On May 10, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is withdrawing a 2018 notice of proposed rulemaking that proposed to remove the International Entrepreneur (IE) parole program from DHS regulations. The IE parole program provides a temporary immigration pathway for foreign entrepreneurs who have founded companies in the United States attracting venture capital or other funding that may benefit the nation by growing and adding jobs to the U.S. economy. First introduced in 2017, the IE parole program will continue to offer foreign entrepreneurs the opportunity to create and develop start-up entities with high growth potential in the United States. The IE parole program seeks to strengthen and grow the United States’ economy through increased capital spending, innovation, and job creation.

Under the IE program, parole may be granted to up to three entrepreneurs per start-up entity, as well as their spouses and children. Parole authorizes the beneficiary the right to enter and stay in the United States, for a specific period of time granted by DHS. The IE program is not a typical immigration pathway, but it fills a gap for entrepreneurs that more common immigration statuses do not satisfy. Entrepreneurs granted parole are eligible to work only for their start-up business, and their spouses may apply for employment authorization in the United States, though their children are not eligible for such authorization based on this parole.

International Entrepreneur parole program applicants must show that they:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 development, research and development, or job creation (or other types of grants or awards typically 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 of the previous two requirements and provide additional reliable and compelling evidence of the start-up entity’s substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation.
  1. Otherwise merit a favorable exercise of discretion.

If the application is successful, DHS will grant the applicant parole for an initial period of 30 months, with an option for an additional 30-month extension if the business continues to grow.

The initial IE final rule was published on Jan. 17, 2017 as a way for the federal government to attract entrepreneurs to launch successful startups in the United States. It was initially scheduled to take effect on July 17, 2017. Prior to the effective date, DHS published a final rule to delay the implementation date of the IE final rule to March 14, 2018. However, in December 2017, a federal court vacated the delay, requiring USCIS to begin accepting international entrepreneur parole applications consistent with the IE final rule. Since then, the program has been up and running, and USCIS continues to accept and adjudicate applications consistent with existing DHS regulations.

This latest announcement from USCIS establishes the continuity of the International Entrepreneur parole program and the benefits it offers to foreign-born entrepreneurs and the U.S. economy as a whole.