Contact Us Today

News & Resources

Can Foreign Students and Other Immigrants Start Businesses in the US?

Posted December 31, 2014Matthew Meltzer Articles, Entrepreneurship

The entrepreneurial spirit is strong in America's immigrant population. According to the US Small Business Administration nearly one in ten immigrants owns a small business. Many immigrants ask us about whether they can start new businesses while inside the US. Here is guidance regarding who can start a new company and when individuals can work for those companies.

Who can incoporate a new business in the United States?

Any person, inside or outside of the US, can incorporate a new US company. US companies must be created in a particular US state. If the person does not live in the state at the time of the incorporation then a registered agent must be listed in the state to act on behalf of the business. Registered agents can be contracted for under $100 a year.

Individuals who are in the US in any visa status can incorporate a new business. Therefore, individuals in F-1, H-1B, or other visa statuses can legally open new businesses.

Can a new business be publicized if the immigrant entrepreneur does not have work authorization for the new business?

Entrepreneurs can publicize their new US businesses without transgressing any US regulations. Therefore, there is no problem with creating a website, pitching to investors, or creating marketing materials.

Can students in F-1 OPT status work for their own companies?

Legally students in F-1 OPT status can work for their own companies. However, the Designated School Official that manages the SEVIS program at each school is ultimately responsible for determining when a student can work for his/her own company while on OPT status.

Can employees working for other companies also work for their own company in the US?

Individuals in the US on a work visa or student visa you can work for their own companies if they are not drawing a salary from that company. This means that if you are starting a tech company, you can write a business plan, incorporate the business, write code, put equity into the business, and contribute to the operational plan. However, you cannot be on staff and you cannot draw a salary or any payment for your work. You can have a partner or employee run the company on your behalf.

For more information on starting a company in the United States and the associated immigration implications and strategy, please contact us directly. We look forward to helping you build a new business in the United States.