Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.
“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”
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Both my co-founder and I have E-2 status. We need to find a quick visa option, as a VC investment will dilute our equity, and we will no longer be eligible for the E-2.
We are looking at International Entrepreneur Parole as an option since we would easily qualify based on the investment we’re expecting, and it seems easier than an O-1A.
How long does IEP take? How can we expedite?
— Fast-Flying Founder
Congrats on your prospective funding! I’m so excited that International Entrepreneur Parole (IEP) can help people like you and your co-founder rapidly grow your startup and create jobs in the United States. It’s a great interim program until Congress passes a startup visa.
My attorney colleague Nadia Zaidi, an expert in immigration law for startups, and I recently talked about IEP on the podcast. As the process is anything but rapid, it’s still important to consider all available options.
So, how long will it take?
Based on the IEP cases we’ve filed since the Biden administration officially resurrected the program last May, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is taking at least six to eight months to make a decision. So I’m educating entrepreneurs to allow a minimum of a year for the normal IEP process.
Be aware that premium processing is currently not available for IEP cases. Available for other forms of visas, premium processing guarantees USCIS will make a decision — or issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) — within 15 days for an additional fee. The other main option to try to speed things up is through USCIS Expedite Request for severe financial loss to a company. Talk to your attorney about whether you might qualify.
I feel very strongly that issues such as the lack of premium processing should be changed. I’ve been working behind the scenes with other immigration attorneys and groups to make waves in the field of immigration — we are advocating for other improvements to streamline the IEP application process.
I was proud to be a part of last year’s advocacy effort that pushed U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to grant IEP beneficiaries the full 30 months of initial stay in the United States. Previously, CBP officers would only grant a maximum 12-month stay to IEP recipients. We discovered that was due to a glitch in the agency’s automated system, which erroneously set the maximum stay at 12 months rather than 30 months.