There are over one million international students currently enrolled in an educational institution, college, or university in the U.S. But what happens when you have a great idea for a business but are currently on a student visa? Our attorneys explain the steps an international student may take to start a business in the U.S.A.

Are International Students Allowed to Open a Business in the U.S.A?

International students usually come to the U.S. on an F-1 visa, which allows them to remain in the country while attending school. However, an F-1 visa alone does not allow an international student to work, which means they are not allowed to open a business either.

There are, however, ways an international student can become eligible to open their own business. Students may apply for Optional Practical Training, and if approved, may open a business related to their course of study. Alternatively, students who can switch their F-1 visa to an H1B visa (and fulfill all visa requirements) may start a business under certain circumstances.

What Are the Rules and Requirements for Students in the OPT Program?

Students who qualify for Optional Practical Training may engage in business activities before or after the completion of their program of study. Students eligible for pre-completion OPT are limited to working no more than 20 hours a week while school is in session. In contrast, those enrolled in post-completion OPT may work full time.

OPT allows students to continue working on their business for up to 12 months. Students who graduated with a degree listed among the Department of Homeland Security STEM Designated Degree Program List may apply for a 24-month extension of their authorized OPT period.

What Steps Should an International Student Take To Start a Business?

The first step to opening a business as a student in the U.S. is to understand the rules of your student visa and make sure you fit the eligibility requirements to work (such as being granted an OPT program). Next, creating a business plan and registering your business name are also important steps. Also consider any licensing requirements, funding sources, business structure, and tax requirements. Talking to a professional is highly recommended to help you with this process.

Do You Need an Attorney if You Want to Start a Business on an F1 Visa?

Seeing an attorney is highly advisable, as taking the wrong steps can have negative consequences for your eligibility to keep your F-1 visa in good standing. There are also many important decisions to be made when opening a business. At Davis Legal, PLLC, we assist new business owners with all their legal needs. Contact us for an initial consultation at 919-756-6437.