Can I do a start-up while being in US and employed on H1B or L1B visa?

Thank you for your question. This response will cover two issues. First, it will deal with your ability to own shares in your startup as a H-1B, L-1, or O visa holder. Then, it will address your ability to formally work for your incorporated startup as a salaried employee under an H-1B, L1-B, or O visa entrant.

There are no restrictions on foreign ownership of a company formed in the United States. The procedure for a foreign citizen to form a company in the United States is the same as for a US resident. And it is not necessary for a corporate founder to be a US citizen or to have a green card. Ironically, though, the mere fact that you can found a corporation in the United States does not mean you can reside in the country and work for the firm. A foreign citizen may be a corporate officer and/or director, but may not work in the United States or receive a salary or compensation for services provided in the United States unless the foreign citizen has a work permit (either a green card or a special visa) issued by the United States. You can own a business or own stock shares of your company but unless you have a work visa, you are not allowed to work for your company in the US (You can work for your company in your country).

H-1B, L1, and O visas only permitted entrants to work for the specific employer that sponsored the visa. If you are going to work for another employer, you will have to petition the United State Citizenship and Immigration Service for a modification to your visa. However, if you are not on your company’s payroll and work for it in an unofficial capacity, you may be able to contribute to your startup.

Need assistance registering your startup and changing your visa? LawTradeshas international corporate and immigration lawyers in every state who can help get your business off the ground. Feel free to message me with any questions!