Foreign founders have renewed optimism provided by an Obama-era immigration solution known as entrepreneur parole, allowing them to enter the U.S. to actively engage in running their funded high-growth U.S. startups. This immigration parole for entrepreneurs, known as the International Entrepreneur rule, allows up to three foreign co-founders to enter the U.S. to provide significant public benefit to the U.S. through business growth and job creation. The founder parole is expected to garner roughly 3,000 entrepreneur parole applications annually.

The rule, initially passed in 2017, had a turbulent ride through the Trump Administration and has now been revitalized under the Biden Administration. The Trump Administration attempted to officially remove the rule in 2018, which resulted in only 30 attempted filings and one approval from 2017 through 2019. In May 2021, however, the Biden Administration finally put this founder parole program back on track by withdrawing the Trump attempt at removal and encouraging applicants.

This immigration solution for entrepreneurs is an important development for foreign founders who normally struggle to try to fit into outdated visa solutions, such as the O-1E-2, L-1 or H-1B, which fail to accommodate modern startup business models and funding practices. The U.S. angel and venture capital investor community will also benefit as a result of key international startup founders having a realistic option to remain in the U.S. for up to five years, split between two 30-month parole grants, to execute on the high-growth business potential of these innovative companies.

To evidence significant public benefit, the rule lays out specific criteria to be met for the initial 30-month parole period, and then there are additional milestones to be proven related to the second 30-month re-parole period. These are some of the key requirements:

Qualifying Startup

The startup entity has to have been formed within the five years immediately preceding the date of the founder’s parole application. At the time of re-parole, it must be shown that the startup is still operational and still possesses the potential for high growth and job creation into the future.

Founder Equity Stake

During the initial parole application, the founder must evidence that they have at least a 10% equity interest in the startup. This ownership amount can decrease over time thereafter, but can never drop below 5%.

Founder’s Active Role

The founder needs to demonstrate during the initial and subsequent parole periods that they have an active role in the startup, based on their experience, skills or knowledge, necessary to help the startup grow and succeed.

Potential For Growth

For the initial parole application, the startup must demonstrate having raised $250,000 in funding from “qualified investors” or $100,000 from qualified government grants or awards.


In essence, the rule leverages the due diligence completed by qualified investors and government agencies to vouch for the growth potential of the founder’s startup. It is worth noting that there is flexibility built into some of the requirements. Here, for example, founders whose startups have not yet hit these investment thresholds can still attempt a filing by providing other reliable evidence of the startup’s substantial benefit to the U.S.

Qualified Investor Or Government Agency

Where funding comes from investors, it must be shown that the investor has made a minimum of $600,000 in investments over the prior five years and these investments have created at least five qualified jobs or generated at minimum $500,000 in revenue with at least 20% annualized growth.

Where a founder is using a government award or grant, it must be shown that the agency typically issues such grants or awards to startups with the objective of furthering economic development, research or job creation.

What Does It Mean To Be Paroled Into The U.S.?

Most people entering the U.S. are admitted after an officer reviews a visa in a passport, such as an H-1B, O-1, E-2 or other classification. Parole is different as it is a temporary grant of authorized stay for a period of time with a travel foil and not a typical non-immigrant visa.

Although the parole in this case allows a paroled founder and their spouse and children to enter to stay in the U.S. and for the founder and spouse to work (a critical benefit typically not allowed by non-immigrant status types), this is allowed under a special grant of authorized stay.

Additionally, it is not possible for an entrepreneur to change from a non-immigrant status, such as an F-1 or H-1B, to this parole while in the U.S. or visa-versa. Instead, after the I-941 parole application is approved, the founder must enter the U.S. from abroad.

A grant of parole is also less certain long-term as the parole granted under this program can be terminated at any time by the Department of Homeland Security.

International Founders And Their Startups Need A Solid Immigration Team And Plan

This entrepreneur parole is an incredibly exciting development, especially for tech startups, their investors, U.S. innovation and the economy. That said, it is incredibly important for all parties to ensure that they understand all the nuances of this rule in order to present the strongest application from the outset and to develop a realistic long-term immigration plan.

This parole rule does not provide a pathway to permanent residency (Green Card) in the U.S., so each entrepreneur and paroled founder must think ahead and plan for the time beyond the allowable five years of parole. This could, for example, include working toward building a case for an extraordinary ability O-1 application or planning for an EB1A ability-based Green Card, or more.