Law Offices of Stuart J. Reich, PLLC

Practice Limited to Immigration & Nationality Law

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International Entrepreneur Rule – Parole for Startup Founders

Update: as of May 29, 2018: USCIS has published a proposed rule in the Federal Register as of today seeking to eliminate the International Entrepreneur Rule. It's unlikely this will be available in the future, and we are currently advising clients against the use of this as a mid- to long-term strategy.

Q: What is the International Entrepreneur Rule?

A: The version of the International Entrepreneur Rule ("IER") that was published in the last days of the Obama presidency granted parole (essentially, a right to enter and remain for a limited period - for up to two and a half years initially - for foreign entrepreneurs.

Q: Is this a “Startup Visa?”

A: Not really. It is intended for startup founders but isn’t really a visa – it simply permits founders to come to the US on parole – not a visa, but a type of temporary admission – to further their business if they meet certain requirements.

Q: Who is eligible to receive this?

A: To be eligible, an applicant must have significant ownership (at least 10 percent) in a startup and a central role in the operations of that startup. For purposes of this rule, “startup” means a company founded in the US within the last five years.

Applicants must also show that their company has “substantial and demonstrated potential for rapid business growth and job creation” — meaning they must have either garnered investments of at least $250,000 from qualified American investors or received $100,000 worth of federal, state or local grants.

Q: Are extensions available?

A: Entrepreneurs who met the qualifications for parole under the IER would be eligible to seek an extension of up to two and a half more years if they continued to show that they are providing a “significant public benefit” to the country. All told, the program stood to offer no more than a total of five years in the U.S. for the estimated 3,000 entrepreneurs who were expected to qualify.

Q: Since this isn’t a visa, is it true that family members such as spouses and children can’t accompany entrepreneurs to the US?

A: Strangely, no. A spouse or child of an entrepreneur can apply for parole under this rule if they can prove that they are independently eligible for parole based on significant public benefit or urgent humanitarian reasons, that they merit a favorable exercise of discretion. It isn’t immediately clear that accompanying the principal entrepreneur to the US would be a sufficient “significant public benefit” or that this would “merit a favorable exercise of discretion” independently. If parole for a spouse is granted, the spouse could also apply for separate employment authorization.

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The above is presented for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship with our firm. The information provided should not be used as guidance in pursuing an immigration matter absent consultation with a qualified immigration attorney.