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Let's say that a foreigner wants to sell products or services in US using a company there to save his/her clients of importing his products/services. Yet this hypothetical entrepreneur does not stay in US all the time, only when he goes to sell his products/services under a business visa. Which are the rules of such operation?

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You cannot work for a US Company on a B1 visa, that would require a work permit (H1B). Of course you can set-up a US company, but I don't see the advantage in your scenario, it would only make sense if the company would have employees in the US. As a rule of thump a B1 visa only allows you to do to non-manual labor, like attending meetings, soliciting sales, negotiating contracts etc. You cannot run a business or get paid by your US business.

What kind of products are you selling? It should be relatively easy to just ship them from overseas using a courier service.

  • Thanks for the answer. In the shown scenario the business person would not be doing manual labor, only sales and consulting about the products and services offered, and being paid by the company in the home country. Some american companies refrain from buying directly from abroad because they have to do all the paperwork of importation (at least is what they say). Thus this scenario seems to be totally legal. I just would want to know which are the regulations to follow. – Gabriel Diego Jun 9 '15 at 2:08
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Could you please clarify the way you want to use the US company? If the company has no employees, how is it supposed to do business? Somebody has to sign contracts on behalf of the US company or do the paperwork to import your products and you can't do either on a B1 visa.

  • I cannot state if this is a actual business that I am going to setup since it is against the site rules (no law counseling), but I can ask generically. I know that a company can have an attorney to sign contracts, thus the owners don't need to be present all the times. I also know that some business setup unstaffed offices in order to sell in american soil (I heard about IT companies doing that). And I also know that some companies send staff to the US constantly using the B-1 visa only when the need arises. I'm just curious about the legal details about such operation. – Gabriel Diego Jun 9 '15 at 2:22
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    Employees on B1 visas can consult on previously sold products (eg. software), but cannot get paid for the consulting. Only technical support covered under the original contract is allowed. Selling products on behalf of the US company or importing products for resale, on behalf of the US company, from the company in your country is illegal on a B1 visa. – MrAwesomekat Jun 9 '15 at 2:33
  • Thank you for your answer, it is very clarifying. I'm still curious about how can foreigners own companies in the US if they cannot do anything to manage them if they only have a B-1 visa. – Gabriel Diego Jun 9 '15 at 2:45
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    Foreigners can set-up US companies with employees. The employees do all the work and the owner gets paid as a shareholder. Interviewing and hiring employees for your company is an activity allowed for holders of B1 visa. – MrAwesomekat Jun 9 '15 at 2:53

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