Foreign founders have renewed optimism provided by an Obama-era immigration solution known as entrepreneur parole, allowing them to enter the U.S. to actively engage in running their funded high-growth U.S. startups. This immigration parole for entrepreneurs, known as the International Entrepreneur rule, allows up to three foreign co-founders to enter the U.S. to provide significant public benefit to the U.S. through business growth and job creation. The founder parole is expected to garner roughly 3,000 entrepreneur parole applications annually.
The rule, initially passed in 2017, had a turbulent ride through the previous U.S. Administration and has now been revitalized. The prior Administration attempted to officially remove the rule in 2018, which resulted in only 30 attempted filings and one approval from 2017 through 2019. In May 2021, however, the parole program was re-established, and applications were encouraged.
This immigration solution for entrepreneurs is an important development for foreign founders who normally struggle to try to fit into outdated visa solutions, such as the O-1, E-2, L-1, or H-1B, which fail to accommodate modern startup business models and funding practices. The U.S. angel and venture capital investment community will also benefit as a result of key international startup founders having a realistic option to remain in the U.S. for up to five years, split between two 30-month parole grants, to execute on the high-growth business potential of these innovative companies. The parole rules are built around the concept that founders will provide the U.S. a “significant public benefit” if allowed to enter via parole.
Entrepreneurs applying for parole under this rule must demonstrate that they:
• 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.
• Have a central and active role in the start-up entity such that they are 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 requirements set by USCIS or otherwise merit a favorable exercise of discretion.
This entrepreneur parole is an incredibly exciting development, especially for tech startups, their investors, U.S. innovation and the economy. That said, it is incredibly important for all parties to ensure that they understand all the nuances of this rule in order to present the strongest application from the outset and to develop a realistic long-term immigration plan.
This parole rule does not provide a pathway to permanent residency (Green Card) in the U.S., so each entrepreneur and paroled founder must think ahead and plan for the time beyond the allowable five years of parole. This could, for example, include working toward building a case for an extraordinary ability O-1 application or planning for an EB1A ability-based Green Card, or more.
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