On March 10, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) issued an announcement with comprehensive guidance on parole for international entrepreneurs. This program provides an opportunity for some foreign nationals who may not meet the more rigorous requirements of legacy U.S. investor visa programs.

USCIS will now use its discretionary parole authority to issue, on a case-by-case basis, a period of authorized stay to foreign national entrepreneurs who hold a substantial financial interest in a start-up entity and can demonstrate that their presence in the United States would provide a significant public benefit via the start-up’s potential job creation and growth.

The recently issued guidance includes the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s criteria for evaluating these parole applications and establishes application requirements specifically tailored to capture information necessary for USCIS to complete its adjudication.

Applicant Requirements

Applicants must demonstrate key elements to qualify for this type of parole. They must have central and active roles in the operations of start-ups and they must also have a substantial ownership interest, defined by USCIS as at least a 10% ownership stake. Ownership interest can be reduced after the granting of the initial parole, but cannot be reduced below 5%.

Start-Up Entity Requirements

Qualified start-ups must:

  • Be a corporation, limited liability company, partnership, or other entity organized under federal law or the laws of any state, that conducts business in the United States;
  • Not be primarily engaged in the offer, purchase, sale, or trading of securities, futures contracts, derivatives, or similar instruments;
  • Have formed within the five years immediately preceding the date the applicant filed the initial parole application and lawfully doing business during any period of operation since its date of formation; and
  • Be an entity with substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation.

Requisite Amount of Investment for the Program

Demonstration of potential for rapid growth and job creation means that within 18 months prior to filing Form I-941, the investor(s) made necessary qualified investments. The necessary investment amount automatically adjusts every three years per the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers. The most recent amounts are $250,000 if filing before Oct. 1, 2021 and $264,147 if filed on or after Oct. 1, 2021.

To be considered a qualified investment, applicants must submit evidence that the investment was made in good faith. Evidence must include records that show the trail of lawfully derived capital from a qualified investor into the start-up.

What Defines a Qualified Investor?

A qualified investor may be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, or an organization in the United States and operated through a legal entity organized under the laws of the United States or any state, that is majority owned and controlled, directly or indirectly, by U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents of the United States.

Qualified investment may not come directly or indirectly from:

  • The entrepreneur;
  • The entrepreneur’s parents, spouse, brother, sister, son, or daughter;
  • Any corporation, limited liability company, partnership, or other entity in which the entrepreneur or their parents, spouse, brother, sister, son, or daughter directly or indirectly has any ownership interest.

Applicants must be able to demonstrate an external investment in the start-up. While applicants may invest in the company, those investments cannot be used to meet requirements for the program.

The program also has requirements of investors. Applicants must show regular investments from investors into start-up entities. Proof of investment means that in the five years prior to application:

  • The qualified investor made investments in start-up entities in exchange for equity, convertible debt, or other security convertible into equity commonly used in financing transactions within their respective industries comprising a total in such five-year period of no less than the investment amount in the chart below
  • at least two such entities each either created five or more qualified jobs or generated revenue of at least the amount in the chart below, with average annualized revenue growth of 20% minimum prior to any investment by individuals or organizations.
  • The following table outlines the required amount of investment and revenue for qualified investors’ prior investments, which varies based on the date the applicant filed the Form I-941.

Required Investment and Revenue Amounts for Qualified Investors’ Prior Investments

Filing DateInvestment AmountRevenue Amount
Before October 1, 2021$600,000$500,000
On or after October 1, 2021$633,952$528,293

USCIS may initially approve an applicant for a parole period of up to 30 months. USCIS also may approve a single request for re-parole at its discretion for an additional period of up to 30 months. An entrepreneur’s spouse and children seeking parole as derivatives must apply individually by filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. Spouses of entrepreneur parolees, after being paroled into the United States, may be eligible for work authorization by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization with USCIS. Children of the entrepreneur are not eligible for work authorization.

Though the International Entrepreneur Parole Program provides an alternative option for entrepreneurs in start-ups, it does not provide a path to permanent residency.

The guidance on the International Entrepreneur Parole Program, contained in Vol. 3 of the Policy Manual, is effective immediately and applies prospectively to applications filed on or after March 10, 2023. The policy change addresses:

  • Criteria for consideration and definitions for the applicant, start-up entity and the qualified investment/grant/award, and guidance on relevant evidence for the application
  • Guidance on the application process for the entrepreneur applicant and their family
  • The discretionary nature of the adjudication
  • Conditions on the initial grant of the parole, additional parole period, and termination of parole

Those with questions on the International Entrepreneur Parole Program should consult with experienced immigration counsel.