By: Adrian Ayala-Perez
On Tuesday, November 15, Fiona McEntee, J.D. hosted a Seminar for International Startup Founders at The Garage. She is the Founding & Managing Attorney of McEntee Law Group, with particular expertise in startup immigration. As a professional who previously held office hours at The Garage, we were excited to welcome Fiona back and learn more about her new eBook, U.S. Immigration Options for Startups: Accelerate Your American Dream.
Fiona began the seminar by sharing her experience as a former international student, giving a unique perspective on the outdated immigration laws in the United States. Many international peers of the U.S., such as Canada, have visa options for international founders – although that type of visa does not exist in the United States. It’s hard to believe, but “our immigration laws were last updated before the Internet was a thing,” Fiona shared.
She believes that there is a great demand for startup visas as immigrant founders continue to diversify and flock to the business world and economy of the U.S. Fiona shared that almost 80% of America’s unicorns have an immigrant founder or an immigrant in a key leadership role, such as CEO or Vice President of Engineering. A “unicorn” is a privately held startup company with a valuation of over $1 billion. Although there is no startup visa in the U.S., there are other pathways for immigrant founders that Fiona was eager to outline.
The International Entrepreneur Parole was designed for startup entrepreneurs who are creating companies that have the potential for significant growth and job creation. A parole allows individuals to enter the U.S. to live temporarily, differing from a visa slightly. O-1 visas are another option reserved for individuals with “extraordinary ability” in fields like science and education.
Additionally, current international students can apply for two types of F-1 work authorization to gain practical experience: curricular practical training (CPT) and optional practical training (OPT/STEM OPT). After receiving a bachelor’s degree, employer-based options, such as the H-1B Visa, offer another opportunity to work in the United States.
The Biden-Harris Administration is reevaluating current immigration policies to promote and support immigrant founders. In the coming years, Congress may potentially create startup visa options, revolutionizing entrepreneurship across the country – but the current immigration options can be feasible starting points for the entrepreneurs of today.
Disclaimer: While this article may contain information about legal issues, this is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice.
You can join the waitlist for Fiona McEntee’s new eBook here.
Adrian Ayala-Perez ‘26 is a Social Policy & Data Science major from Miami, FL. He is a student aid at The Garage, tasked with managing different administrative, marketing, and operations projects. His favorite thing about The Garage is that students are encouraged to grow, fail, build grit, and expand their knowledge.