Am I allowed to make money through a YouTube channel while in H1B status?


We regularly receive questions about whether a particular activity is considered unauthorized employment while in H1B status (or in H-4 status when the H-4 dependent does not have an EAD). Many of the questions involve grey areas of immigration law. Our general recommendation is that, if a person is earning funds through some passive activity, it likely would not be viewed as unauthorized employment.

For example, if an individual buys a few stocks, it is hard to imagine the USCIS taking the position that such activity is not permissible. On the other hand, if a person “works” as a day trader, making dozens or hundreds of trades per day, it is conceivable that the USCIS would view this as unauthorized employment.

It should be noted that there are immigration law practitioners who argue that an activity should only be considered unauthorized employment if it has the potential of taking a job away from a U.S. worker. However, given the potential immigration consequences of being found to have engaged in unauthorized employment, and the lack of clear guidance from the USCIS, we typically do not recommend relying on this position.

So, in answer to your question, it is unclear if monetizing a YouTube channel would be considered unauthorized employment. If the foreign national created the channel and content prior to entering the U.S., and is now merely earning income from the views that occur while the person is in the U.S., this could be considered “passive” income and should not be much of an immigration risk. But, if the individual is creating the content here, it seems possible that the USCIS could view this unfavorably. (07.Oct.2021)

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