business

Those H-1B Blues

Starting a business is one thing, but without the right Immigration papers, you may not be able to work for it. Go figure

By Karen E. Klein

Q: I am in the United States on H-1B visa status and I would like to start a corporation. Are there any restrictions on my doing so, or any special circumstances I should know about? -- M.R., Los Angeles

A:

An H-1B visa only authorizes an alien to have temporary work authorization in the U.S. for the specific employer who is sponsoring him, says Eli Kantor, an immigration and employment attorney based in Los Angeles. Your visa status "is not a blanket work authorization," Kantor says. So, while there is no restriction preventing you from forming a corporation, there is a restriction on your being employed by that corporation.

The bottom line, Kantor says, is that you could start a corporation, but you would be prevented from receiving a salary from the corporation unless your visa status changes. Good luck!

Have a question about your business? Ask our small-business experts. Send us an e-mail at smartanswers@businessweek.com, or write to Smart Answers, BW Online, 45th Floor, 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. Please include your real name and phone number in case we need more information; only your initials and city will be printed. Because of the volume of mail, we won't be able to respond to all questions personally.

Karen E. Klein is a Los Angeles-based writer who covers entrepreneurship and small-business issues.

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