Mayank Mohan, Esq. is a practicing attorney at Law Offices of Mayank Mohan in Santa Monica, California (www.ilomm.com). The views expressed are his own.
I have recently received several inquiries about the International Entrepreneur Parole (IEP) Program prompting this discussion about some aspects of the program.
The IEP program was reinstated by the USCIS in May 2021 to create another but narrower pathway for entrepreneurs to enter the United States to develop new ventures.
The notable distinction with other US visa options is that this pathway provides the applicant a “parole” or permission to enter the United States but does not grant them a traditional visa. From a practical standpoint, it is not a material difference. The application for parole still must go through largely the same mechanisms – apply for parole first with USCIS and use the approval notice to obtain a parole at a U.S. Consulate. (see https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/humanitarian-parole/international-entrepreneur-parole). Upon entering the U.S. as a parolee, the applicant may work only for the new venture as is the case with a traditional work visa. A parole grant, however, is considered more discretionary than the traditional visa.
While the IEP program does not provide direct access to a U.S. Permanent Residency, it provides the entrepreneur up to 5 years to develop their venture and their portfolio of achievements thereby giving them a strong opportunity to become eligible for a more traditional visa.
The program would be particularly attractive to those who do not see themselves living in the United States in the longer term. It also provides access point for those who do not qualify for the E visa because of their citizenship, who are early in their entrepreneurial journey or those who are not ready for the significant capital commitments of the EB5 program.
Further, considering the larger startup ecosystem, the program could offer opportunities for greater supply of innovative ideas, larger pool of global entrepreneurial talent and potential inflow of foreign investments.
Eligibility criteria for the entrepreneur (the applicant):
- Possess a substantial ownership interest (at least 10%) 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.
- 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.
- 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 (at least $250,000) of capital from certain qualified U.S. investors with established records of successful investments
- The start-up entity has received significant awards or grants (at least $100,000) 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.
- Merit a favorable exercise of discretion.
- Up to 3 foreign entrepreneurs can be granted parole per venture entity
Initial grant of parole is for a period of 30 months. Upon expiry of the initial 30-month period, the applicant may apply for an extension. The criterion for extension is different:
- The business continues to operate;
- The entrepreneur retains at least a five percent ownership interest and continues to play a central role in the business; and
- The business has:
- Created at least five qualifying jobs;
- Received at least $500,000 in qualifying investments, government grants, or awards, or a combination thereof; or
- Generated at least $500,000 in U.S. revenue and averaged 20 percent annual growth during the initial parole period.
If found eligible based on the above criterion, the applicant may obtain an additional 30 months of parole.
The spouse and children of the applicant may apply for parole and the spouse is also eligible to receive a work permit for the duration of the parole.
I would conclude that the program does appear promising and is a step in the right direction. However, given its infancy, its practical nuances and actual value will be discovered only in the times to come.
[Mayank Mohan, Esq. is a practicing attorney at Law Offices of Mayank Mohan in Santa Monica, California (www.ilomm.com).]