If you’re an F1 student in the United States, you may have ambitions of becoming a business owner. But can F1 students start a business? The answer is yes; but it’s a little bit complicated.
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Can F1 Students Start a Business?
Yes, and Here’s How
Understanding the Limitations
The USCIS forbids F1 students from "engaging" in business. However, you are not specifically
prohibited from creating your own business. This is because "preliminary business planning" is
not counted as business engagement. However, after you have established your business,
you will not be allowed to work for it or collect a salary. Unfortunately, you cannot simply work
for your own company without compensation. This is because you cannot be considered a
volunteer if you’re performing work at a for-profit business.
Seeking Additional Status
1) Curricular Practice Training (CPT)
You can gain work authorization by applying for CPT. Under this status, you will be
permitted to work for your own company. However, your company and the work you do
must pertain to your area of study.
2) Optional Practical Training (OPT)
As with CPT, OPT is a work authorization that allows you to operate your own business
so long as that business relates to your area of study. It is important to note, however,
that you will need to be granted an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) before
you are eligible to apply for OPT.
Changing Your Visa Status
1) H1B Visa Change of Status
2) Treaty Trader: E1 Change of Status
Many people who engage in OPT decide to apply
for H1B visa change of status so that they can
remain in the U.S. after their OPT period has
expired. If you start your business as an OPT
student, OPT to H1B change of status could be a
good option for you.
You may also be able to apply for an F1 to E1
change of status after graduation. While the E1
visa is also a temporary visa, you are allowed to
apply for unlimited renewals. This provides a
distinct advantage over other option since you
won’t have to worry about leaving the country in
a matter of just a few years.
Changing Your Visa Status (Continued)
3) Investor Visa: E2 Change of Status
4) F1 to Green Card
Another option you could try an F1 student is to
apply for an E2 visa. You may qualify for an F1
to E2 change of status if you are able to invest a
substantial amount of money into a business
venture. Typically, this involves a minimum of
The last option we will discuss is a bit more
complicated than the others, but it will allow you
to found and work for your own business
Since these paths are indirect with a lot of
gray areas, it can be extraordinarily
beneficial to have legal guidance at your
side. For a free consultation, contact the
experienced team of business and
immigration lawyers at Katz Law Office Ltd.
Katz Law Office, Ltd.
4105 West 26th Street Chicago,
(773) 321-6651/ (773) 321-6708