2023 saw the rollout of a litany of administrative, regulatory, and executive updates and changes that touch virtually all aspects of the U.S. immigration system, with the impact of these changes expected to be felt in full force in 2024. Employers who engage in routine visa sponsorship, skilled immigrants with extensive experience in their respective fields, entrepreneurs, and investors all stand to benefit from many if not all of these changes and are well served by familiarizing themselves with these policy and regulatory changes, updated immigration trends, and the new opportunities they present. Continue reading “New Year, New Opportunities: Trends and Upcoming Developments in Immigration Law”
Some exciting news for Entrepreneurs! As part of an ongoing slate of new agency guidance regarding various immigration programs and visas, USCIS has issued comprehensive guidance regarding the International Entrepreneur Parole Program (“IEPP”). The published guidance introduces criteria for entrepreneurs who have a central and active role in a start-up U.S. company and who are seeking significant public benefit parole. The revival of the IEPP and corresponding agency guidance represents part of a series of ongoing efforts by the Biden Administration to increase and enhance entrepreneurship, innovation, and job creation in the United States.
What is the IEPP? The IEPP was first introduced under the Obama Administration in 2017 as an additional avenue to facilitate the ability of startup founders to begin growing their companies within the United States, contingent on obtaining significant financing from U.S. investors. The stated goal of the IEPP when first announced was to “identify on a case-by-case basis entrepreneurs who would provide significant public benefit, based on factors including the entrepreneur’s ownership stake and leadership role; the growth potential of the startup; competitive research grants from federal, state, and local government agencies; and investment by qualified American investors.”
Under the program, entrepreneurs who own at least 10 percent of a startup and attract at least $250,000 in financing from U.S. investors can remain in the United States for initial period of up to 30 months, with the ability to request one additional period of re-parole of up to 30 months from the date of the expiration of the initial parole period, in the agency’s discretion.
Unfortunately, although the final rule creating the IEPP was published in January 2017, the program was suspended under the Trump Administration. The Biden Administration later resurrected the rule in May 2021, but until now comprehensive guidance regarding the actual criteria for consideration and selection under the IEPP did not exist.
IEPP Criteria for Consideration under new USCIS Guidance: Under the new USCIS Guidance, the agency is updating Volume 3, Part G of the USCIS Policy Manual to describe the eligibility criteria for selection under the IEPP program that was created under the initial IE final rule in January 2017. This includes comprehensive guidance on the criteria for consideration and related definitions for the applicant, the start-up entity, qualified investment grant, or award, as well as relevant evidence that may be submitted.
To qualify for selection under the IEPP, an applicant must satisfy the following criteria:
- The applicant must demonstrate that a grant of parole will provide a significant public benefit to the United States based on the applicant’s entrepreneurial role.
- The applicant must have substantial ownership in the startup entity (defined to mean at least a 10% ownership interest in the start-up entity).
- The applicant must not be primarily engaged in the offer, purchase, sale or trading of securities, futures contracts, derivatives, or similar instruments.
- The applicant must demonstrate that the proposed startup entity:
- Has substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation
- Was formed within the five (5) years immediately preceding the date of initial parole application; and
- Has been lawfully doing business during any period of operation since the date of formation.
- The applicant must obtain at least $250,000 in U.S. investment, if the application was filed before October 1, 2021, or $264,167 if the application is filed on or after October 1, 2021.
- The financing must be good faith investment in the form of lawfully derived capital and specifically excludes investment from the entrepreneur themselves, close family and closely-held corporations.
- The investment must come from a “qualified investor”, which is defined as a “U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the United States”, or a U.S.-based legal entity that is majority owned and controlled, directly and indirectly, by U.S. citizens or LPRs.
If the initial application is approved, the entrepreneur may be granted parole for both themselves and two other entrepreneurs (total of three entrepreneurs per start-up entity) for an initial period of up to 30 months, with the ability to submit a one-time request for re-parole for up to an additional 30 months from the date of expiration of the initial parole.
Other Highlights Under the New USCIS Guidance : The updated Guidance also addresses the process for the agency to adjudicate IEPP applications, how the agency evaluates whether the application will provide significant public benefit to the U.S., the conditions on parole and basis for termination, and the application process for the entrepreneur’s spouse. This includes detailing how the applicant’s spouse (but not children) may apply for work authorization after being paroled into the United States.
Additionally, the Guidance lays out the criteria for obtaining an additional parole period, including that the entrepreneur demonstrates that the re-parole will continue to provide a significant public benefit to the United States and either: (1) that the entity has received at least $528,293 in qualifying investments, (2) that the entity has created at least 5 qualified jobs during the initial parole period, or (3) that the entity has reached at least $528,293 in annual revenue in the United States and averaged 20% in annual revenue growth throughout the initial parole period.
The revival of the IEPP program and updated Guidance represents an additional avenue by which entrepreneurs can invest, live and work in the United States. This is in addition to, or alongside, other potential options including E visas (for nationals of qualifying treaty countries), O-1 visas (for individuals with an accomplished portfolio in their respective field), and others.
Please contact a member of our Immigration Group for more information about either potential eligibility for parole under the IEPP or other visa options that may be available to you.
With recent layoffs in the tech industry, H-1B and other nonimmigrant workers may find themselves stranded in the US with no work and potentially no legal immigration status. USCIS has issued detailed information for these workers, explaining their options and some relief that may be available in certain circumstanes:
60-Day Grace Period: Regulations permit a discretionary grace period that allows workers in E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, O-1, or TN classifications (and their dependents) to be considered as having maintained status following the cessation of employment for up to 60 consecutive calendar days or until the end of the authorized validity period, whichever is shorter. During this period, workers may be able to maintain their nonimmigrant status if a new employer timely files a petition on their behalf with an extension of stay request (e.g., an H-1B change of employer petition for a worker in H-1B status).
Portability: Portability rules permit workers currently in H-1B status to begin working for a new employer as soon as the employer properly files a new H-1B petition with USCIS, without waiting for the petition to be approved. Also, a worker with an adjustment of status application (Form I-485) that has been pending for at least 180 days with an underlying valid immigrant visa petition (Form I-140) has the ability to transfer the underlying immigrant visa petition to a new offer of employment in the same or similar occupational classification with the same or a new employer.
Change of Status and/or Employer: Workers may use the up to 60-day discretionary grace period to apply to change their nonimmigrant status, which may include changing status to become the dependent of a spouse (e.g., H-4, L-2). Some individuals in a dependent nonimmigrant status may be eligible for employment authorization incident to status, including spouses of E-1, E-2, E-3, or L-1 nonimmigrants.
There are other options available as well, depending upon individual circumstances. It is highly advisable for anyone who finds themself terminated from the employment that is underlying their nonimmigrant visa status to contact immigration counsel to review all of the legal options, and immigration consequences of the termination.
Hiring season is fraught with questions and uncertainties; preparing employment applications; interviewing, drafting offer letters….. What questions can be asked? What questions should be asked? These concerns are even more pronounced when it comes to immigration status, and immigration sponsorship. Those tasked with the hiring process often ask, whether it is legal to ask applicants about their immigration status, how to ask that question, and even more important, “Do we have to sponsor for immigration status if the applicant needs it?”
On September 25, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the DHS agency with jurisdiction over F-1 foreign student visa holders, published new proposed regulations that would end the long time U.S. practice of issuing “Duration of Status” to F-1 students. Instead, F-1 visa holders would be limited to 2 or 4 year visa terms depending upon their country of origin, and be required to reapply for F-1 Status through USCIS to obtain extensions, or to leave the United States and apply for an extension . The proposed regulations were immediately criticized by the higher education community. The rules were called ill-conceived, misguided, unnecessary, and a burden to an industry that has already seen a steady decline in international student admissions. Read the full blog post here.
The White House has issued a new travel ban blocking Chinese nationals associated with entities that are part of China’s “military-civil fusion” strategy from obtaining graduate level Student (F) or Exchange Visitor (J) visas. The ban went into effect on June 1 and has no end date. The ban specifically references those visa applicants who are currently outside the United States, but does not exclude the possibility that the estimated 3000 Chinese nationals, already studying in the U.S. who meet the criteria of the executive order, could have their existing visas revoked. Read Valentine’s full post on the Duane Morris Education Law Blog, UpdateED.
Following the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration that classified the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak as a pandemic on March 11, a number of governments have instituted or announced measures limiting international travel. In the most notable of the new restrictions, the United States has announced that it is suspending all travel from Europe’s Schengen Area for 30 days beginning at midnight on Friday, March 13. This measure would expand existing travel restrictions in place for arrivals from mainland China and Iran.
The restrictions do not apply to U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents or their immediate families as well as holders of some categories of U.S. visas (such as A-1, A-2, C-1, D or C-1/D, C-2, C-3, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4 and NATO visas). The Schengen Area is a 26-country group that has officially abolished border control among themselves.
Globally, it is unknown if other governments will follow suit after the announcement from the White House. However, some of the recent and notable measures that have been implemented or announced this week by other countries are as follows:
On June 12, 2015 the U.S. State Department announced that a computer glitch has hit the Consular Consolidated Database (CCD) affecting the printing of U.S. visas at all consulates and U.S. embassies worldwide.
On June, 15, 2015 the State Department published the following State Department Update, indicating that there is no resolution to the problem and none in sight as of this writing. Continue reading “State Department Computer Problem Causes Worldwide Delays in Visa Issuance at U.S. Consulates”