In today’s hyper-politicized world, immigration concerns have become a true hot-button issue for travelers heading toward the United States. While most peoples’ attention has been focused on the effects of the proposed “travel ban” from a number of mostly Muslim countries, other less obvious changes are taking a toll on entrepreneurs from around the world.
Chief among these is the Trump administration’s decision to delay – and possibly, stop altogether – implementation of the recently created International Entrepreneur Rule (IER).
History of the IER
Proposed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in August 2016, the IER was designed to ease immigration access to the United States for entrepreneurs who could demonstrate the ability to provide significant public benefit to the U.S. through rapid business growth and job creation. Scheduled for implementation in July 2017, the rule, which would benefit an estimated 3,000 entrepreneurs, has been delayed indefinitely by the Trump administration.
As designed, the IER would provide qualified applicants with a 30-month “parole” so long as they could satisfactorily demonstrate that:
- They have substantial ownership interest (10 percent or more), and play an active role in a qualifying start-up entity.
- The company was initially formed within the United States no more than five years prior to the individual’s application.
- The company has received significant investment capital ($250,000+) from qualified U.S. investors with established records of significant investment and/or, received significant monetary awards or grants from federal, state, or local government agencies.
Qualifying parolees under the IER would be allowed to physically enter the United States, but would not technically be “admitted” to the country, and would not receive either a visa or visa status. As such, the rule does not provide a pathway toward a green card or U.S. citizenship. After receiving their initial parole, qualified applicants can apply for a 30-month extension to continue working within the country.
Alternatives to the IER
While not considered a true panacea to the country’s dated immigration laws, many immigration-related interest groups, including the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) consider the rule to be a positive first step to attracting talented entrepreneurs who might otherwise seek to start their ventures in more immigrant-friendly countries.
With the future of IER currently in doubt, foreign entrepreneurs who do want to work in the United States are faced with limited options to achieve their goals, including:
- The O-1 visa: This non-immigrant visa provides access to the country for up to three years, and is reserved for individuals who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.
- The E-2 treaty investor visa: A non-immigrant visa for nationals of countries that maintain commerce treaties with the U.S.; Provides admittance for up to two years to qualified applicants who have actively invested – or are in the process of investing – in a bona fide enterprise within the United States.
While self-employment is not generally permitted, there are rare cases when applicants may be able to work in the U.S. under the auspices of the H-1B visa’s specialty occupation worker program. Exhausting these options, motivated applicants can also look to for more creative immigration solutions, such as the recently launched International Innovators Initiative created by the New York City Economic Development Corporation and City University of New York.
The immigration landscape can be complex and often times frustrating. If you have any questions or would like guidance, we are happy to help.
By Allan Rooney, Founding Partner – firstname.lastname@example.org