1 Thing You Should Do to Obtain Legal Immigration Status as a Founder/Co-founder of a Start-Up

By: Salma Benkabbou, Esq.

The Millennial Business Lawyer®

Entrepreneur Parole Immigration Status
Entrepreneur Parole Immigration Status

Are you a foreign entrepreneur who plays an active role in a start-up in the U.S.?  If so, you may now qualify for immigration status permission to stay and work in the United States under the newly revived International Entrepreneur Rule (IER).

The International Entrepreneur Rule was originally established in the final days of the Obama Administration. Yet, it was put on hold shortly after the Trump administration took office in 2017.  It has been dormant since that time. However, on May 10, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the program is being revived as part of the efforts to reduce barriers to U.S. immigration.

Under the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can use its parole authority to grant a period of authorized stay to eligible foreign entrepreneurs who demonstrate that their stay in the United States would provide a significant public benefit through their business venture.

As many foreign business owners understand, the U.S. immigration system has not provided a clear option for entrepreneurs in the past. They regularly must jump from one immigration status to another which places constraints on pursuing their business ideas. 

With this revived rule, according to U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, entrepreneurs granted parole will be eligible to reside in the U.S. for an initial period of up to 30 months and work exclusively for their start-up business. The spouses and children of the foreign entrepreneur may also be eligible for parole. The spouses may apply for work authorization once present in the United States as parolees, yet children are not eligible to work. In addition, IER parole may be granted for up to three entrepreneurs per start-up entity.

Applying for Entrepreneur Parole Immigration Status

In order to qualify for the Entrepreneur Parole you must provide at the bare minimum, the following:

  1. evidence and supporting documents that show you play a central and active role in the operations of the start-up entity; 
  2. proof of at least 10% ownership stake in the entity; and 
  3. proof evidencing that the entity was formed within the five years immediately preceding the filing date of your petition. 

It is imperative that the international entrepreneurs understand that the start-up company must show a strong potential for rapid growth and job creation.

Additionally, an applicant may be considered for parole if they can demonstrate that their start-up entity has received a minimum investment or grant for economic development, research and development, or job creation. 

Applying for Requests for Re-Parole 

In addition to the foregoing, pursuant to the Application for Entrepreneur Parole requirements, to request a supplementary period of parole, an applicant must provide documentation that they still meet the criteria for being an entrepreneur and that their business continues to meet the definition of a “start-up” entity.

Drawbacks to the Program

Unlike other visas for legal status to start a business in the U.S., such as the E-2 visa, parole is a discretionary and temporary permission to enter and remain in the United States for the purpose of growing the business only. It does not allow applicants to be eligible for continuous renewals and stays in the U.S. As such, international entrepreneurs who wish to apply for permanent residence in the future must qualify under a separate U.S. immigration program.

Another potential drawback is that since parole is a discretionary permission to enter the U.S. it can be revoked by the DHS at any time if the start-up is no longer in operation or otherwise ceases to provide a significant public benefit to the U.S. If this occurs, while a recipient is outside the United States, they may be unable to return to the United States unless they have another valid visa allowing admission into the United States.

Our Tampa Immigration Lawyers Can Help 

While there are limitations that must be considered, overall, Entrepreneur Parole is a great option for many international entrepreneurs, such as F-1 Students who may wish to start a business in the United States after their studies. 

If you would like to discuss your business and immigration status options including potential qualifications for Entrepreneur Parole, please contact our office for a consultation. We can help assess the interested entrepreneur’s eligibility and assist with the process.