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Can I work on personal projects and make money while living on a H1B Visa?

Can I work on personal projects and make money while living on a H1B Visa?

Old Mar 20th 2012, 1:18 am
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Default Can I work on personal projects and make money while living on a H1B Visa?

Hi,

I'm currently in my second year of a H1B Visa working in San Francisco in the States. I'm interested in working on a mobile game with a friend for the iphone and before I started anything, wanted to find out if it's possible; I'm not sure if its actually allowed with my current status as a Visa holder. The company I work for is happy for their workers to have side projects and many people here do in fact make money from their own personal projects and businesses on the side, so I know the company doesn't have an issue, but my H1B status might be the sticking point. Is that the case? If so, is there a workaround? I'd be working for myself, not another company, and would obviously be declaring to the IRS if we made any money from the game (and that is a bloody big if! ).

Thanks for any help or advice guys and gals!
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Old Mar 20th 2012, 2:02 am
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Default Re: Can I work on personal projects and make money while living on a H1B Visa?

Afraid not

My husband looked into this before we moved over here on his H1B last September. The only thing he could have done was have another company sponsor him for another H1B, basically having 2 x H1B's at the same time, but this wouldn't work in his case as the work was for a UK based company working off site (obviously).
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Old Mar 20th 2012, 1:18 pm
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Default Re: Can I work on personal projects and make money while living on a H1B Visa?

Originally Posted by KnickKnack View Post
Is that the case?
Yes.


If so, is there a workaround?
No. You are not allowed to work for anyone other than your H-1B sponsor... and that includes not being allowed to work for yourself.

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Old Mar 20th 2012, 1:23 pm
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Default Re: Can I work on personal projects and make money while living on a H1B Visa?

Playing devil's advocate here, if it is a personal project that you and your friend are developing and there is no exchange of money involved, why won't you be able to do this?

Having an H-1B does not allow you to work for someone else but it does not prohibit you from thinking, experimenting and/or developing new programs on your own time.

So find a way to work around the "pay" aspect for this project. Perhaps a contract stating that you will be paid a certain percentage if the program is even sold in the future and for its copyright.
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Old Mar 20th 2012, 2:05 pm
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Default Re: Can I work on personal projects and make money while living on a H1B Visa?

Originally Posted by Rete View Post
Having an H-1B does not allow you to work for someone else...
... or yourself.


So find a way to work around the "pay" aspect for this project.
As you well know, "pay" isn't the only criteria that defines working... and "getting away with it" isn't the same as it being allowed.


Playing devil's advocate here...
Playing the anti-devil's advocate here! Is there even such a word?

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Old Mar 20th 2012, 2:49 pm
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Default Re: Can I work on personal projects and make money while living on a H1B Visa?

Originally Posted by ian-mstm View Post
Playing the anti-devil's advocate here! Is there even such a word?

Ian
Would that be considered playing God's advocate ... ?

Sorry - as you were!
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Old Mar 20th 2012, 3:45 pm
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Default Re: Can I work on personal projects and make money while living on a H1B Visa?

Ahhh your interpretation means that if you are a computer program writer you can NEVER EVER write a program outside of the office for your personal use or for the use of your family and/or friends.

Ian, does not seem quite right does it?
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Old Mar 20th 2012, 4:00 pm
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Default Re: Can I work on personal projects and make money while living on a H1B Visa?

Originally Posted by Rete View Post
Playing devil's advocate
Originally Posted by ian-mstm View Post
Playing the anti-devil's advocate
I think you're on opposite sides of a very murky grey area. Clearly he can't write software that gets distributed en-masse, even for free. But in much the same "working" way you hold the ladder while your neighbor climbs it or help change his tire, he could write a program for his own personal use or possibly even with/for his friend. Now, where is the dividing line there? Is there even one, or is it one of those subjective answers that would get you into trouble with one person but not another in the same department?

Possibly he could reap the rewards of his friend doing the work by being a non-active partner receiving divvies in a corporation. But that probably isn't really the intention!
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Old Mar 20th 2012, 4:15 pm
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Default Re: Can I work on personal projects and make money while living on a H1B Visa?

So can you have a hobby on an H1-B? What if someone loves to code and writes open source tools that they distribute for free just for the fun of it. I don't see an issue with that.

What about volunteering at a local charity and say helping prep food for the homeless?
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Old Mar 20th 2012, 4:40 pm
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Default Re: Can I work on personal projects and make money while living on a H1B Visa?

The definition of "work" is especially tricky for people who are (and I truly hate this term) "knowledge workers" - particularly where there may be absolutely no tangible manifestation of the "work" while it is being done.

A lot of my work is problem solving of one sort or another - figuring out how something could or should be done - for some things this takes months (or longer) - the problem may be well defined but difficult - while I am "working" on it I am not reading documents or making notes - I am just thinking about it - from time to time - nothing else. What's more I can't really control when an idea might come to me - the answer to one of the toughest technical problems that I ever solved came to me while sitting drinking a glass of wine in an Italian restaurant ... Only if and when I come up with a solution do I produce anything tangible in the form of a report or a presentation.

Or, consider the case of a writer - he goes to the US on vacation for 6 weeks with no intention of doing anything other than relaxing while he is there, but one day he has an idea for a new novel - over the next week or two these ideas develop and, while he doesn't put a single word down on paper, by the time he returns to the UK the entire novel is fully formed in his mind. When he gets back to the UK he spends the next 2 weeks typing out what becomes a best seller.

Now, neither of these scenarios correspond exactly to what the OP was asking about which clearly would have resulted in some tangible expression of his labo(u)rs but I just wanted to point out that, as others have said, the definition of what does and does not constitute "work" isn't quite as simple as some people seem to think.
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Old Mar 20th 2012, 5:18 pm
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Default Re: Can I work on personal projects and make money while living on a H1B Visa?

Originally Posted by nun View Post
So can you have a hobby on an H1-B? What if someone loves to code and writes open source tools that they distribute for free just for the fun of it. I don't see an issue with that.

What about volunteering at a local charity and say helping prep food for the homeless?
The first is a hobby, the second is true voluntary work.

The OP wants to flog the app on the store, it'll generate income, realistically shit income, but income none the less. That wouldn't be allowed.
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Old Mar 20th 2012, 5:30 pm
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Default Re: Can I work on personal projects and make money while living on a H1B Visa?

Originally Posted by KnickKnack View Post
I'm currently in my second year of a H1B Visa working in San Francisco in the States. I'm interested in working on a mobile game with a friend for the iphone and before I started anything, wanted to find out if it's possible; I'm not sure if its actually allowed with my current status as a Visa holder.
The easy solution is to get your company to sponsor you for a green card.
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Old Mar 20th 2012, 7:00 pm
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Default Re: Can I work on personal projects and make money while living on a H1B Visa?

Originally Posted by Bob View Post
The first is a hobby, the second is true voluntary work.

The OP wants to flog the app on the store, it'll generate income, realistically shit income, but income none the less. That wouldn't be allowed.
Not necessarily, look at the recent success of Temple Run
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Old Mar 20th 2012, 7:52 pm
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Default Re: Can I work on personal projects and make money while living on a H1B Visa?

Originally Posted by N1cky View Post
Not necessarily, look at the recent success of Temple Run
Sure, quite a few games make money...but even Magnetic Billiards which got Apple spotlight, top 5 sales/downloads and a load of awards has also made next to bugger all and that game is amazingly well polished.
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Old Mar 20th 2012, 8:11 pm
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Default Re: Can I work on personal projects and make money while living on a H1B Visa?

Originally Posted by Bob View Post
Sure, quite a few games make money...but even Magnetic Billiards which got Apple spotlight, top 5 sales/downloads and a load of awards has also made next to bugger all and that game is amazingly well polished.
Yep, this one was definately an exception. Husband and wife team, reportedly made into millionaires thanks to this one game.
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