An H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant work visa that allows an individual to work in the U.S. as a
foreign worker. Typically, companies will use visas to hire foreign workers for specialty jobs
that require a bachelor’s degree or equivalent. This can include finance, engineering,
architecture, IT, and more. Typically, the initial duration of an H-1B visa classification is three
years, which may extend for a maximum of six years.
Can an H-1B Visa holder start their own company?
Yes. Starting a company on an H-1B visa is important for entrepreneurs and business owners
who may have the temporary ability to work within the U.S. for U.S. employers. However, if you
are an H-1B visa holder, you must meet certain requirements.
1) As an H-1B holder, you must remain employed with your employer that sponsored your
H-1B visa. Even if you start your own business, you must remain working with your
employer who sponsored the visa, or it can be terminated.
2) Develop a strong business plan to show that it can be successful.
3) Research different business entities.
4) You must enter the newly created business as a passive investor or shareholder in the
company. You may not be the company’s CEO or perform day-to-day activities, but you
may still retain shareholder or member voting rights.
5) Create and register your business name with the local and state offices.
6) Contact the IRS to receive an EIN or ITIN that will serve as your taxpayer identification
7) Choose a business location.
8) Make sure to follow all regulations regarding workers’ compensation, insurance,
benefits, health codes, taxes, and other issues to prevent legal problems.
9) Unless your immigrant status is changed, you will need to hire someone to run the
business since you will be unable to fill this role.
10) You may oversee your business from the viewpoint of a passive investor and
shareholder/member without directly participating. You may still have ownership rights,
benefit from business gains, and receive dividends.
When considering starting a company, what must you do on an H-1B visa?
To avoid “working without authorization,” you must create a level of separation between the
day-to-day activities and owner decision-making. You may not run the daily activities of a non-
sponsored company. Still, you may start your business, for example, with a co-founder who is a
U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to help execute day-to-day duties. At the same time,
you oversee higher-level decision-making in a Shareholder or Board Member capacity.