Is working for your own U.S. business as a foreigner possible? The answer is yes; however, you will need to apply for a work permit. If you are looking to start a business in the United States and become your business’ employee, this article is for you. Read on to learn what you need to know about working for your own U.S. business as a foreigner.

What is the Definition of Employment?

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) defines employment as “any service or labor performed in the United States by an individual, other than an independent contractor, for wages or other remuneration.” However, the definition of employment also includes instances where individuals employ themselves.

In the United States, the consequences of working without the appropriate work authorization can be serious. If you work for your U.S. business without being legally allowed to do so, you could:

  • Lose your visa;
  • Be deported; and
  • Be barred from re-entry to the United States.

Therefore, if you are planning to work in the United States, it is critical to make sure that you apply for a work permit first, even if you will work for your own business. Many inexperienced foreign businesspeople think that because they own a business in the United States, they can legally work for that business. This is simply not true.

How to Legally Work in the United States

To enter the United States as a foreign national and work for a U.S. business, you need a visa. Depending on the visa you use to enter the United States, you will get a specific status. Of the many types of visa statuses available, sixty qualify for work authorization. In order to obtain a work permit in the U.S., you must enter the country under one of these statuses.

You Do Not Need a Work Permit to Run a Business in the United States

There are ways to start and operate a business in the United States without a work permit. One of them is to start a business with a partner that is authorized to work in the United States. Although you do not need a partner to start a business, you certainly need help to operate it, so it is best to partner with someone who can help you develop your business while you take the necessary steps to obtain a visa that allows you to work for your business. If you do not have a proper business visa, all you can do is form your company and operate its bank account – you cannot legally engage in running your business.

By partnering with an individual who is authorized to work in the United States, you can delegate the operational duties to that person. While your visa application is processed, your role in the business will be limited, resembling that of a passive investor. Although you will be able to receive profits from your business, your company cannot pay you a salary, as it would indicate the company is compensating you for your work, which is illegal.

However, if you do not wish to have a partner, you can simply hire a manager to run your business while you apply for your business visa. This approach is similar to the one described above, the only difference being the fact you do not have to give a percentage of your company to a partner.

Working for Your Own U.S. Business as a Foreigner Is Possible But Not Easy

As a foreigner, working for your own U.S. business is indeed possible; however, it is not easy, as you need to apply for one of the business visas that allow you to do so. Business visas are usually the hardest to obtain, which is why working with an experienced Business Immigration Lawyer is vital. If you are looking to come to the United States to start and operate the business of your dreams, give Attorney Romy B. Jurado a call today at (305) 921-0976 or send an email to to schedule an initial consultation.