Ask Sophie: Can I launch a startup if I’m in the US on a student visa?

Here’s another edit from “Ask Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at tech companies.

“Your questions are vital to spreading the knowledge that enables people around the world to cross borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people operations, a founder, or looking for a job in Silicon Valley, I’d love to answer your questions in my next column.”

TechCrunch+ members receive access to weekly “Ask Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one or two year subscription at 50% off.

Dear Sophie,

I just found out that I have been accepted to an American university, which was my first choice!

One day my dream would be to create my own startup in the US. Is there a foundation that I am allowed to lay to make my dream come true?

— Forward-thinking founder

Dear prospective,

Congratulations on starting your journey across the US to make your dreams come true! America needs entrepreneurs like you who have the courage, determination, and innovative vision to create technologies that improve our world!

I want to launch my own startup in the US If I have a student visa, what foundation can I lay to make my dream come true?

A word of warning though: the F-1 student visa is only for people who No intends to permanently immigrate to the United States. I will share more details below.

Continuing your studies and graduating will set the stage for you to obtain an employment authorization document (work permit) so that you can embark on the fulfillment of your dream. Let me start at the beginning and talk about the F-1 student visa.

F-1 visa

The F-1 student visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows you to study in the United States at a SEVP-certified school and offers the most options for work before and after graduation. For a nonimmigrant visa, you must demonstrate to immigration officials, at visa interviews and when you enter the US at the airport or other port of entry, that you intend to eventually return to your home country . If you express your immigrant intent (intent to remain in the US permanently), you may be denied an F-1 visa or entry into the US.

As an international student, neither the university’s admissions office nor the international student office nor the university’s Designated Student Official (DSO) are responsible for maintaining your legal status. Villalobos strongly recommends attending your university’s orientation for international students and staying in close contact with your university’s DSO. A DSO will need to sign your work authorization under OPT and STEM OPT.

A composite image of immigration attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a TechCrunch logo background.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak/Sophie Alcorn (Opens in a new window)

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As a full-time F-1 student, you cannot work in the US without proper work authorization. If she does, she risks serious consequences, including denial of future immigration benefits or even removal proceedings.

OPT allows you to obtain proper work authorization (an employment authorization document, also known as a work permit) to gain practical work experience in your field of study. Students are eligible for up to 12 months of full-time work under OPT, either before graduation (Pre-Completion OPT) or after graduation (Post-Completion OPT).

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