December 28, 2021 by Immigration Attorney Seth Finberg
If you are an entrepreneur and are looking to come to the United States to form a startup, there is a new program called International Entrepreneur Parole (IEP) that you may want to consider. IEP allows startup founders to legally move to the United States to work for and grow their company. Since there is no specific “startup visa,” this grant of parole is the closest thing the U.S. currently has to a startup program. IEP allows entrepreneurs who provide a “significant public benefit” by creating jobs for American workers and helping to expand the U.S. economy to enter the U.S. and stay for 30 months (2.5 years). To be approved for this program, each entrepreneur must provide a detailed description of their central and active role in the startup entity.
Advantages of International Entrepreneur Parole:
Disadvantages of International Entrepreneur Parole:
IEP is at least an intriguing option to consider for entrepreneurs, especially for Indian nationals. The founder can be both an owner and manager/executive of their startup; does not have to directly invest any minimum amount of personal funds in the company; and can avoid the lengthy process of labor certification. However, IEP is a new program which has a lot of uncertainty, including delays in processing time and the lack of a proven track record of approved parole applications. Another concern is that external investment thresholds are high for many otherwise worthy applicants. Most successful U.S. companies with foreign founders are or were financed with personal, family, or overseas funding sources. Unfortunately, these traditional funding sources are not considered when qualifying for IEP. Additionally, you may have to divert valuable startup resources and pay yourself a salary high enough to exceed the federal household poverty guidelines by 400%.
While IEP may not be suitable for many entrepreneurs or startups, it may still be a viable alternative to consider. Entrepreneur parole may be worth exploring if you are considering leaving your currently sponsored U.S. job; if you are an international student entrepreneur; or if you do not qualify for any existing program. If you choose to pursue IEP or any other business immigration solution, I highly recommend that you work with immigration attorneys. Experienced attorneys can navigate the complexities of the IEP process and explain the risks, rewards, and time frames of your immigration strategy.
IER parole may be granted for up to three entrepreneurs per start-up entity.