How can I start a startup while I’m OPT? • australiabusinessblog.com

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

“Your questions are vital to the dissemination of knowledge that empowers people around the world to rise above limits and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in the People-Ops, a founder, or looking for a job in Silicon Valley, I’d love to answer your questions in my next column.”

australiabusinessblog.com+ members get access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to buy a one or two year subscription with 50% off.


Dear Sophie,

I am an international student in USA in F-1 status. I will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and plan to apply for OPT. I want to start a startup. Can I do that with OPT? What options do I have after OPT to grow my business further?

— Forward-looking founder

Dear forward-looking,

It’s so exciting to hear you’re planning ahead for your startup founder journey.

Taking this route requires planning and foresight. Consult an immigration attorney for advice and precautions to mitigate risks and protect you along the way.

Starting a boot on OPT

As an F-1 student with OPT work permit (work permit) you can get your company on track and be self-employed as long as you put your diploma to work. You must also work full-time and have all the appropriate business licenses required by your state.

You don’t have to wait until you get OPT to set up your business. Under immigration law, doing things like forming the legal entity for your business, pitching to potential investors, or negotiating contracts is not considered work, so you are allowed to do them without an OPT work permit.

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

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

That way, once you’re on OPT, you have a full 12 months to focus on running your startup.

F-1 students can apply for OPT up to 90 days before graduating, but no later than 60 days after that. Check out this previous Dear Sophie column on OPT and contact your university’s DSO (designated school official) for more information.

If you already know that you want to keep your startup in the US and find investors here, talk to a corporate attorney to determine how you can structure the business. In general, US investors want to do business with Delaware C companies. Even if you are located in the state of Delaware, your startup could be located in Silicon Valley or anywhere in the US


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