USCIS’ Parole for Entrepreneurs – Your Frequently Asked Questions

January 15, 2017

Hurray for USCIS, who worked quickly to release the Final Rule for Parole for Entrepreneurs.  The rule is officially published on January 17, 2017 and will go live in 180 days – July 17, 2017.A few highlights and thoughts on the Final Rule before we dig into the common questions that I know are on your minds.Overall, USCIS was quite thorough in reviewing over 763 comments (including mine) received over a 45-day comment period.  It took USCIS about three months to review and issue the Final Rule.  USCIS lowered the threshold private investment amount from USD $345,000 to USD $250,000 and expounded on the “alternative” criteria in greater detail.  This was a sticky point on my comment so I’m glad USCIS indulged me.In sum, the Parole option will be attractive but only for a small number of entrepreneurs.  Many will not qualify because funding a startup can be tricky and very difficult.  Funding a startup with “qualified” investors is even trickier.  For the brave and lucky, it’s worth a shot.  The fact that the Entrepreneur is required to depart the U.S. (if they are already here), and then reenter the U.S. is inconvenient, but a necessary procedure.  Although USCIS declined to publish its applicant data (minus identifying information), it did take my comments under consideration.  I suspect that the annual number of applications will exceed the estimated 2,940 applicants, but the number of applicants approved will be much lower.Parole is but a salve until Congress commits to real meaningful immigration reform.  For now, here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Parole for Entrepreneurs.  We’ll be hosting a webinar, open to all entrepreneurs, interested in learning more.  Sign up here.
When will USCIS start accepting Parole Applications?
The rule goes into effect, and USCIS will begin accepting applications on Monday, July 17, 2017.
What Does Getting “Parole” Actually Mean for an Entrepreneur?
Parole is the legal immigration term that allows an individual to enter the U.S., with the permission of USCIS, without having to go through the official process of obtaining a visa from the Department of State while bypassing the requirements applicable to Inadmissible Aliens.  Read about the difference between Parole and a Visa.
I’m Already in the U.S. in Another Nonimmigrant Status; Must I Depart the U.S. and Reenter Seeking Parole?
Yes, you must depart the U.S.  USCIS had indicated the rules for Parole require applicants to depart and then reenter.  Although USCIS is aware of the “Parole in Place” option, it declined to allow “Parole in Place” for Entrepreneurs.
What Are the Limitations for Using Parole?
Yes.  When entering the U.S. on Parole, an individual is not officially “admitted” to the U.S.  There is no “status” issued.  A Parole entry is a legal way to enter the U.S. but it is not considered an official admission to the U.S.  The individual must either renew their parole period prior to its expiration, or depart the U.S. before the parole period ends.  In this sense, travel is somewhat restricted during the parole period.   Entrepreneurs should not depart the U.S. in the middle of the parole period unless they are willing to reapply for Parole in order to reenter the U.S.
How Does an Entrepreneur Qualify for Parole?
The Final Rule outlines some changes from the Proposed Rule (released September 2016).  The update criteria are:
  1. Startup Entity must be formed within the last five (5) years
  2. Entrepreneur must own as least 10% of the startup
  3. Entrepreneur must play an active/central role in the startup’s operations (mere passive investor is not sufficient)
  4. No more than three (3) entrepreneurs for any one startup may apply for Parole
  5. The startup must have received significant funding from either:
    • A qualified Investor(s) of USD $250,000 or more, within 18 months immediately prior to application; or
    • Government grant of USD $100,000 or more, within 18 months immediately prior to application; or
    • Alternative criteria that the company will provide a significant public benefit to the U.S.
What “Alternative Criteria” Can Be Used to Qualify for Parole?
USCIS has indicated a number of factors, including, but not limited to:
  • The number of users or customers;
  • The revenue generated by the start-up entity;
  • The social impact of the start-up entity;
  • The national scope of the start-up entity;
  • The positive effects on the start-up entity’s locality or region;
  • The success using alternative funding platforms, including crowdfunding platforms;
  • The applicant’s academic degrees;
  • The applicant’s prior success in operating start-up entities as demonstrated by patented innovations, annual revenue, job creation, or other factors; or,
  • The selection of the start-up entity to participate in one or more established and reputable start-up accelerators or incubators.
Can You Renew Parole for Entrepreneurs?
Yes, but the total amount of time allotted for one entrepreneur is a total of five (5) years, from the date the first parole period was initially issued.  Any time that is spent outside the U.S. is counted as well.
What Are the Criteria to Renew a Parole for an Entrepreneur?
In addition to submitting the appropriate documentation and application fees timely, entrepreneurs must satisfy these criteria:
  • The entrepreneur must continue to operate the startup in an active role
  • The entrepreneur must own at least 5% of the startup
  • The startup must have sustained growth during the Parole period, via
    • Having received additional investments or grants (additional USD $500,000)
    • Generate revenue at least USD $500,000
    • Created at least five (5) full-time jobs in the U.S.
    • Or alternatively, provided a substantial benefit to U.S.
Can Family Members Apply for Parole as Dependents?
Yes.  Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years may accompany the Entrepreneur to the U.S. on Parole.  Spouses and children must also submit in advance of entering the U.S., their own applications for Parole.
May Family Members Work While on Parole?
After entry into the U.S., spouses may apply for a work permit but children are not eligible to apply for a work permit.
What Happens When Your Parole Ends?
Entrepreneurs may extend their parole period for an additional 2.5 years (30 months).  After that period, they must depart the U.S.  Entrepreneurs may apply for a non-immigrant work visa, such as an E-2, E-3, H-1B, O-1 or TN, if eligible.  A departure is most certainly required at some point in the future.
What Documents Are Needed to Submit a Parole Application as an Entrepreneur?
USCIS has designated a new form, Form I-941, Application for Entrepreneur Parole.  (This form should not be confused with IRS Form I-941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Returns.)  Although a draft form was released in September 2016, due to the recent updates in the Final Rule, the new form has not yet been finalized.  Once the form is finalized, it will be available online at USCIS Forms under Form I-941.Additional, supporting documentation regarding each criteria will be needed along with an application fee of $1,200 and biometrics fee of $85.Additional fees and forms will apply for dependent spouses and children.
What If I Have More Questions?
We’re hosting a webinar very soon to answer additional questions on Parole for Entrepreneurs.  Click here to sign up for more information on how to attend the free webinar.
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