Rules for foreign founders in the US on a student visa

A foreign student is permitted to own equity in a company and to serve on the of a company. A foreign student may not perform work for a company without obtaining appropriate authorization from the foreign student office at his/her university. The rules are no different for “founders."

An individual (whether or not a founder) who is neither a US citizen nor a lawful permanent resident (“green card” holder) cannot work in the United States without a visa that authorizes employment—even if that person is the founder of the company. Depending on the circumstances (including, for example, what degree(s) a foreign national possesses, what country the person is from, the nature of the job, whether the person’s fiancée or spouse is a US citizen, etc.), an individual may be eligible for a variety of non-immigrant and/or immigrant visas. Any company whose founder is in need of a visa should begin by consulting immigration counsel to determine what options may exist.

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