The international entrepreneur parole program grants qualifying foreign nationals temporary permission to enter and remain in the United States for up to five years to grow a start-up business if they can show that the business has potential for rapid growth and job creation.
The program was established in the last days of the Obama Administration (2017) but was put on hold in 2018. shortly after the Trump Administration took office. It has been largely dormant since that time, which means that very few parole applications were filed and/or approved.
The Biden Administration is reviving the program as part of its effort to reduce barriers to U.S. immigration and to provide immigration options for promising foreign entrepreneurs.
USCIS is reviving the International Entrepreneur Parole Program. Under this program, International entrepreneurs who have established a business in the United States, which has significant U.S. funding, and can show that their business has substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation may be eligible to apply for up to five years of authorization to stay in the United States.
The Biden Administration is relaunching the program that will allow promising foreign entrepreneurs to remain in the United States to grow their businesses and make contributions to the U.S. economy. So far, most foreign entrepreneurs find that they do not meet the eligibility criteria for existing visa programs, or that those programs are not suitable for start-ups. The relaunch is part of the Administration’s initiative to reduce barriers to U.S. immigration. The entrepreneur program was originally established in the last days of the Obama Administration in 2017, but was then put on hold and slated for withdrawal by the Trump Administration in 2018. The program has been largely dormant since that time.
The program does not provide an immigration status to approved applicants. Instead, qualifying entrepreneurs receive parole – a discretionary and temporary permission to enter and remain in the United States. Entrepreneur parolees are not eligible for permanent residence unless they qualify under another U.S. immigration program, which means that the parole program offers no direct path to permanent residence. Parole applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Who qualifies for International Entrepreneur Parole?
Foreign entrepreneurs must meet the following criteria to be eligible for parole:
- The applicant must have established a U.S. start-up business within five years before the application for parole;
- The applicant must hold an ownership interest in the startup of at least 10 percent;
- The applicant must play an active and central role in the operations of the business, and not merely be an investor; and
- The start-up must have received a capital investment of at least $250,000 from qualified U.S. investors or at least $100,000 in grants or awards from qualifying U.S. federal, state, or local government entities. Foreign nationals who only partially satisfy the funding criteria must provide additional compelling evidence of the start-up’s substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation.
No more than three foreign entrepreneurs may be granted parole per start-up entity.
How long can an approved entrepreneur remain in the United States?
Approved entrepreneurs are paroled into the United States for an initial period of up to 30 months. They are authorized to work for the start-up entity only. Qualifying dependents receive parole for the same period as the principal, and spouses are eligible to apply for employment authorization.
An additional 30 months of parole may be available if the entrepreneur demonstrates that:
- The business continues to operate;
- The entrepreneur retains at least a five percent ownership interest and continues to play a central role in the business; and
- The business has:
- Created at least five qualifying jobs;
- Received at least $500,000 in qualifying investments, government grants, or awards, or a combination thereof; or
- Generated at least $500,000 in U.S. revenue and averaged 20 percent annual growth during the initial parole period.
As with the initial grant, applicants for re-parole who only partially satisfy the investment, job creation and growth criteria may meet the standard by providing other reliable and compelling evidence of the start-up’s substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation.
As a discretionary grant, parole can be revoked by the U.S. government at any time if the start-up is no longer in operation or otherwise ceases to provide a significant public benefit to the United States.
What this means for foreign entrepreneurs
Today’s announcement is a great step to ensure that there is a dedicated visa option for foreign entrepreneurs with start-up businesses in the United States who do not qualify for other U.S. visas. However, the program is not perfect. Entrepreneur parolees do not have a direct path to permanent residence; if they wish to become U.S. permanent residents, they must qualify under a separate U.S. immigrant visa program. In addition, the grant of parole is highly discretionary; DHS may terminate or revoke parole at any time, which adds an element of uncertainty to the immigration status of the parolee.