Sophie Alcorn, attorney, author and founder of Alcorn Immigration Law in Silicon Valley, California, is an award-winning Certified Specialist Attorney in Immigration and Nationality Law by the State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. Sophie is passionate about transcending borders, expanding opportunity, and connecting the world by practicing compassionate, visionary, and expert immigration law. Connect with Sophie on LinkedIn and Twitter.
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I remember reading in your column a few years ago about the International Entrepreneur Parole program and that it’s the closest thing the U.S. has to a startup visa. What happened to the program? Is it still around? How does a startup founder start building in the U.S. quickly?
— Perfect for Parole?
Thanks for your “perfectly timed” questions. Yes, the International Entrepreneur Parole (IEP) program remains available, but the time it takes for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to adjudicate IEP cases is more than two years, and the application and activation processes are often more time-consuming and impractical than a normal work visa such as an O-1 or H-1B.
In recognition of these issues, President Biden mandated that the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), improve the IEP process for startup founders in AI and other critical and emerging technologies in his recent executive order on AI.
I recently chatted with Samuel Newbold, an immigration attorney based in New York City who also has a practice centered on investors and entrepreneurs. He has helped many entrepreneurs obtain IEP. One of the most direct paths to qualifying is through government grants from startup funders such as the Urban Future Lab, which partners the city, academia and the private sector to encourage economic growth, job creation and innovation.
Sam says that in his experience, IEP tends to make more sense for startup founders who have received grants or economic development funding rather than funding from venture capital or private investors due to the complex evidentiary requirements. The minimum requirement is to receive at least $106,000 in government funding, which can even be nondilutive.
“The [IEP] program requires private venture capital firms to justify their track record and that they’ve made good investments,” says Newbold. “As you can imagine, that’s very sensitive, private information” that most investors are sensitive to divulge.
Let me describe how the IEP program works and dive into how to qualify for IEP and offer alternatives.
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