This evening President Obama announced a number of immigration reforms that will be enacted through executive action. Two of these are especially exciting for startup founders.
First, the President indicates that USCIS will issue guidance clarifying how the existing “national interest waiver” currently available for EB-2 green card application can be used for startup founders. EB-2 green cards are currently available for workers who have advanced degrees or exceptional ability in their field of work. Normally, to obtain an EB-2 green card, a person has to have a job offer at a company willing to go through the expensive and time consuming process of proving to the government that there are no available US workers to fill the petition.
With the national interest waiver, however, an applicant who can prove that their work would be of national benefit to the US can apply on her own, without a job offer, and without proving that no US workers are available. In the startup context, this usually means proving that your startup has the potential to eventually employ many US workers. This is a great option for founders who already have a proven track record of success. The national interest waiver has been used for startup founders in the past, but it looks like the new executive action will bring some much-needed clarity to the standards that USCIS will use to rule on applications like these.
Second, the President indicates that USCIS should use its existing authority to “parole” people into the US to start admitting startup founders who have gotten a significant amount of angel or VC funding, or who otherwise show promise. “Parole” is a temporary status that can be used to admit people who do not otherwise fit into a visa category, but who could provide “public benefit” if admitted. This would be a great option for first-time, early-stage startup founders who do not yet have enough of a track record to qualify for a green card through the national interest waiver described above. Parole would allow a new founder to enter the US in the early stages, live and work lawfully while developing the company, and then apply for a national interest waiver EB-2 green card once the business is up and running.
The details are sketchy at this point, but this is definitely exciting! I’ll keep you posted with updates in the coming days as more information is released.