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Immigration Relief for Foreign Entrepreneurs

Today USCIS released the text of a proposed rule to be published in the Federal Register shortly, that provides temporary immigration relief to qualifying foreign entrepreneurs whose presence in the U.S. would be a public benefit to the country.

This proposed rule would pave the way for qualifying foreign entrepreneurs to seek “Parole” status for an initial two-year period if they own at least 15% of a start-up company that has received a significant amount of funding from U.S. investors.  The proposed qualifying threshold for investment in the start-up is $345,000.  Entrepreneurs could also qualify if they have received government funding or if they can show alternative sources of funding or revenue.  The entrepreneurs must play an active role in the company to qualify.

The rule would provide the beneficiaries of Parole employment authorization “incident to status” which means they would be immediately eligible to work upon approval of their Parole status and they would not need to apply for a separate employment card.

The proposed rule also allows for renewals for up to three additional years if the business has remained active during the initial parole period, if it continues to have substantial potential for growth and job creation, if the entrepreneur still owns at least 10% of the company,  if the company has received significant additional investment or funding,  if it has received annual revenue of at least $500,000/year and if it has added at least 10 full-time jobs to its payroll roster.

The family members would be entitled to Parole status along with the Entrepreneur, and spouses would be able to apply for an employment card.

Because current U.S. immigration law does not provide a viable temporary solution for large numbers of foreign entrepreneurs (for example, numerous Start-Up Visa bills have died in Congress and the H-1B temporary work visa quota is woefully inadequate), expanding the use of the Parole authority to help foreign entrepreneurs is a welcome move.  The $345,000 investment threshold for the initial Parole approval may be high for some entrepreneurs who otherwise would qualify, and perhaps in the final rule this threshold number will be lowered.  Similarly, the requirement of hiring 10 full-time employees within an initial two-year period, to be able to secure a renewal of the status, is aggressive.  While many companies may easily reach this number of employees in two years, others that are economically viable but growing more methodically could be left out in the cold.  Perhaps the final rule will reduce this requirement to make the program more useful to a wider set of foreign entrepreneurs.  Undoubtedly the government will receive a huge number of comments on the rule from the public, and will need to digest and analyze them in order to finalize the rule.

Often companies have several co-founders who need a viable immigration status to work on the start-up together.  Happily, the proposed rule would allow up to three foreign entrepreneurs per company to seek this new benefit.

This proposed rule is a ray of hope for thousands of hard-working foreign entrepreneurs desperate for an immigration solution that will allow them to continue to work for their U.S. start-ups.


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