The International Entrepreneur Parole Program, Explained

Last Updated on March 18, 2024

Although it has existed for nearly five years, the International Entrepreneur Parole (IEP) program has received very little attention from employers and foreign workers. The Obama administration established the program in 2017, and it has been the subject of extensive litigation since its inception.

The IEP has faced scrutiny and legal battles since its introduction. Although the Trump administration issued a proposed rule to eliminate the program in 2018, USCIS later withdrew that proposed rule. 

On May 10, 2021, DHS announced that it would reinstate the IEP program to align with President Biden’s intention of creating a welcoming atmosphere for foreign entrepreneurs and furthering the nation’s spirit of promoting entrepreneurship.

What is the International Entrepreneur Parole Program? 

The IEP program is intended to help foreign entrepreneurs establish startup businesses in the U.S. The program is consistent with the International Entrepreneur Rule, which was issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to allow foreign entrepreneurs to remain employed in the U.S. if they enter the country with the purpose of starting a new company.

Based on the program’s rules, up to three eligible entrepreneurs per startup entity may be admitted into the U.S. Initially, they are granted a maximum stay of 30 months. However, extensions are permitted for an additional 30 months if the startup entity continues to provide a “significant public benefit,” which may be evidenced through job creation, revenue or large increases in capital investment. 

Background of the IEP Program 

The IEP program began on Jan. 17, 2017, when DHS published the final version of the International Entrepreneur Rule. The program was scheduled to take effect on July 17, 2017, which is also when DHS planned to begin accepting applications. 

However, the program was put on hold through an executive order President Trump issued on Jan. 25, 2017. The IEP’s effective date was delayed until March 14, 2018. 

Following a favorable ruling in NVCA v. Duke in Dec. 2017, DHS was required to implement the program based on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s decision. 

Who is Eligible for the IEP Program? 

To be eligible for the IEP program, entrepreneurs must demonstrate a “significant public benefit” to the country. 

Entrepreneurs must meet several criteria, including:

  • The startup must have been established in the U.S. within the past five years
  • The applicant must have a “significant” ownership in the company
  • The applicant must play a “central and active role” in the startup entity 

Additional information about the program’s requirements is available on Envoy’s related International Entrepreneur Parole program article.

Is the IEP Program a Startup Visa? 

Although it is designed to help startup companies operate in the U.S., the IEP program, which is based on the International Entrepreneur Rule, is not a startup visa. Instead, the Rule grants parole in certain circumstances based on DHS’ discretion.

What are the Benefits of the IEP Program? 

According to a 2017 study from the New American Economy (NAE), the IEP program has potential benefits for the U.S. economy. NAE found that through 2027, the program may create at least 200,000 jobs across all sectors.

NAE’s estimates were greater for startup entities in the science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields. For STEM startup entities alone, the IEP program could create up to 308,460 jobs over the course of a decade. Most of those jobs would be created in the areas of healthcare, professional services, the sciences and technology.

By creating jobs in the U.S. and attracting foreign entrepreneurs to U.S. soil, the IEP program will help to ensure that the U.S. remains a top destination for the “best and brightest” foreign entrepreneurs.

To keep up with the latest updates on the IEP program and other current news, sign up for our immigration news alerts. 

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Envoy is pleased to provide you with this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Dmitri Pikman, who is a Partner at Corporate Immigration Partners, P.C., a U.S. law firm who provides services through the Envoy Platform (the “U.S. Law Firm”).     

Content in this publication is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. Envoy is not a law firm, and does not provide legal advice. If you would like guidance on how this information may impact your particular situation and you are a client of the U.S. Law Firm, consult your attorney. If you are not a client of the U.S. Law Firm working with Envoy, consult another qualified professional. This website does not create an attorney-client relationship with the U.S.