Are international students allowed to own and operate businesses?

Are international students allowed to own and operate businesses?

Are international students allowed to own and operate businesses? I wondered a lot about these questions when I was a student and spent many hours trying to figure out whether legally we are allowed to do it.

I went to the U.S government official websites and asked my international student adviser, career adviser, and clear-cut answers! It was frustrating, but I will make it easy for you and give you the breakdown. 

Yes! International students can own and operate a business while studying in the U.S; I have done it and gone through the process. However, don’t click off just yet. There are specific guidelines!


I am sorry. It’s not likely that you will be legally allowed to own and operate a business in the U.S since you are here for only a short amount of time. However, scroll down towards the end; there is an alternative!


For F1 Visa students, you HAVE to be on OPT to start and operate your business in the U.S. So only during your OPT period you can work on your business. 

What is OPT? It allows M1 and F1 students to work for ANY employer in a position related to their field of study. Now “related” can be stretched and bent, but I will have a different post for that. 

M1 Visa Student:

I can’t speak for everyone, as I have never been an M1 student, but it is very restricted, and you only get one month of OPT for every four months of study. You can only engage in OPT after finishing your studies as well.


  1. Make sure the company name is available in your state.
  2. Decide on business structure: Sole-proprietor, LLC, C-Corp,(No S-Corp unless citizen)
  3. Register your business with the state
  4. Apply for necessary licenses. Local, State, Federal.
  5. Apply for Sales Tax, Employment Tax ID. 
  6. Make $$$


Option A) You can passively invest in companies with your cash and money. However, you are not allowed to do any work for your business. 

If it’s a one-person operation, you’re out of luck, but register the business with a friend who is a U.S citizen who is willing to do the work such as hiring, operating, marketing, etc. 

All you need to provide is money. If the government doesn’t go snooping around, they can’t prove you “worked” for the company unless documented.

Option B) You can register a non-U.S business linked to a non-U.S bank account. The American government does not have any authority as long as what you are doing is legal in the respective country that business is set up.

So if you are from France, you can run your French business in France without any problems.

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