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The US International Entrepreneur Parole Rule for Foreign Entrepreneurs

3.25 minute read
"As a foreign entrepreneur or investor, you do not have many options to temporarily come to the US to establish a new business. While there are business immigration options, nonimmigrant visa categories for foreign investors remain few. Many foreign start-up founders even opt for the H-1B Visa to temporarily come to the US to establish their business."
Written by My Visa Source Team
Published on:  Jun 4, 2021
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As a foreign entrepreneur or investor, you do not have many options to temporarily come to the US to establish a new business. While there are business immigration options, nonimmigrant visa categories for foreign investors remain few. Many foreign start-up founders even opt for the H-1B Visa to temporarily come to the US to establish their business. 

However, the H-1B Visa eligibility requirements require the applicant to have an arms-length relationship with the employer, meaning that having an ownership stake in the business that is employing you will make you ineligible for this visa category. This presents a problem for international business owners. 

Is There a Visa Category Specially Designed for International Entrepreneurs?

For immigration purposes, there are visa categories including the EB-5 Investor Visa that allows foreign entrepreneurs and investors to immigrate to the US by making a substantial investment in a new or existing business. However, there is no nonimmigrant visa category specially designed for foreign entrepreneurs. There have been many attempts to amend the immigration law to introduce a nonimmigrant visa category for start-up founders and foreign entrepreneurs by Congress. 

Although there is an E-2 Treaty Investor Visa for foreign nationals who want to make a substantial investment in the US, this visa is not available to everyone. The E-2 Visa category is only for applicants who are nationals of a country that has a trade agreement with the US. Also, if the applicant does not have 50% ownership of the business at all times, the E-2 Visa status will automatically become void. 

What Is the International Entrepreneur Parole Rule?

The International Entrepreneur Parole Rule (IER) was introduced shortly before President Obama left office. This rule provides an immigration pathway for international entrepreneurs who have established a business enterprise in the US and attracted venture capital or other funding to add employment to the US economy.

This rule is not exactly a visa status but it authorizes the applicants to live and work in the US for a specified period as stated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). To be eligible for this pathway, applicants must demonstrate that:

  • Their business was established 3 years before the date of their application
  • Their business is well-positioned to advance operations in the US
  • Acquire at least $250,000 worth of financing from a US venture capital or other investors who have a history of investing in start-ups or
  • Acquire grants worth at least $100,000 from the federal, state or local government agencies responsible for economic development and/or job creation

This visa is granted for a period of 2 years and can be extended for up to 3 years if the business operations are continued. One of the major drawbacks of IER is that the beneficiary can not apply to change their status from inside the US.

Why the International Entrepreneur Parole Rule Is Not a Widely Known Immigration Option

Under President Trump, the administration tried to revoke this rule and block its implementation by constantly delaying the date for the rule to be effective. This forced the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) to file a lawsuit against the administration for improperly blocking the rule. The lawsuit ended in favor of the NVCA.

This resulted in the Trump administration grudgingly adjudicating few applications under this rule. However, they also published in the Federal Register that they intended to withdraw the rule officially. Fortunately, President Trump was voted out of office before the administration could carry through its intention.

However, due to all this uncertainty regarding the rule in the last 4 years, the IER hasn’t gotten the publicity it deserves. It is an attractive option for international start-up founders who want to establish their business in the US. Such foreign investments play a major role in ensuring the development of regional communities and increasing employment opportunities in local areas.

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