Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

Foreign Entrepreneurs: Start Up Your Immigration Under This New Rule

International entrepreneurs starting businesses in the U.S. may see a few impediments to immigration removed under a new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) rule. The International Entrepreneur Rule would grant qualifying foreign nationals temporary immigration relief if their entry into the country "would provide a significant public benefit through the substantial and demonstrated potential for rapid business growth and job creation."

While the Obama administration's proposed rule is not yet final, it also does not require Congressional approval. So to whom would the International Entrepreneur Rule apply and how would it work?

Public Benefit

Immigration officials will be able to admit entrepreneurs for parole (temporary permission to be in the country) on a case-by-case basis if presence in the U.S. would be a public benefit to the country. So how is that decided?

Foreign entrepreneurs must have a significant ownership interest of at least 15 percent in the startup and have an "active and central role to its operations." The startup must have been formed in the United States in the past three years, it must have a "substantial and demonstrated potential for rapid business growth and job creation." Entrepreneurs can demonstrate this potential if the startup has:

  • Received a significant investment of capital (at least $345,000) from certain qualified U.S. investors with established records of successful investments;
  • Received significant awards or grants (at least $100,000) from certain federal, state, or local government entities; or
  • Partially satisfied one or both of the above criteria, and can provide other reliable and compelling evidence of the startup entity's substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation.

Private Boon

If approved, a foreign entrepreneur would be granted "parole" status for an initial two-year period, with renewals possible for three more years if the new business remains active, has received significant additional investment or funding, and has annual revenue of at least $500,000 per year. The business must have added at least 10 full-time jobs to its payroll and continue to demonstrate substantial potential for growth and job creation. Oh, and the entrepreneur must still own at least 10% of the company to qualify for the extended entry period.

The proposed International Entrepreneur Rule isn't final yet: the public may comment on the proposal for 45 days, and then USCIS will address those comments before publishing an effective date. But for foreign entrepreneurs looking to get their startups off the ground in the U.S., this is welcome news.

If your small business needs immigration help -- for employees or founders -- contact an experienced immigration attorney in your area.

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