Coming to America Just Got Easier: Immigration & Entrepreneurship

Prince Akeem knew what was up. He started from the bottom (at McDowell's), now he's here.

Prince Akeem knew what was up. He started from the bottom (at McDowell's), now he's here.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting some visionary, inspirational founders around the world over the past few years and they often ask for advice on how to expand their businesses to the United States. I’m no lawyer, though after having traversed the chasm of US immigration myself, I feel like this week’s launch of the new ‘Entrepreneurial Parole’ visa is a huge step forward. So, I thought I’d summarize how the new rules work (because reading government websites is just the worst).

How To Get The Visa 

  • Your startup must have been founded within the last 5 years and the entrepreneur applying for the visa (e.g. cofounder) must own at least 10% of the company. She/he can’t be a random, inactive co-founder either — the applicant must play a central/core role.
  • Each company can submit up to 3 applicants for the Entrepreneurial Parole visa. 
  • Spouses can get covered too and receive work authorization during their stay (which is a huge deal for folks moving their families over with them to run their companies)
  • USCIS will start taking applications on July 15th, with a filing fee of $1200
  • A qualified investor* has to invest $250k or you need grant money of $100k; Alternatively you can show personal funds to support the company, but you need to demonstrate that it has the potential for fast growth & job creation

How Long Does It Last? 

  • 30 months, with an option to extend an additional 30 months (at USCIS’ discretion)
  • To get an extension, the start-up must have received at least $500,000 in qualifying investments or grants since the initial grant of parole OR have created >5 qualified jobs with the start-up during the initial period OR have reached >$500,000 in annual revenue in the US and averaged 20% annual revenue growth during the initial period
  • To get an extension, an entrepreneur must show he or she has income of at least 400% of the federal poverty line for his or her household size.
  • “Material” changes need to be reported to USCIS and be accompanied by a new Entrepreneur Parole application documenting continued eligibility. 

*A qualified investor must have invested a total of at least $600,000 in start-ups over the last five years and at least two of the start-ups created at least five qualified jobs OR generated at least $500,000 in revenue, with average annualized revenue growth of 20% or more

Many thanks to Karen Chow Gregory of Rose Carson in educating me on the visa rules. She’s an amazing immigration attorney in the Bay Area! 

Follow me on Twitter @Sundhillon and on Snapchat at @sunnydhillon25

Sunny Dhillon is a partner at Signia Ventures, an early stage VC fund in San Francisco. He was previously a corporate strategist at Warner Bros in LA, the first business development employee at a VC-backed spin-off of New Line Cinema, and a former entrepreneur, having launched one of the App Store's first social-local-mobile apps (named BarStool) in 2011. Follow him on Linkedin and on Twitter (@SigniaVC).

Sandeep Dhillon