Finding a U.S. immigration status that is appropriate for entrepreneurs can be difficult. Increasingly, colleges and universities, as well as state and local governments, have sought to address this issue. Over the past several years, institutions of higher education have used the higher education exemption from the H-1B cap to obtain H-1B status for “Entrepreneurs in Residence” (EINs). Several such programs exist, including a recently formed EIN program in Chicago comprised of Columbia College, DePaul University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Loyola University and Northwestern University.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) “Entrepreneurs Visa Guide” outlines other U.S. immigration options available to entrepreneurs. In addition to the options detailed in this guide, a new approach to obtain employment authorization for entrepreneurs becomes effective on July 17, 2017. The new Entrepreneurial Parole Program is meant to provide U.S. employment authorization to individuals with at least a 10% ownership stake in an entity established within the past five years. Employment authorization under this program may be valid for up to five years.
To obtain employment authorization under the Entrepreneurial Parole Program, an applicant must show:
- An investment from qualified U.S. investors of at least $250,000; or
- Grants totaling at least $100,000 within 18 months immediately preceding the filing from governmental entities that provide financial assistance to start-up businesses for economic development, research and development, or job creation; or
- Partial completion of criteria 1 or 2 and compelling evidence that the entity has substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation.
Spouses and children may accompany Entrepreneurial Parolees to the U.S. under this program. Spouses will also be eligible to apply for employment authorization in the United States.
USCIS predicts that close to 3,000 individuals may take advantage of the new Entrepreneurial Parole Program. The impact of the Program is yet to be seen, but it does provide another option for entrepreneurs to stay in the U.S. and build their businesses.