International Entrepreneur Rule

Overview

The International Entrepreneur Rule was recently restarted in the U.S.  This visa option gives entrepreneurs the ability to come to the U.S. for up to 5 years if they meet certain conditions.

To receive this immigration benefit, the applicant would have to demonstrate that the entrepreneur and the business would provide a significant public benefit to the United States and that the business has significant potential for rapid growth and job creation.

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Requirements & Eligibility

Specifically, entrepreneurs applying for parole under this rule must demonstrate that they:

  • Have established a U.S. startup business within 5 years of applying for parole;
  • Own at least a 10% interest in the startup;
  • Have a central and active role in the startup entity such that they are well positioned to substantially assist with the growth and success of the business; and

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. Applicants who only partially satisfy this funding criterion must provide additional evidence of the startup’s potential for rapid growth and job creation

Parole Length and Dependents

Applicants who are approved can be paroled into the U.S. for an initial period of up to 30 months. An additional 30 months of parole may be granted if the applicant demonstrates that:

  • The business continues to operate;
  • The entrepreneur retains at least a 5% 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.

Parole can be revoked at any time should the company no longer be in operation or otherwise cease to provide significant public benefit to the U.S.

Under the IE program, parole may be granted to up to three entrepreneurs per startup entity, as well as their spouses and children. Entrepreneurs granted parole are eligible to work only for the startup business. Their spouses may apply for employment authorization in the United States, but their children are not eligible for such authorization based on this parole.

How to Apply

In order to apply, the applicant must file Form I-941, Application for Entrepreneur Parole, with the required fees (including biometric services fees), and supporting documentary evidence in accordance with 8 C.F.R. § 212.19 and the Form I-941 instructions. The filing fee for Form I-941 is $1,200 and the biometric services fee is $85.

Filing and obtaining approval of a Form I-941 application under this rule will not, by itself, constitute a grant of parole. If your Form I-941 application is approved, you must visit a U.S. consulate abroad to obtain travel documentation (for example, a boarding foil) before appearing at a U.S. port of entry for a final parole determination. A Canadian national traveling directly from Canada to a U.S. port of entry may present an approved I-941 at the U.S. port of entry without first obtaining travel documentation.

Dependents of the entrepreneur submitting the Form I-941 should also file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, with the required application fee and biometrics services fee, to request parole to accompany or join the entrepreneur. The Form I-131 may be filed concurrently with the Form I-941 or it may be filed separately. Should the entrepreneur’s spouse choose to work, they should also submit the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for the International Entrepreneur Rule

1. Is the International Entrepreneur Rule a Visa?

No.  This immigration benefit is distinct from a visa as visas usually permit multiple entries to the U.S. and also give applicants a “status” that is consistent with the visa.  For example, an E-2 visa usually allows you to enter the U.S. multiple times over a period of 5 years, and when you enter, you are in E-2 status.  This program allows you a single entry under “parole” status.  While parole sounds bad, it is a period of authorized stay that allows you to work at the business you specified in your application.

2. Can the entrepreneur be a passive investor and does the entrepreneur need experience?

The applicant must be well-positioned to advance the entity’s business and cannot be a passive investor. The entrepreneur must meet one of the following criteria to satisfy the rules:

  • Possess at least 10% ownership in the entity at the time of adjudication and grant of parole; and
  • Have a central and active role in the operations such that his/her knowledge, skills and experience would assist the entity to grow in the U.S.

3. How will the entrepreneur show the potential for rapid growth in the U.S?

This can be accomplished in a number of ways:

  • Significant investment of capital ($250,000) from qualified U.S. investors with established track records (note the investors must be U.S. investors). This would normally mean that the investors are venture capital funds, angel investors or start-up accelerators. This could also be accomplished if the investor has a proven track record of investing in companies that did well. (You should note that this could NOT be satisfied if the entrepreneur invested their own money only); or
  • Government grants of $100,000 or more (must be U.S. federal, state or local government entities with expertise in economic development, research and development, or job creation); or
  • Alternate criteria – Ideally it would be better if one could meet one of the two items above. If not, you can submit additional reliable and compelling evidence that the entrepreneur would provide significant public benefit to the US. and would create jobs.  Evidence that may work here include the following:
    • Business plan
    • Contracts
    • Letters of intent
    • Expert Letters
    • Evidence of jobs already created

4. How long can the International Entrepreneur Parole status be granted for?

The initial grant is 30 months. If certain criteria are met, this can be extended for another 30 months.

5. How many people can receive the parole status for one start-up?

3 entrepreneurs from the same start up can receive the parole status. You should keep in mind that some of the evidence will not change from investor to investor.  For example, if one business has an investment of $250,000 from qualified investors, all 3 entrepreneurs would meet that particular part of the rule.

6. Can I travel using the International Entrepreneur Rule?

The approval allows you to enter the U.S. once in parole status. Once in the U.S., you can apply for something called advance parole. Once this is granted (usually 5-7 months) you can travel using this advance parole card.

7. How are family members treated on the International Entrepreneur Rule?

Spouse and children under 21 can join the primary applicant in the U.S.  Both spouse and children can go to school and the Spouse can work if he/she submits a petition for work authorization.

8. Does the Entrepreneur have to personally invest?

No.  The entrepreneur does not have to invest their own money.

9. Can I apply for the International Entrepreneur program with an existing business?

To apply for this program, the business must have been recently formed.  This is defined as formed within the last 5 years.

10. Can the entity be formed outside of the U.S?

No. The entity must be a U.S. entity.

11. Does the entity have to be a particular type of entity?

No.  The entity can be an LLC, Corporation, Partnership or other entity as long as it is legally formed in the U.S.

12. What is needed for the renewal after the first 30 months?

To renew the Parole status for an additional 30 months, the entrepreneur must meet the following conditions:

  • The business is still a start-up entity as defined above (created within the last 5 years)
  • The applicant is still well positioned to advance the business
    • Continues to own at least 5%
    • Continues to have an active role
  • Entity still has potential for rapid grown and job creation (several ways to satisfy this including:)
    • Additional investment or grants ($500,000) during the initial parole period
    • Revenue generation (at least $500,000 with average annualized revenue growth of at least 20 percent during the initial parole period)
    • Job creation – created 5 full-time jobs during the initial parole period.
    • Alternate Criteria

13. Does the International Entrepreneur Rule Lead to a Green Card?

No.  This program permits for temporary status in the U.S. up to a maximum of 5 years.  To stay longer in the U.S., you would have to find an alternate visa status.

14. What visa options are available to someone after the Parole period ends?

The following visas could be considered if the applicant meets the criteria (click on visa links below to find about more about each visa:

You can find out more about the different visa options available by clicking here.

15. Can I adjust or change status in the U.S? (For example, if I am eligible for a National Interest Waiver, could I adjust status in the U.S.)

No.  Because parole is not considered an admission to the U.S., parolees cannot adjust or change their status in the U.S.  As such, if the applicant was available for another immigration benefit, (eg. EB-2, National Interest Waiver), they would have to obtain this at a Consulate.

Other considerations or related articles?

Find more information on various immigration topics discussed in our blog.

Fees

Find more information by checking out the fee schedule.