On May 10, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the revival of the Obama-era program International Entrepreneur Rule (IER). In 2018, the Trump administration proposed to eliminate the IER rule, which allows certain foreign-born entrepreneurs to stay in the U.S. for up to five years.
The DHS estimates that once the program is implemented, about 3,000 foreign entrepreneurs per year would qualify. This would result in the creation of 100,000 jobs over a decade. In the absence of the IER program, foreign-born entrepreneurs must retrofit visas to their personal situations. The E-2 visa, available for citizens of certain countries, is yet another option for entrepreneurs but requires that the entrepreneurs be able to personally invest in the start-up.
The International Entrepreneur Rule
The DHS uses its parole authority to grant foreign entrepreneurs a period of authorized stay of up to five years, decided on a case-by-case basis. It is up to the foreign entrepreneur to demonstrate their stay in the United States would provide a significant public benefit through their business venture. The foreign entrepreneur must also merit a favorable exercise of discretion.
Entrepreneurs granted parole by the DHS will be eligible to work only in the start-up business for which they have been paroled. Though parole is not an immigration visa status, it awards the entrepreneur the right to enter and stay in the U.S. for the specific time granted. The entrepreneur can bring in their spouse and children under the age of 21. Unlike some of the other work visas, the spouse of the entrepreneur may also apply for a temporary work permit.
To qualify for parole, entrepreneurs must show the following:
- 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
- They 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
- They will provide a significant public benefit to the United States based on their role as an entrepreneur of the start-up entity by showing that:
- The start-up entity has received a significant investment of capital from certain qualified U.S. investors with established records of successful investments;
- The start-up entity has received significant awards or grants for economic and development, or job creation (or other types of grants or awards given to start-up entities) from federal, state, or local government entities that regularly provide such awards or grants to start-up entities; or
- They partially meet either or both previous two requirements and provide additional reliable and compelling evidence of the start-up entity’s substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation
- Otherwise, they merit a favorable exercise of discretion
A Future-Oriented Program
With more than 40% of Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants or children of immigrants, it is no surprise that immigrant entrepreneurs have always made exceptional contributions to America’s communities and economy. With the IER program, the U.S. provides a clearer path for foreign-born entrepreneurs than before.