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  • Writer's pictureThakur Law Firm, APC

Non-US Citizens and Owning a Business



The ability for non-U.S. citizens to own businesses within the U.S. presents a world of opportunities, but it also brings forth unique challenges that must be carefully addressed. When delving into the realm of business law, it is imperative to work with experts who possess the knowledge and experience to guide you through this intricate process. Welcome to Thakur Law Firm, your trusted partner in all matters concerning business law in California.


In the United States, ownership of a business, including Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) and corporations, is not restricted to U.S. citizens. Individuals who are non-U.S. citizens are eligible to own these types of businesses. However, this broad permission comes with specific considerations and restrictions, particularly concerning the type of corporation and the owner's visa status. Let’s take a closer look. 


Business Structures and Ownership


When considering business structures for ownership, it is essential to understand the distinctions between C Corporations, S Corporations, and Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) concerning ownership eligibility for non-U.S. citizens.


  • C Corporations and S Corporations: Non-U.S. citizens can form and own businesses structured as C corporations without restrictions. However, S corporations are an exception, as all shareholders must be U.S. citizens or resident aliens. Therefore, non-U.S. citizens are precluded from holding shares in S corporations.


  • Limited Liability Company (LLC): Similar to C corporations, there are no citizenship requirements for owning an LLC.


Visa Status and Business Ownership

The U.S. does not impose general restrictions on business ownership based on the owner's visa status. This means individuals on non-immigrant visas, such as student, work, or tourist visas, can form an LLC or a corporation. Nonetheless, specific visa conditions can significantly impact the ability to open or operate a business:


  • Ownership vs. Employment: While non-U.S. citizens can own a business, actively working in it or receiving a salary might be restricted under certain visa types without appropriate work authorization. For example, student (F-1) visa holders are generally barred from employment without obtaining the necessary authorization.

  • Visa Conditions and Employment: Certain visas have conditions that may affect the ability to engage in business. H-1B visa holders, for instance, can own a business, but their primary employment must comply with their H-1B status requirements. They cannot work for their own business unless an independent H-1B petition has been approved for that specific employment.


Administrative Requirements


Understanding the administrative requirements, such as securing an Employer Identification Number (EIN) and potentially an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), is crucial for non-U.S. citizens looking to establish a business in the U.S.


  • Employer Identification Number (EIN): A necessary requirement from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for starting a business in the U.S.


  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN): Essential for those lacking a Social Security Number (SSN) when applying for an EIN.


Visa Type

Description

Can Work in the U.S. for Money?

B-1/B-2 Visitor Visas

For business or tourism visits.

No

F-1 Student Visa

For academic students.

Yes, with restrictions (On-campus work; CPT and OPT off-campus after certain criteria are met).

M-1 Student Visa

For vocational or nonacademic students.

Yes, post-study practical training only.

J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa

For exchange visitors participating in programs that promote cultural exchange.

Yes, within program guidelines.

H-1B Specialty Occupations Visa

For workers in specialty occupations requiring a higher education degree.

Yes

H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker Visa

For temporary agricultural workers.

Yes

H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker Visa

For temporary non-agricultural workers.

Yes

L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visa

For intracompany transferees who work in managerial positions or have specialized knowledge.

Yes

O-1 Visa

For individuals with extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.

Yes

P Visas

For athletes, artists, and entertainers.

Yes

R-1 Religious Worker Visa

For individuals working in a religious capacity.

Yes

K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa

For the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen.

No, until a work permit is obtained after marriage.

Family-Based Immigrant Visas

For family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

Yes, upon receiving permanent residency.

Employment-Based Immigrant Visas

For workers immigrating based on employment skills.

Yes

Diversity Immigrant Visa Program

For immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.

Yes

A-1/A-2 Visas for Diplomats and Foreign Government Officials

For diplomats and foreign government officials.

No, only in official capacities.

G Visas and NATO Visas

For employees of international organizations and NATO.

No, only in official capacities.


If you need legal advice about what type of business entity you should form or own, please do not hesitate to contact our experienced attorneys at Thakur Law Firm, APC who can help you navigate the often-complex legal framework and assist you through the tedious process of starting a business. Learn more at ThakurLawFirm.com.



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