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Can an H1B visa holder start a business in US or own some percentage of equity in a US based startup?

Redmond, WA |

To add more details: the startup team consists of couple of US citizens and they have already filled an S-Corp. I am on H1B visa working for a largeco. I want to know if I can own some percentage of equity in exchange to few hours of technical work per week as a moonlighting project.

Attorney Answers 3


No. That would be unauthorized employment.

J Charles Ferrari Eng & Nishimura 213.622.2255 The statement above is general in nature and does not constitute legal advice, as not all the facts are known. You should retain an attorney to review all the facts specific to your case in order to receive advise specific to your case. The statement above does not create an attorney/client relationship. Answers on Avvo can only be general ones, as specific answers would require knowledge of all the facts. As such, they may or may not apply to the question.

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I agree that this would be unauthorized employment. In addition, shareholders of an S corporation must be either US citizens or permanent residents. With your current status, you may not become a shareholder of an S corporation.

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Thanks a lot. This is really helpful. If it was not an S corp can any of my trusted ones outside US act as a proxy and hold some equity on behalf of me?


Passive investment should be OK. Active involvement like holding a position of an officer and performing tasks is unauthorized employment.

This response is general in nature and cannot be construed as legal advice, given that not enough facts are known. Any comments offered on Avvo are of a general nature only, and are not meant to create an attorney-client relationship. If you would like additional information based on this response, please contact my office at 510 657 7665 or 415 902 0832 to schedule a consultation.

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