After a student in F-1 status graduates from a college or university, they are typically given one year to work in an area related to their primary area of study. This one year period of work authorization is known as “Optional Practical Training” or OPT. The vast majority of students will work for an employer while in OPT. However, students are also permitted to be self-employed while in OPT.
Here are a few things to note regarding F-1 OPT status and self-employment:
1. You need to obtain a business license;
2. You must be actively engaged in the business and able to prove it;
3. The business must be related to your degree program;
4. If you’re on a 17 month OPT extension you will need to register your business with the E-verify program
The list above is not exhaustive. There are additional considerations to take into account.
If you’re thinking ahead, you may also want to consider what will happen if your business takes off? Suppose you have created an app that becomes really popular and generates significant revenue. What will you do when your OPT expires? Will you sell the company? Will you move the company overseas? Will you try to obtain an H-1B as the owner of the company and jump through the additional hoops that are required in this situation? Will you try to shift to an investor visa?
There’s a lot to think through in the self-employed OPT scenario. Hopefully I have been able to raise some of the basic issues. In addition to your normal mix of advisors (accountant, corporate attorney, financial advisor, banker, etc.) be sure to consult with an experienced immigration attorney. You don’t want to be trapped in a situation where your company is taking off in the US and you are forced to leave because you can’t obtain a visa.
Contact Dhanani Law Firm at (404) 593-0434 to schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Rahim Dhanani.