Last month, the United States Immigration and Citizenship Service (USCIS) issued a comprehensive guide on the international entrepreneur parole program (IEPP). The IEPP grants certain foreign nationals temporary status in the U.S. to grow a business. This program is specifically designed for entrepreneurs that may not meet the more rigorous eligibility requirements of existing visa programs. But does that mean it’s easier, or better, for foreign entrepreneurs to pursue?
Visa Business Plans is here to provide a full breakdown of what the international entrepreneur parole program is, who it’s for, and how to get started.
What is the international entrepreneur parole program?
Put simply, the IEPP lets the USCIS use its discretionary parole authority on a case-by-case basis to grant a period of authorized stay in the U.S. to foreign national entrepreneurs. This program was introduced back in 2017, however, it was placed on hold under the Trump administration. The Biden administration has since reintroduced the program to invigorate job creation and growth for the American economy.
Entrepreneurs in this program must hold a substantial financial interest in an American start-up entity and be able to demonstrate that their presence in the United States would provide a significant public benefit, particularly through potential for job creation and growth.
The international entrepreneur parole program allows foreign entrepreneurs to remain in or relocate to the U.S. for 30 months. So long as the U.S.-based start-up entity performs well, the applicant can extend their stay up to five years. This program will also grant stays to an entrepreneur’s spouse and unmarried children under 21, though they must show they are independently eligible for parole.
If this program sounds too good to be true, it’s because it sort of is. The IEPP is a fast workaround for foreign national entrepreneurs that don’t want to or can’t wait for the more intensive process of the USCIS’s other investor visa programs. But, the IEPP won’t grant the same level of utility. The IEPP does not provide immigrant status to approved applicants, and, technically, it doesn’t provide nonimmigrant status either. Instead, approved applicants receive parole, which is the discretionary and temporary permission to enter and stay in the U.S. Importantly, the discretionary nature of parole means that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security may issue a 30-day notice to terminate that status at any time, lending a degree of uncertainty even for approved applicants.
The benefit of the IEPP is that foreign nationals do not need a visa to start and grow an American business. But the program also offers no path to obtaining a visa, meaning that a recipient would still have to apply for immigrant or nonimmigrant status as usual. Additionally, because the IEPP doesn’t allow for a change of status, that individual would have to leave the U.S. to apply for admission under another visa program.
What type of applicant is this program for?
The IEPP is a fantastic opportunity for foreign nationals in any industry! Many employment visas offered through the USCIS extend only to specific industry-related job requirements. Instead, the IEPP encourages all types of entrepreneurial businesses so long as they serve a significant public benefit.
Significant public benefit is a term that doesn’t have a set statutory or regulatory definition. Instead, proving that an applicant’s start-up has significant public benefit comes down to building a strong argument backed by evidence. To prove its significant public benefit, an IEPP recipient’s start-up must show one of the following:
It has received government grants or awards (at least &105,659) from federal, state, or local government entities that regularly provide such grants and awards to start-ups.
It has received significant capital investments (at least $264,147) from qualified U.S. investors with established records of successful investments.
It has partially met either or both of the previous two requirements and provides additional reliable and compelling evidence of the start-up entity’s substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation.
The IEPP is best suited for foreign entrepreneurs in any industry that are prepared to grow their business rapidly and create jobs to support the American economy.
Who is Eligible?
To be eligible for the IEPP, a foreign national must have an active and central role in the U.S.-based start-up entity. In their role, the applicant must also be well-positioned, meaning they have the requisite knowledge, skills, and experience to guide the start-up entity to success.
As mentioned, applicants must also have a substantial ownership stake in the start-up entity. USCIS defines a substantial ownership interest as at least 10% ownership of the start-up entity. After approval, an applicant may reduce their ownership interest, but the applicant must maintain at least a 5% interest during the initial parole period.
And really, that’s it! Unlike the E-2 investor visa, which requires that applicants come from certain countries, anyone can apply for the IEPP. However, the case-by-case, discretionary aspect of adjudications means there is no blueprint that guarantees an IEPP approval. It all comes down to how convinced the USCIS is that an applicant will truly promote economic prosperity and job growth in the U.S.
How to get started
We recommend anyone interested in applying to the IEPP first consult an immigration attorney. Even though the IEPP application is designed to be simpler than the typical visa petition, there is still plenty of room for error. Immigration forms are often complex and confusing, even for those familiar with them. If a form is filled out and submitted without relevant information and necessary expertise, it can negatively impact the outcome and have long-time consequences on the immigration process in general.
To pursue parole in the U.S. through the IEPP, an applicant must submit Form I-941. In addition, the applicant must provide the following evidence:
Personal identification documents
Evidence of the applicant’s active and central role in the U.S.-based start-up
Evidence of the applicant’s ownership stake
Evidence of the start-up entity’s date of formation (within the last five years)
Evidence of the start-up entity’s significant public benefit through substantial potential for growth and job creation
Evidence that the start-up entity has received investments from qualified U.S. investors OR received grants or awards from U.S. government entities OR alternate evidence
This list is surprisingly short, especially considering how much documentation other USCIS visa programs require. It is precisely this aspect of the IEPP that makes it so enticing to entrepreneurs around the globe.
While the IEPP is one of the most simple and straightforward paths to temporarily living and working in the U.S., it still requires a fair amount of evidence to build a strong case for the USCIS. That’s where Visa Business Plans can help. Our team has more than 13 years of experience building solid business plans, including relevant research to show how a company will benefit the American economy. If you’d like to learn more about the IEPP and how Visa Business Plans can help, contact us today for a free consultation.
As a notice, this article is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as legal advice. We strongly recommend that all interested parties consult an immigration attorney for guidance.
Visa Business Plans is led by Marco Scanu, a certified coach from the University of Miami with a globally-based practice coaching Fortune 1000 company executives, entrepreneurs, as well as professionals in four different continents. Mr. Scanu advises clients on turnaround strategies and crisis management.
Mr. Scanu received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (Cum Laude) from the University of Florida and an MBA in Management from Bocconi University in Milan, Italy. Mr. Scanu was also a Visiting Scholar at Michigan State University under the prestigious H. Humphrey Fellowship (Fulbright program) with a focus on Entrepreneurship, Venture Capital, and high-growth enterprises.
At present, Mr. Scanu is the managing partner and CEO at Visa Business Plans, a Miami-based boutique consulting firm providing attorneys and investors with business planning services in the areas of U.S. and Canadian immigration, SBA loans, and others.