USCIS Confirms H-1B and National Interest Waiver Availability for Entrepreneurs

On August 2, 2011, the six-month anniversary of the White House led initiative "Startup America," a series of policy, operational and outreach efforts were outlined by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas in order to help fuel the nation's economy and stimulate investment.

The goal is to reduce barriers for job-creating entrepreneurs, attracting them to the United States in order to grow the economy and create American jobs. These measures are a key focus of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, which has recommended taking action to ensure America can "out-innovate and out-compete the world in a global economy."

Importantly, the "Fact Sheet" issued by USCIS stresses the availability of EB-2 National Interest Waivers to Entrepreneurs. As with other National Interest Waiver petitioners, USCIS makes clear that entrepreneurs may qualify for a National Interest Waiver under the EB-2 immigrant visa category if they are able to demonstrate that their business endeavor will be in the interest of the United States. These entrepreneurs must meet the previously established requirements of the EB-2 Immigrant Visa Category, including being a member of a profession holding an advanced degree (or the equivalent) or having exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business who will substantially benefit prospectively the national economy, cultural or educational interests, or welfare of the United States. However, qualifying entrepreneurs may self-petition for permanent residence through a national interest waiver, meaning that they do not need an employer to sponsor them for permanent residence. Additional criteria for the EB-2 Category are available here.

Additionally, in an apparent reaction to other recent policy guidance from USCIS officials, USCIS reemphasizes that entrepreneurs who have an ownership stake in their own companies continue to be eligible for an H-1B Visa if they can demonstrate that the company sponsoring the H-1B entrepreneur has the independent right to control their employment.

In addition to these measures, USCIS is aiming to promote start-up enterprises by enhancing procedures for processing EB-5 Petitions; expanding Premium Processing services to multinational managers and executives applying for permanent residence; and hosting a series of meetings to discuss issues of importance to foreign entrepreneurs and start-up companies.

For more information on USCIS' initiatives in this area, click here and here.

Categories: Immigration Blog