Originally published in the Fall 2021 Regional Center Business Journal
by Darren Silver, Partner, Darren Silver & Associates LLP and Roberto Blanco, Senior Associate Attorney, Darren Siver & Associates LLP
This year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) relaunched the International Entrepreneur Parole Rule (“IEP”), which allows foreign entrepreneurs to request parole to run a qualifying U.S. start-up. However, the IEP is essentially a new program, so there is very little data or even anecdotal evidence of USCIS adjudication policies or trends. Nevertheless, IEP provides another immigration option for certain foreign entrepreneurs, especially those who do not qualify for an E-2 investor visa or EB-5.
It is important first to define the immigration benefit under this program – parole. The secretary of Homeland Security may parole an individual into the U.S. for a temporary period for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. It is not a visa or a green card, nor does it directly lead to any type of formal immigration status. Although it is sometimes marketed as “EB-6” or an “entrepreneur visa,” these descriptions imply a much more robust immigration benefit. Finally, parole can be revoked at any time, without notice, if USCIS believes that parole is no longer warranted. Entrepreneurs seeking parole should consult with an immigration attorney to ensure that it is the best option for travel to the U.S.
To qualify for parole under the IEP, a foreign entrepreneur must own at least 10% of a U.S. start-up company, created within the 5 years preceding the application. The entrepreneur must play an active and central role to the operations of the business and must provide a significant public benefit to the U.S. Based on the other requirements discussed below, USCIS will likely focus on job creation to determine whether the start-up will benefit the U.S., but this is up to the discretion of USCIS. If a start-up will provide other public benefits, the entrepreneur should clearly articulate those benefits and include supporting evidence. Up to three entrepreneurs per start-up can utilize the IEP.
In addition to the threshold requirements above, the start-up must have received, within the last 18 months, an investment of $250,000 from qualified U.S. investors or $100,000 of government funding for economic development, research and development, or job creation awards or grants. If the entrepreneur does not meet either the full capital investment or government funding, parole can be granted based on “compelling evidence” of substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation…