and citizenship based on family relationships, investment, or employment.

This article is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. This article does not make any guarantees as to the outcome of a particular matter, as each matter has its own set of circumstances and must be evaluated individually by a licensed attorney.


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