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Can an H1B visa holder start e-commerce business in the US?

Asked by: Raj - 31 August, 2011
https://d25eic0jctudgb.cloudfront.net/images/site/avatars/default.png-f1597c1da25f30f8c1a941405e8391c8 Hi,

I am holding an H1B visa and currently in the US. I would like to start an e-commerce business that sells digital goods. I would also provide customization on these digital goods for the customers, which would be billed extra. Can you please provide answer to the below questions?
1. Am I legally allowed to start e-commerce business?
2. If yes, how should I proceed with registration (I am in Texas now)? Will consulting a CPA provide the required information?
3. I would like to open a bank account in the US to receive payment from the customers. Is it possible to open one? Can you give an idea on what documents they would ask for?

Thanks so much in advance.

Best regards,
Raj
Answered by: Robert Kowalski - 6 September, 2011
https://d25eic0jctudgb.cloudfront.net/images/site/avatars/35.jpg-687fc92d5f6c5febcbdccb6895b08b8c Dear Raj,

First of all, I would recommend you to consult an immigration attorney regarding any legal questions. Since we do not provide legal advise (especially not immigration related advise) an immigration attorney would be the right person to explain all the restrictions of your visa/immigration status.

As far as ownership is concerned, almost any individual can own shares of US companies (certain restrictions apply, such as ownership of shares in S-Corporations), so if your immigration status permits it you could form an LLC as an example and provide the services under that LLC. Just an FYI, its not a secret that many successful businesses are owned by individuals with questionable immigration status (we don't endorse it of course, but it is a fact).

You would probably be able to distribute profit to yourself, but won't be able to pay yourself a salary (that part you would need to figure out using the input from both the immigration attorney and a CPA).

As far as registering your business in Texas you can visit our Texas Incorporation page and make a choice of entity. You would only need to provide some information about yourself and your future business and we will take it from there.

Finally, to open a bank account you would need to present the banker with company documents, a photo ID, and in some cases a proof of address (such as utility bill). You should visit the branch where you intend to open a bank account and ask them if they require any other documents.

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