This is a guest post from our friends at Legalpad!
Do you have a startup idea you'd like to explore more while working in the U.S. on an H-1B? If so, this is the guide for you!
The H-1B, like most work visas, is tied to a specific employer. While in the U.S. on the H-1B, you can only work for the company that sponsored your H-1B.
Launching a U.S. company while working for another employer on the H-1B is possible. You can incorporate your company, raise funding, go through accelerators, and meet with prospective clients. However, you cannot work for the company unless you secure work authorization.
If you are exploring launching a startup and transferring your H-1B to your startup, here are four things to keep in mind:
Step 1: Launch your startup while employed at your original H-1B sponsor
You can continue to work for your current employer on your H-1B during the first stages of your startup. During this time, you can incorporate your company, secure any business licenses required in your area, establish an office space, raise funding, go through an accelerator, hire employees, and more. However, you cannot begin working for your company yet.
Step 2: Act as a passive shareholder.
Once your company is set up, you can continue to work for your H-1B employer until you are ready to make the transition. You cannot have an active role in running your company during this time, but you can draw passive income from the company as an investor/shareholder.
Once you are ready to transition, your startup can sponsor an H-1B transfer petition.
You may be able to start working for your startup right away without having to wait for the H-1B approval. However, you may want to wait for the approval notice before making the transition in case your transfer petition is unsuccessful.
Other Visa Options for Startup Founders
If you are in the U.S. on an H-1B and want to launch a startup, an H-1B transfer is certainly something you should consider. However, it is not your only option! A few other options include:
There is no one-size-fits-all immigration solution. Immigration is highly personalized, so it's crucial to seek one-on-one support. Our friends at Legalpad love to partner with founders and support them throughout their immigration journeys. Whether your startup is just an idea or you've already launched, you can get started with Legalpad today.