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Immigration Law - Houston

USCIS Proposed Rule for International Entrepreneurs

On August 26th, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it was proposing a new rule to allow some international entrepreneurs to apply for “parole,” which gives temporary permission to be in the United States to allow them to start or develop businesses in the United States. The purpose of the proposed rule is to aid entrepreneurship, innovation, and job creation in the United States.

What is Parole for International Entrepreneurs?

In immigration law, “Parole” means that a person is temporarily authorized to be in the United States at the discretion of USCIS or U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Right now, USCIS may use its discretion to parole anyone for humanitarian reasons or because their presence is for a significant public benefit. The new proposed rule for international entrepreneurs will expand the concept of “significant public benefit” to include entrepreneurs due to their potential to grow new businesses and create jobs in the United States.

Who Qualifies for the New International Entrepreneur Parole Program?

The proposed rule will allow USCIS to parole entrepreneurs of start-up entities whose entry into the United States would provide a significant public benefit through the substantial and demonstrated potential for rapid business growth and job creation. As with other parole requests, these cases will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis – USCIS is not proposing to grant a blanket authorization to all international entrepreneurs in the United States.

Rules for International Entrepreneur Parole Applicants

In its announcement about this proposed rule, USCIS states that it will consider applicants: 

  • Who have a significant ownership interest in the startup (at least 15 percent) and have  an active and central role to its operations;
  • Whose startup was formed in the United States within the past three years; and
  • Whose startup has substantial and demonstrated potential for rapid business growth and job creation, as evidenced by:
  • Receiving significant investment of capital (at least $345,000) from certain qualified U.S. investors with established records of successful investments;
  • Receiving significant awards or grants (at least $100,000) from certain federal, state or local government entities; or
  • Partially satisfying one or both of the above criteria in addition to other reliable and compelling evidence of the startup entity’s substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation.

USCIS is proposing to grant parole to qualified international entrepreneurs for an initial period of up to two years to allow these individuals to oversee and grow their startup entity in the United States. At the end of the initial parole period, applicants can request re-parole for up to three additional years if the entrepreneur and the startup entity can show that the entrepreneur’s presence and the development of the business still provides a significant public benefit. This can be shown through substantial increases in capital investment, revenue, or job creation.

Can I Apply Right Now?

At this time, the new rule to allow USCIS to grant parole for international entrepreneurs has been proposed, and will be open for comments before any regulations specifying application procedures or specific criteria for applicants are published. In other words, this is a new announcement and USCIS is not accepting applications for parole by international entrepreneurs yet.

Why does USCIS need to announce this program? Aren’t There Visas for Investors and Executives?

There are a few types of visas that may be given to investors or executives to allow them to come to the U.S. to open or oversee and develop a business. For example, the E-2 visa is available to nationals of countries which have treaties with the United States. However, individuals who are not nationals of treaty countries are not able to apply.

The L-1 visa is available to people who have worked for one continuous year at a foreign company who are now coming to manage or oversee a United States company that has a qualifying relationship to the foreign company. However, this visa is limited to people who have prior work experience with a company that has a qualifying relationship with the United States company. The proposed international entrepreneur parole program will help people who do not qualify for any visas that are currently available.

In addition, the proposed criteria for eligibility for parole appear to include undocumented immigrants. This may serve to fill a much-needed gap for individuals who are able to open promising new businesses in the United States, but who are unable to qualify to obtain legal status within the United States, and risk not being allowed in if they depart the United States to apply for a new visa.

Houston Immigrants: Benefitting our City Through Innovation and Business Development

As reported by the Partnership for New American Economy, immigrants to the United States are more likely than native-born U.S. citizens to open a new business. The City of Houston in particular is one of the largest immigration hubs in the United States, and the effect of international entrepreneurs on the city is evident in the variety and diversity of new businesses the city enjoys and the growing International District on Houston’s west side.

However, those who are able to visit the United States face challenges in setting up their businesses: If these entrepreneurs use visitor visas or the Visa Waiver Program to come to set up their businesses, their time in the United States is limited. In addition, as temporary visitors, they are not authorized to engage in productive work. It is often difficult to know when the “setting up” of the business has ended and the actual “work” has begun.

Parole may allow these individuals to apply for employment authorization (a “work permit”), which would solve the problem of having to walk a thin line of starting up a business without “working.” The employment authorization would also allow these entrepreneurs to apply for social security numbers and easily pay taxes and more easily open up business bank accounts as needed.

What Happens Now?

At this time, the rule has been proposed. USCIS has announced the goal of this new parole program and some of the criteria applicants may be expected to meet. If you are interested in this program, be aware that applications are not being accepted at this time. However, you may seek advice from an experienced immigration lawyer to determine if you should consider applying for parole in the future.

Kathryn Karam and her office, The Law Office of Kathryn Karam, P.C., has been named one of the Top Immigration lawyers in Houston.  If you would like to schedule a consultation, please follow this link:

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