Starting Company in F1 Visa, OPT and H1B Visa

starting business f1 opt h1bI’m doing my MS in USA. A friend of mine from India called me today, and he asked if I’d like to open a business with him. He works as a consultant/recruiter for a US based outsourcing company and now wants to open his own company.

For that he wants to do partnership with me as I’m in USA and I can rent a place for the company “headquarter” and employ a guy who would sit in the office, but all the business and calling takes place form India.I want to know if an F-1 student can be engaged in such kind of business? Plus, what advise would you give me on this? Probably, I’d not be investing anything in this but if it is legal I would have some extra cash. I’m interested in this because you posted some blogs long time ago about what are the benefits of setting up a business in USA.I’d appreciate if you can direct me in the right direction, or let me know who should I contact.

I like blunt answers, if you think this is wrong/fake or will jeopardize my visa status in any way, just tell me.


I’m going to answer this post for 3 different categories

  • Starting Company in F1 Visa
  • Starting Business while in OPT
  • Starting Business while in H1B visa

Before I answer the question, let me express my views

Having an idea to be an entrepreneur is different from actually being an entrepreneur. People getting educated in USA are more likely to start a business  than those who are take job after graduation without studying abroad. You will be amazed to see how many CEO’s there in USA who are like 16 years of age.

USA visa rules are not friendly for immigrant entrepreneurs. It’s very tough to get visa approved, if you have a business idea and you want to start a company and work in your company.  Original question is about possibility of starting a company while in F1 Student visa.

Starting Company in F1 Visa

F1 students are not allowed to be self-employed and work on their own business. But, F1 visa rules would allow F1 students to invest in a business.

Investing in Business is different from working for the business.

Then students typically think that I can start a business and work for the company without getting paid. Even that’s not allowed. If the job  you do is done by someone else, would  they do it for free? If not, then its not called volunteering.

You can invest in stock market while in F1 Visa. Only work you are doing there is passive.

To answer your question in blunt way – Now, you cannot start a business in F1 Student visa and actively  engage in day to day work.

Starting Business while in OPT

Yes, you can start a company while in OPT.  You can work in your company, but it should be related to your field of study.

This is one of the available option to avoid 90 days of unemployment, if you are creative enough to come up with a business idea related to your filed of study.

While you cannot start business before OPT, but you are considered to be in F1 visa while in OPT.

Starting Business in H1B visa

You could search online for starting business while in H1B and pretty much all the pages will say that you cannot start a company, business while in H1B.

I’m going to give a completely opposite answer.

Yes, you can start a company/business while in H1B Visa. I will let you to explore and figure out how to do that.

Do you have any specific questions, experience you like to share about starting a company in USA?


  1. Ron on February 13, 2019 at 9:30 AM

    Can a F1 VISA holder (Currently on a OPT/STEM OPT status) invest partially in a business Like Motel or Hotel for investment purpose and he is not involved in that business at all. also other partners are us Citizens and they will be managing and running that business.

    • Raghuram Sukumar on February 13, 2019 at 1:46 PM

      On OPT – Yes. STEM OPT – You have to consult an attorney.

      • Rahul G Patel on February 18, 2019 at 7:53 PM

        What about someone on CPT?

        • Raghuram Sukumar on February 18, 2019 at 8:41 PM

          I don’ think you can do on CPT. CPT has to be be approved by an academic advisor. So, you need an offer letter. Would they accept one from your company? Then DSO needs to approve your CPT I-20. If its one person company, I think it’s not possible. Do you have investors, partners, then it maybe possible. That’s when you need to involve an attorney.

  2. Raghunath on October 31, 2018 at 2:06 AM

    Dear Raghuram , would like to get your insights on starting a single member LLC .
    Right now i am doing my 2nd masters in logistics and working on CPT with a logistic firm. And i am considering to start SM LLC in logistics and operate on 1099 , is there any operating constraints for me . If no constraints and i generate high taxes for IRS would there be case for applying for GC.

    Awaiting your personal advice.

    Thank you

    • Raghuram Sukumar on October 31, 2018 at 10:32 AM

      You are not allowed to do that on F1 Visa. But, depending on your plan, there may be options. Consider setting up a call with one of our Attorney’s –

  3. Saranya on September 8, 2018 at 10:58 AM

    Hi Raghu,

    You mentioned that “Now, you cannot start a business in F1 Student visa and actively engage in day to day work.” Does that mean one cannot register for a company while being on F1 Visa ?

    • Raghuram Sukumar on September 15, 2018 at 9:05 AM

      Please consult an Attorney to know what’s allowed and not.

  4. VEERA SHEKAR on January 29, 2018 at 11:02 AM

    Hi Raghu,
    Michael Ashoori,
    My Self (Veera Shekar,) I was registered a Company in USA (ST.of DE )Recently I got B1 Visa Approved… I am planning to go USA Feb Month.

    My Question is I recently Hired 3 consultants in USA.. and they got projects… So I need to run the Payroll for my consultants and File the H1 this year 2018.
    Please suggest If I have a bank Account Can I Run the Payroll for my consultants in USA from India, Or Is it compulsory to hire one person in USA and run the payroll.

    My Second question is I am on B1 Visa, Can i file the LCA for my company… Am I eligible?

    Please suggest with your valuable feedback.

    Veera Shekar

  5. Aditya Dharod on May 18, 2017 at 4:04 PM

    Hey Raghu,

    If I am working on OPT and have also opened an LLC in the US, my OPT is eventually dependant on the job or the company I opened? What happens once I quit my job? Can I stay in the US solely based on the company?

    • Raghu on May 20, 2017 at 6:51 AM

      Aditya, I can advise you on this, but you eventually need an attorney to sort out the options. STEM OPT doesn’t allow self-employed to get an extension.

  6. Tony on May 16, 2017 at 2:39 AM

    I’ll have a US co-founder. Can I “invest” with ideas and technology, not money, and say we agree that I take 60% share because of my ideas and technology provided. Then my partner will do the “work”. Is this ok?

  7. Thilagavathi on April 19, 2017 at 12:43 PM

    I am in OPT and I am planning to start my own business. After a year I am also planning to enroll in Masters. How can I continue running my business while doing Masters? Or even if I am not enrolled in Masters, How can I continue my visa status and run business in USA.

  8. Kira Stein on January 15, 2017 at 6:36 PM

    Hello! I am looking for more information regarding passive investments. Where can the information on that be found? Haven’t been able to find any paperwork with information from the government as to whether or not this is allowed. Thanks!

  9. Parthvi Raval on October 20, 2016 at 3:03 PM

    Hey Raghu,
    I have graduated in MBA (General) recently and am on my OPT right now. I am also doing fashion blogs. Is there any way i could be self employed or how can i start business with the same to get H1 visa?

    Parthvi Raval

  10. Srinath Polidasu on October 4, 2016 at 3:33 PM

    Hi Raghuram,

    Right now I am on CPT, and have a facility to take pre-opt. In that case can I start my own business. Also, how can I register the company when I am a non-resident? Can you please throw some light on this.

    Thanks again!!


    • Raghuram Sukumar on October 4, 2016 at 7:17 PM

      Consult an Attorney 🙂

    • krishna on October 12, 2016 at 4:25 PM

      hi srinath

      i am krishna i want share with my ideas with you because we are in same path so if you interest contact with email [email protected]


  11. Parth Shah on February 7, 2016 at 3:17 PM

    Dear Raghuram,
    Is it possible for a student on an F1 visa to invest in a startup(such that the student gets a share of the profits), but not directly work for it? The student may provide advise/general help.
    Thank You for your thoughts.

    • Raghuram Sukumar on February 8, 2016 at 7:36 AM

      Hey, you can be a passive investor. But, it’s better if you get the counsel of Attorney Murali in this issue via Ask An Attorney.

  12. Pratik Patil on December 19, 2015 at 9:14 PM

    Hello sir Im Indian I am going to usa for undergraduation in software engineering next year.Will it be possible for me to start my own (ecommerce) website while studying??

    • Raghuram Sukumar on December 20, 2015 at 9:12 AM

      No you can’t work on F1 Visa for your company.

      • Moh Gill on October 9, 2017 at 9:25 PM

        Thank you for all your help sir. I am on STEM OPT currently. I would like to know if I can start my ecommerce store online? I do have a job but I want to do this for extra cash? Please let me know. Waiting for your reply sir. Thank you.

        • Raghu on October 10, 2017 at 9:19 PM

          While on OPT, you would be eligible to start your company, but on STEM OPT it’s tough because of Employer-Employee relationship requirements. I would not do that and consult an attorney about potential implications before taking that route. DO you want to put your career and status in the USA at risk for few dollars?

  13. Sujata on October 5, 2015 at 1:15 PM

    I am in h1.. How can I register my business ? Right now I am just developing so no question of earning from it . But how can I do it legally going forward ?

    • Raghuram Sukumar on October 5, 2015 at 6:27 PM

      Hey – Good Luck. It’s possible, but you need get legal help. You can start with Part-Time H1B and then move to Full-time.

      Attorney Murali can advise you on how to setup your company and things you need to get H1B – You can talk to him here –

  14. Madhuri on September 28, 2015 at 8:51 PM

    Hi Raghu,

    I am an F1 student who will be getting my OPT in a couple of months. I am launching a web blog soon and I would like to know if it is legal. As it is just a blog and nothing related to e-commerce, I was wondering if my visa status should be considered in this case. I am assuming that this could be considered as running from India or US. Your suggestion is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance

    • Raghuram Sukumar on October 3, 2015 at 9:50 PM

      EAD gives you option to work on related fields (including self-employment).
      But, if you get H-1B with an emoloyer, you can’t continue to work without work authorization to work for your blog.

  15. Mehmet on December 16, 2014 at 10:46 PM

    Hi im master student in manufacturing and systems engineering. Can i use my opt to open a catering or food truck business? Cuz everything is related with manufacturing, which is my major?

  16. Deepi on July 22, 2014 at 11:54 PM

    HI… My husband in H1-B visa and I’m in H4…. is any possible to start a business and can I run it as helping in his business….

    • Raghuram Sukumar on July 23, 2014 at 9:01 AM

      Yes, but it’s not easy and straight forward.

      If you start a Company X – Both you and your husband have to get H1B via Company X to work for your company.

  17. Azhar on August 13, 2013 at 10:35 AM

    you don’t need to be in the USA to start your own company nowadays you can start ur company in ur mom’s basement so to speak,however,most people think starting a successful business is so easy, one need to understand that starting a business is not a joke you have to fail considerably in-order to get things right, so make mistakes,atleast don’t be afraid to make some but u cannot afford to do mistakes while staying on non-immi visa’s therefore build your company on ur home base and eventually the success can be transfered to other countries not just USA, dream big, atleast I know I do. All the best.

  18. Sanyam on August 13, 2013 at 12:40 AM

    Thanks Raghu for answering my questions this quick. I’d like to clarify my situation a little bit. Iwill not be working in the company any time, I can hire someone who will be in the office the whole day. All the work would be done from India. In that case would I be able to work around?

    I will surely contact a good attorney soon and will let you know what are my options.

    Thanks !

    • bharat on August 13, 2013 at 10:07 AM

      Hello Raghu ,i have been reading your blogs for past 9 months may be all of those which you reply and this is the blog which made me to reply or ask some questions to you as am planning to study in new zealand for an masters degree i would also like to start up some business in logistics industry ,so can i do it in nz is there any rules there to follow if there pls let me know .your fast reply to this concern will be highly appreciated. thank you

      • Raghuram Sukumar on August 13, 2013 at 10:28 AM

        Immigration in NZ is the probably the best right now compared to any other country in the world. They make it easy to get visa for starting new business.

        • bharat on August 13, 2013 at 10:39 AM

          Do you know any rules for starting up a business in new zealand if there pl let me know ,by the way i got an idea of starting a business on reading your blog ,

          Forget Getting a Job After College , Why Not Be An Entrepreneur Instead ?

          thanks for sharing your views of starting up a business with some good points from STEVE JOBS , i have came across the book but haven’t red it fully ,one of the great books from walter isacson .thanks for that . pl let me know about the business process in NZ

          • Raghuram Sukumar on August 13, 2013 at 11:01 AM

            I will write more on this topic.

  19. George Mathews on August 12, 2013 at 10:16 PM

    Dear Raghuram

    Thanks for the reliable piece of information always you are posting. I would like to ask you about EB5 investor program that help those who want to migrate to USA. Your advise, guidelines towards the matter is highly appreciated.
    Adv. George Mathews

  20. Aditya on August 12, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    This is one of those times where you need to invest $300 in a good lawyer. Spend an hour with him, and you will know everything there is to know.

    I would submit that the $300 is a good investment. You do NOT want to misunderstand visa rules, and end up messing up your chances of a green card.

    • Raghuram Sukumar on August 12, 2013 at 2:46 PM

      Hey Aditya – Investing $300 or even more is MUST, but here is the problem. You should know for sure about that specific attorney have handled cases similar to you situation. It’s very tough to find an attorney who have had success in getting visa approved for situation just like what you have. You may have to spend few hundred to thousand dollars and consult with multiple attorney’s. Plus expect to get different set of opinions from all the attorney’s.

      • Aditya on August 12, 2013 at 3:58 PM

        True, you need to do your research to find a good attorney. But like you say, it’s a MUST. The final step should be to speak to a lawyer.

        And for the finding out, it’s usually possible to attend mixers for entrepreneurs where you can get some good leads. At least in bigger cities, I’m not sure about smaller ones.

        So I guess the rule is, do as much research as humanly possible, but do consult an attorney before making any irrevocable decisions. In my opinion, anyway.

  21. vikram on August 12, 2013 at 2:19 PM

    I think canada startup visa program is quite attractive.

    • Raghuram Sukumar on August 12, 2013 at 2:37 PM

      From what I read, it will take atleast 10 years for Canada to clear the current backlog before new applications will be considered in Startup Visa.

  22. Aman on August 12, 2013 at 1:16 PM


    I am interested in the similar information. I am starting a business in partnership with a friend, who happens to be a US citizen. I would like to understand how I can have my share from the profits of the company without jeopardizing my H1B status.

    Looking forward to hear from you.

    • Raghuram Sukumar on August 12, 2013 at 2:08 PM

      If you are going to just a investor and not going to be actually working for the company, then you shouldn’t have problem with H1B.

  23. Shekar Sharma on August 12, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    I am keen on starting a business in the USA too and so have been doing some HW on that issue. From what I understand you CAN start a business ‘while you are in USA’ regardless of the Visa Status. Now it depends on how creative you are in deciphering this statement. But one thing that really sucks is, you cannot start a company of your own and then hire yourself and sponsor yourself for any form of a Visa Status/Green Card. And that is one of the major concerns that many foreign national entrepreneurs have.

    • Raghuram Sukumar on August 12, 2013 at 2:10 PM

      Looks like you still got work to do about understanding the rules. But, being an immigrant entrepreneur in USA is tough unless you have millions to invest.

      • Shekar Sharma on August 17, 2013 at 9:14 PM

        I agree that I still have a lot to understand about the rules. But I made my statement based on a few cases that I have seen. Here at Virginia Tech we have an awesome VT Entrepreneurs Club. Its is wonderful to see that most people in this club are foreign nationals (too few from India though). One strategy I have observed is finding a US citizen as a partner who is mostly on most of the paper and then again having an internal agreement stating each ones share in the company. So legally you owe your shares in the company. So basically if you can plan things out and play it smart you can find a way to start something. I am not trying to make it sound easy, no doubt it is hard but like they say, will and way. Matter of fact the E-Club here organized an event wherein they got a lawyer to throw some light on Entrepreneurship for foreign nationals in US. They also had an awesome event where we had founders of Reddit, Crowdtilt etc. come an talk to us about entrepreneurship and strongly supported foreign nationals to get into entrepreneurship and gave examples of how many have done against the odds.

        • PK on February 2, 2018 at 2:57 PM

          Thanks info,It was effective.

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