The International Entrepreneur Rule (IER)

Internation Entrepreneur Program USCIS applications

It’s no secret that immigrant entrepreneurs have always made exceptional contributions to America’s economy in communities across the country. Immigrants have helped start as many as one of every four small businesses and high-tech startups across America, and the majority of those in Silicon Valley. More than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants, and the majority of today’s unicorns (private companies valued at over $1 billion) have an immigrant co-founder. Yet none of these immigrant entrepreneurs came to America on a visa designed for startup founders — because … you guessed it — Congress never created one.

But, in an era when America can no longer be complacent about its longtime status as the best place on Earth to start and scale a new company — an era when other countries such as Canada, France and China are making entrepreneurship more enticing — America must make immigrant entrepreneurship a little bit easier, right? Right.

Enter: The International Entrepreneur Rule, a regulation issued in the last days of the Obama administration, which the Trump administration suspended (i.e., snuffed out), just before the first eligible entrepreneurs could start submitting applications. Luckily, in May of 2021, President Biden revived the program, paving the way for the next generation of immigrant-owned businesses.

Here are the Requirements:

The final rule requires the applicant-entrepreneur to demonstrate:

  • The entrepreneur holds at least a 10% ownership stake in the start-up entity.
  • The entrepreneur holds a central, active role in the operations of the start-up.
  • The entrepreneur’s knowledge, skills, or experience will substantially assist with the growth and success of the start-up.
  • The start-up’s formation occurred in the last five years.
  • The start-up received substantial capital investment or awards as follows:
    1. Within the last 18 months, received an aggregate of $100,000 in government grants or $250,000 from qualified investors.
      • A government grant must be from a U.S. federal, state, or local entity. The grant must be for economic development, research and development, job creation, or another similar monetary award directed at start-ups. The grant may not be part of a contract for goods or services and must come from an entity or agency with a track record of granting funds to start-ups.
      • A qualified investor must have a significant track record of successful investments in other start-ups.
    2. If the funding criteria is only partially met, the entrepreneur may provide compelling evidence that the entity has substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation. A single start-up may sponsor up to three entrepreneurs for parole. An entrepreneur granted parole can work in the United States for the start-up incident to her or his parole.


The applicant must file Form I-941, along with a $1,200 filing fee and an $85 biometrics fee.

After Approval:

Upon approval of the I-941, the entrepreneur will be issued an I-797 Notice of Action and an I-512L Authorization for Parole of an Alien into the United States. Canadians may take these documents directly to the U.S.-Canada border to be paroled into the U.S. All others will be required to obtain travel documentation (such as a boarding foil) at a U.S. consulate. The entrepreneur would then travel to the United States and request parole when appearing before U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials at the port of entry.

Work Authorization:

Entrepreneurs granted parole through this program can receive up to five years of work authorization, in two 30-month increments.

Re-Parole (Extensions):

To receive an extension of parole, entrepreneurs will need to again file Form I-941, demonstrating that they maintain a 5% ownership stake in the start-up and continue to provide a public benefit to the United States through their role as a founder of the entity (including maintaining a central and active role with the start-up). In addition, the entrepreneur must demonstrate that the start-up:

  • Received $500,000 in qualifying investments, government grants, or government awards;
  • Created at least five full-time qualified jobs during the initial parole period; or
  • Reached at least $500,000 in annual revenue and averaged 20% in annual growth during the initial parole period.

If the start-up does not meet these criteria, the entrepreneur may provide documentation of the start-up’s substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation.

Spouses can work!

Spouses and children may accompany the entrepreneur by filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. USCIS has reportedly updated Form I-131 for dependents of entrepreneurs but has not yet released the revised form as of this time. Spouses will be able to apply for work authorization after receiving parole.

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