While a H1B visa allows you to work in the United States, the exact type of work that you are permitted to carry out is often limited.


Generally, the work you are authorised to do will be limited to a single employer, meaning that any freelance work on the side could be illegal.

What is an H1B visa?

A H1B visa is a visa that allows companies in the US to hire graduate level employees for specialised roles.
While those without degrees may be able to attain an H1B visa, they are generally for those with higher education. With the H1B visa, the employer has to directly petition for the employee – should it be successful, the recipient will be allowed to work, but only for that business.


The process of getting an H1B visa tends to be quicker and more straightforward than applying for a Green Card, and as a result, it’s a popular way for businesses to ‘import’ specialised workers. It isn’t the only option however; there are also E-2 investor visas, E-1 trader visas, L-1A visas for managers, and many others.


As you can see, it’s a complex field, and while articles on the internet can provide you with a solid foundational knowledge, to appreciate the full nuances, it’s always a good idea to seek the advice of a qualified expert.

What happens if I don’t have a visa and continue to work as a freelancer or contractor?

Can I do freelance work on an H1B visa?

Generally, the consequences of violating your visa status are severe, especially so in the United States.


Should you work as a freelancer or contractor in a capacity which is not explicitly permitted under your visa, you would be in violation of your visa status, which could have a number of consequences.


You will most likely be required to leave the US, and will potentially be able to reenter to ‘reset’ your stay.


Other possible penalties can include being barred from reentry for between three and ten years; how long you’ll be barred will depend on the duration you worked for without the appropriate visa.

My recommendations in regards to the H1B visa & freelancing

Immigration law in the United States is complex, and the consequences should you get things wrong are, as stated above, severe.


As a result, I strongly advise that you do significant research prior to engaging in any work that may involve a visa or additional paperwork. An immigration attorney will be able to provide you with the best advice, and while it may be an expensive option, in my opinion, it’s definitely worth the cost.


The risk of being barred for ten years, and then having a mark which could come up in all future applications is definitely not worth it in the long run, especially if you’re serious about having a future in America.