As an international student, can I start and operate a us business while on Optional Practical Training?
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As an international student, can I start and operate a us business while on Optional Practical Training?



I am an international student with F1 visa on optional practical training (OPT).

I am an international student with F1 visa on optional practical training (OPT).

Can I start and operate a business in the USA while on OPT?



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As an international student, can I start and operate a us business while on Optional Practical Training? As an international student, can I start and operate a us business while on Optional Practical Training? Document Transcript

  • I am an international student (F1 visa) on optional practical training (OPT). How can I start and operate a business in the USA?
  • There are a lot of discussions on this topic. Important disclosure. I am only talking here about setting oneself up to do business. I am talking about the administrative aspect to get off square one. This process can include: naming the company, getting your employer identification number, registering your trade name, getting business assistance, choosing a location, determining the legal structure, registering the business, getting a tax identification number, registering for state and local taxes, obtaining business licenses and permits, understanding employer responsibilities, getting a business bank account, setting up an accounting system. In my case, I was under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program when I first started my business. This is how it happened for me. I relocated to Los Angeles in September 2006 as an international student with a F1 visa. I wanted to improve my English language skills, learn about the American way of doing business and eventually start my own. Previously, I was an account manager selling IT solutions at HP. My company was going through a workforce reduction plan, and I volunteered to leave my job. Ultimately, they accepted my application, and I was given a financial package. The package helped me fund my education, training, living expenses, trips and my business. During the first 9 months, I enrolled in intensive academic English
  • programs (about 30 hours a week) at UCLA Extension. Then, I signed up for a 9-month general business studies certificate with Concentration Entrepreneurship at the same school. Completion of that program would lead to a 12 month OPT program. 2 months prior graduation, I applied for the OPT program. While waiting for the OPT card, I talked to several attorneys, advisors from the international student office, accountants and advisors from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP - Student Process Steps: How to Navigate the U.S. Immigration System) and asked them the following question: "Can I start my company with my F1 visa?" Ultimately, I found out that F1 students while on OPT can start and operate their own businesses. The OPT Policy Guidance stated the following: What types of employment are allowed for regular pre- and post- completion OPT? "Self-employed business owner. A student on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to the student’s degree program." View slide
  • Read the OPT Policy Guide After receiving my OPT card (November 2008), I went to the social security administration and I applied for a social security number. Then with the help of my CPA, we formed an LLC company and registered in the state of California. Around the same period, I submitted an application through the diversity visa program (green card lottery). I spent the first 7 months of my OPT period working on my plans (doing research, writing the business plan, networking & building relationships with influencers in the industry, developing the business model, preparing an application for an E2 visa etc.). My goal was to file and submit the application for an E2 visa before the OPT card expires (November 2009). In May 2009, we were about to submit the application for an E2 visa when I was notified on my selection for a green card through the diversity program (green card lottery). Then, with the help of my immigration attorney, we stopped the E2 visa application process and filed a petition to get my green card. Before my OPT card expired, I received a new EAD card for an additional 12 months. Ultimately, I received my green card in October 2010. View slide
  • If you are an international student (F1 visa without OPT cards and or social security numbers who wants to start and operate a business in the USA, I highly recommend you to consult an immigration attorney, CPA and tax person to discuss about your case. I also recommend this article from Zhang & Associates, PC: Immigration law does not expressly forbid any alien from to investing or establishing a new business in America. Thus, for students in F-1 status, investing or establishing their own companies in the U.S. is a viable option. However, such students cannot work for their own companies. In summary, international students with F-1 visas only, cannot operate their businesses, meaning engage in business, receive revenue, compensation or salary. Starting a Business in Which an F-1 / H-1B Visa Holder is a Shareholder or Owner In October 2011, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas announced the Entrepreneurs in Residence initiative. Because starting your own business constitutes work, while in F-1 status a student must qualify and apply for optional practical training (OPT) if they plan to do so. OPT, and thus the business, must relate to a student’s program of study and can occur either before (pre-completion OPT) or after the completion of a program of study (post-completion OPT).
  • There are different guidelines for F-1 students depending on their situation: • Students participating in pre-completion OPT may not work more than 20 hours a week while school is in session • Students participating in post-completion OPT may work full-time • F-1 students are generally authorized up to 12 months of OPT (part-time pre-completion OPT, on a 2:1 prorated basis, and post-completion OPT combined) • F-1 students have graduated with a degree in a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) field may be eligible for a 17-month extension of their authorized period of post-completion OPT Source: International Students and Entrepreneurship More resources: Need help to navigate the immigration process as entrepreneurs? Check the resource center, Entrepreneur Pathways. It provides entrepreneurs who seek to start a business in the United States an intuitive way to navigate the immigration process. It also provides information on future opportunities for engagement with the entrepreneurial community. • Starting a Business in Which an F-1 / H-1B Visa Holder is a Shareholder or Owner • Can I Start a U.S. Business As an International Student?
  • • Foreign Students Wanting to Start a Business in the United States - ISBDC • Starting a Business as an International Student • Improved Immigration Laws Would Help Foreign Student Entrepreneurs Launch U.S. Companies, Create U.S. Jobs, Says Kauffman Paper • Starting a Business in the U.S. as a Foreign National • Understanding F-1 OPT Requirements • Practical Training • USCIS - Entrepreneurs in Residence • Video: Work Visa Options after OPT - by Wolfsdorf Immigration Law Group • Startup Visa • FWD.US mation/SEVP_OPT_Policy_Guidance_1004-03/ About Jean-Marc Dedeyne I am the Founder and CEO of U in the USA. I love to challenge the status quo to do what inspire me the most. I believe in making a difference with people who want to make a difference doing something that makes a difference. Originally from Martinique, a French island in the Caribbean, I am an accomplished International Sales Professional with an outstanding record of success selling enterprise solutions with $43 million of revenues generated at SAS France and HP France. He acquired international experience by working and traveling in 25 countries around the world.
  • I have a Master Degree in Sales & Computer from Euridis Ecole France and a Certificate in General Business Studies - Entrepreneurship from UCLA. As a thought leader in international career development and an ambassador at InterNations, I have helped 2000+ expatriates adapt to the American culture, adjust to the Los Angeles lifestyle and find careers that fulfill, drive and inspire them. Currently I live in Los Angeles, CA, and I enjoy traveling the world, taking pictures, hosting mixers for expatriates and riding horses. “When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is; when we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Connect with me via