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International Entrepreneur Update: National Advocacy Groups Recommend Streamlining Parole Program; House Passes Bill To Create New Visa

There have been several recent developments of interest to international entrepreneurs:

National Advocacy Group Recommendations

The Coalition for International Entrepreneurship, which consists of three dozen immigration and startup advocacy organizations and individuals, sent a letter on February 1, 2022, asking Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to streamline the International Entrepreneur Parole (IEP) program. Signers included the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Carnegie Mellon University Graduate Student Assembly, the National Immigration Forum, and others.

As background, last year, the Biden administration rescinded a Trump-era rule that would have ended the IEP program. The program uses DHS’s authority to grant parole to foreign nationals whose admission would be a public benefit. However, according to reports, obstacles remain, and the IEP remains a crucial program, especially in the absence of a U.S. start-up visa.

The coalition’s letter makes five key recommendations:

  1. Immediately establish premium processing for IEP applications so qualified entrepreneurs can rapidly launch their businesses in the United States.
  2. Incorporate the use of the Validation Instrument for Business Enterprises (VIBE) program to streamline the qualification process for investors. The letter noted that this program is already being used to validate information about companies petitioning to employ nonimmigrant and immigrant workers through Forms I-129 (for the H-1B, for example), I-140, I-360, and I-485.
  3. Modify U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) guidance on the term “qualified investor” to ensure that investors with passive foreign limited partners are not unnecessarily excluded.
  4. Restart the USCIS Entrepreneur in Residence initiative to develop routine feedback loops with stakeholders and consider a hybrid model with both virtual and in-person activities to improve entrepreneurs’ ability to participate and decrease the agency’s administrative and badging burdens.
  5. Establish regular interaction with stakeholders in the academic, entrepreneur, legal, and investment communities to further refine the program. The letter suggested that increased interaction could include more events hosted by the Public Engagement Division, or the creation of an entrepreneurship subcommittee for the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council (HSAAC).

America COMPETES Act Passes in House

Also, on February 4, 2022, the House of Representatives passed the America COMPETES Act of 2022 (H.R. 4521). The bill would exempt international science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) PhD graduates from the green card numerical cap, create a new visa category for entrepreneurs, and provide temporary protected status for Hong Kong residents. A conference committee is expected to address significant differences between the House bill and the Senate’s U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (S. 2012), according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

In addition, the Biden administration introduced measures on January 21, 2022, to attract and retain STEM international talent.


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USCIS Releases Form I-9 Guidance for H-2B Workers Seeking to Change Employers

On February 4, 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released guidance on Form
I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, for H-2B workers seeking to change employers.

The guidance is related to a joint temporary final rule issued January 28, 2022, by the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor to increase the numerical limits on fiscal year 2022 H-2B nonimmigrant visas and temporarily provide portability flexibility for H-2B workers already in the U.S. to begin work immediately with a new employer after an H-2B petition (supported by a valid temporary labor certification) is received by USCIS and before it is approved.