Back to Business: America Welcomes International Entrepreneurs Anew

by Cristina A. Godinez, Esq.

Chamber of Commer Building | Photo by Almonroth via Wikimedia Commons

Foreign business people with investments in start-up businesses can now apply to enter the United States temporarily starting July 17.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is ready to grant temporary entry to qualified international entrepreneurs of start-up businesses who will provide a “significant public benefit” to the U.S., under the International Entrepreneur Parole Rule (IEPR).

Under the IEPR, the international entrepreneur should demonstrate a central and active role in the U.S.-based start-up during the past five years and possess at least a 10 percent stake in the business. In addition, the start-up should have received either: an investment of at least $250,000 from one or more U.S. investor/s or a government award or grant of at least $100,000.

If the start-up only partially meets either or both the required capital investment or the government funding, International Entrepreneur Parole (IEP) applicants would need to present other “compelling evidence” of substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation, such as a strong start-up track record, the development of new technologies or pioneering research.

International entrepreneurs may be granted initial 30-month parole with the possibility of obtaining an additional 30-month extension if the start-up meets the criteria for additional funding, revenue generation, or job creation. If the start-up only partially meets one or more of the other three criteria, the international entrepreneur can still qualify for re-parole by producing other compelling evidence of the start-up’s substantial potential.

Spouses and minor children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) are also eligible for parole under this rule.

“Parole as an international entrepreneur is a discretionary benefit. As such, the DHS grants the parole on a case-by-case basis and can revoke the parole benefit at any time. There is no appeal or motion to reopen or reconsider available if an IEP application is denied.”

The international entrepreneur will be allowed to work only for the start-up business. However, spouses of international entrepreneurs can file an application with the DHS for employment authorization, and if granted, may engage in open market employment.

The rule limits the parole benefit to three (3) entrepreneurs per start-up business.

Parole as an international entrepreneur is a discretionary benefit. As such, the DHS grants the parole on a case-by-case basis and can revoke the parole benefit at any time. There is no appeal or motion to reopen or reconsider available if an IEP application is denied. The IEP applicant and their family may be denied the benefit where there is evidence of criminal conduct, fraud, national security concerns, or other negative evidence.

Since the IEP is not a visa category, the parolee may not apply to change from IEP to another visa status. Neither does the IEP lead to a green card (or permanent resident status). The parolee will, therefore, need to find another pathway to remain in the U.S. permanently.

The international entrepreneur parolee must maintain a household income of at least 400 percent above the poverty level (which currently amounts to $51,520 for a single person).

Although Congress had been attempting to enact a law providing for start-up visas since 2010, there is no start-up U.S. visas at this time. The IEPR was first introduced in January 2017 but was mired in litigation soon after President Trump took office and blocked its implementation. Only a handful of foreign entrepreneurs availed of this benefit due to this program’s uncertainty during the past administration.

The IEPR had been caught in the doldrums for too long. The DHS expects about 3,000 entrepreneurs will be able to apply for parole under this rule every year. Welcoming international entrepreneurs is expected by DHS “to generate significant scientific, research and development, and technological impacts that could create new products and produce positive spillover effects to other businesses and sectors.”


Cristina Godinez is an attorney who has provided immigration solutions to families, businesses, and at-risk migrants in the United States for over 15 years. She worked with the immigration law practice group of a top-tier global law firm in New York and later with the world’s largest immigration law firm. Cristina is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). She co-hosts Talk of the Town, a Facebook live stream show that tackles news and feature stories in the Filipino American community on www.PinoyLife.net.

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