What is a work-around to starting and doing work for a start-up with friends in the US when I am currently on a H1B with another company?

It’s a two-part answer. First, I’ll delve into the general issue of whether a foreign citizen can establish a corporation inside the United States. Then, I’ll address the ability to formally work for your startup as a salaried employee under an H-1B visa.

The United States has fifty different states all of which have different requirements for corporate registration. Oddly enough, however, 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 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 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 H-1B 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. If compensation is a problem, the other startup employees may be able to compensate you with cash indirectly or provide you with non-monetary goods and services without breaking any laws. I hope this helps.

Need assistance registering your startup and changing your visa? LawTradeshas international corporate and immigration lawyers available to help. Our legal marketplace offers free initial consultations, 24/7 customer support and a satisfaction guarantee. Feel free to message me with any questions!