Can an Illegal Immigrant Own a Business in the US?

Can an Illegal Immigrant Own a Business in the US?
Can an illegal immigrant own a business in the US?


A lot of people want to open their businesses in the United States, but not everyone can legally do so.

One concern that comes up for illegal immigrants is whether or not they may establish a business in the United States without running the risk of being deported or breaking the law.

Yes, it is possible, even though the solution is not simple.

No law prohibits undocumented immigrants from starting a business

As per information from Nolo, a legal website, there is no federal or state law explicitly prohibiting undocumented immigrants from establishing a small business.

U.S. immigration law does not explicitly restrict an undocumented immigrant from owning a business.

In certain cases, undocumented business owners have even presented their entrepreneurship as a favorable factor in defense against deportation, particularly when demonstrating compliance with tax laws.

However, there are legal risks and challenges involved

Undocumented immigrants can start businesses in the US, but they face challenges and legal consequences. While there’s no explicit law preventing them from gaining business ownership, legal protections are lacking. Key challenges include obtaining valid identification numbers and navigating employment restrictions.

Challenges Faced by Illegal Immigrant Business Owners:

Deportation Threat

  • Undocumented immigrants risk deportation and the loss of business assets.
  • Legal consequences loom due to their undocumented status.

Legal Requirements

  • Compliance with standard business regulations is essential.
  • Obtaining licenses, permits, insurance, and contracts poses challenges.

Identification Numbers

  • Businesses often require a Social Security Number (SSN) or Employer Identification Number (EIN).
  • Undocumented immigrants cannot obtain an SSN, and obtaining an EIN is challenging without proper immigration status.

Employee Hiring

  • The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) prohibits employing undocumented workers.
  • Undocumented business owners must navigate employment restrictions, risking fines and legal consequences.

Identity Risks

  • The use of fake or borrowed SSNs by undocumented individuals can lead to identity theft, fraud, and criminal charges.
  • Caution is necessary to avoid legal repercussions.

Undocumented entrepreneurs must navigate these challenges while pursuing their business aspirations.


Alternatives for Illegal immigrant to start a business

Despite legal risks, illigal immigrants have found ways to start successful businesses in the US.

Solutions include:

Forming Partnerships

  • Partnering with a US citizen or legal resident helps obtain an EIN.
  • Shared legal responsibility may involve giving up some control.

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)

  • Issued by the IRS for those ineligible for an SSN.
  • It enables opening a bank account, applying for licenses, and paying taxes.
  • Doesn’t grant legal status, work authorization, or deportation protection.

Deferred Action Programs

  • DACA or TPS provides temporary relief from deportation and work authorization.
  • It makes it possible to get a work permit and SSN for the legitimate launch of a business.
  • Programs are subject to government changes or termination.

Legal Assistance

  • Seek advice from immigration and business law specialists.
  • Organizations like the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and New York City Business Solutions offer guidance.
  • It helps understand legal implications and options and provides support in the business startup process.


Owning a business as an undocumented immigrant in the US is feasible but challenging.

Overcoming legal obstacles and uncertainties is necessary, yet there are potential solutions and alternatives to help achieve entrepreneurial goals.

The decision to start a business in this situation depends on the individual’s circumstances, motivation, and readiness for the associated challenges.

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