Start-up Visa for Foreign Entrepreneurs

By Reuben S. Seguritan

February 22, 2017


The United States (US) prides itself in being the land of opportunity. Entrepreneurs flock to the US to introduce their companies and products, gain millions of customers and users, hire the best workers in the world and make a name for themselves.

On January 17, 2017, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published the rule entitled “International Entrepreneur Rule”. This rule will become effective on July 17, 2017. This rule is primarily for the benefit of qualified entrepreneurs to stay in the US and work for a start-up entity. A start-up entity is a business or undertaking that has started operations within the last 5 years and aims to meet a marketplace need by developing or offering an innovative product, process or service. For purposes of this rule, the start-up entity must have been formed in the US.

The rule provides that the DHS may use its “parole” authority to allow foreign entrepreneurs to stay and work in the US for a particular start-up entity for up to 30 months and then for an additional 30 months thereafter, both upon approval. The DHS will evaluate applications and determine whether the foreign entrepreneur provides a significant benefit to the US and its economy and provide jobs to the public. A maximum of three entrepreneurs will be allowed per qualifying entity for purposes of this rule. Furthermore, the earliest that an entrepreneur may file under this rule is July 17, 2017.

The spouses and unmarried minor children of the approved entrepreneurs may also be allowed to enter the US under this rule. In addition, the spouses may apply for work authorization. However, the minor children of the entrepreneurs are not allowed to work in the US under this visa.

In order to apply, the entrepreneur must file the completed Form I-941, Application for Entrepreneur Parole on or after July 17, 2017, pay the application fee and the biometrics fee required for a background check to be conducted and must prove in their application that their role as an entrepreneur meets the criteria of the DHS.

In the criteria set forth by the DHS, the entrepreneur must show the following:

  1. That he has a significant ownership interest of at least 10% in the start-up entity (at least 5% for the additional 30 months) and that such start-up has the capacity for immense growth and can provide jobs to a lot of people;
  2. That he has an important and active role in the start-up entity such that he is well-positioned to substantially work for the success of the business; and
  3. That he can prove that his ability to live and work in the US as an entrepreneur will provide a significant benefit to the US by showing:
  4. that the start-up entity has received within the 18 months immediately preceding the filing of the application, a significant investment of capital in the amount of at least $250,000 from qualified US investors with established records of successful investments;
  5. that the start-up entity has received significant awards or grants for economic development, research and development, or job creation from federal, state or local government entities that regularly provide such awards or grants to start-up entities; or
  6. that the start-up partially meets either or both a and b above and also gives reliable and compelling evidence of the start-up entity’s substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation.

This new rule will encourage foreign entrepreneurs to live and work in the US and establish more start-up entities this year. Furthermore, the benefits to the US economy will be immediately felt because of the creation of jobs and the increase in investments which will in turn create a stronger and bigger economy.