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Guide to H1B Holders Investing: Stock Trading, Day Trade, Taxes

When you work in the US on H1B Visa, you can make a decent amount of money to pay for your living expenses and also put in a good chunk of it towards savings. As many think about savings and investing on H1B Visa, there comes a question, if there are any restrictions related to being on H1B Visa in the US. Questions like “Can I do stock trading in the US”, “How does Day trading work with H1B”, or “How do taxes work with Stock Trading on H1B”, many such questions. In this article, we will explore all those details related to stock trading on H1B Visa.

What is Stock Trading in the US ? How does it work ?

Stock Trading in the US is nothing but buying and selling stocks related to a company that is listed publicly in the US Stock exchanges. The general concept of stock trading is similar to other countries. The main difference is the list of stock exchanges that are used for stock trading. There are many stock exchanges in the US, below is the list where the public can buy and sell stocks.

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  • Two main Stock Exchanges
    • New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)
    • National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation System (Nasdaq)
  • Other smaller Stock Exchanges
    • Chicago Stock Exchange (CHX)
    • Boston Stock Exchange (BSE)
    • National Stock Exchange (NSX)
    • Philadelphia Stock Exchange (PHLX)
    • Miami Stock Exchange (MS4X)

In general, individuals (retail buyers) need to create an account with stock brokers like Interactive Brokers, ETrade, Robinhood, Ameritrade, etc. where they can buy and sell the stock of any publicly-traded company.

Now that we understand the basics, let’s get into the context of H1B Visa holders and doing stock trading.

Can H1B holder Invest in Stocks ? Buy, Sell ?

Yes, H1B visa holders can invest in the stock market and do stock trading in the US. They can buy and sell stocks like any other retail investor. There are no rules that says H1B holder cannot do stock trading in the US. H1B holders can create an account from one of the online stock brokers like Robinhood, Ameritrade, etc and start buying and selling stocks. It is perfectly legal to do general delivery-based stock trading.

Requirements for H1B holder to buy stocks ?

The requirements for H1B holders to do stock trading are similar to US citizens, with some additions. You cannot trade on behalf of someone, it should be for you and from your own account. Below is the common list of requirements for H1B holders to do stock trading.

Most of the time, when you try to sign-up online, you will be given the list of documents they will need from you. You should speak to these stock brokerage agencies if any clarification needed.

Day trading vs Delivery based trades on H1B visa ?

In general, there are two main options to do stock trading. One is to delivery-based trading, where you buy and hold the stock for the long term and not sell on the same day. Unlike, the second option is to do day trading, where you buy and sell the stock on the same day. In general, most of the H1B holders do delivery-based trades(long-term investing). Day trading is usually done by full-time stock traders as it requires a lot of time and effort.

Usually, when you are on H1B, to main proper legal status, you are supposed to work full time for the employer, and the majority of your time should go towards that, where you have legal approval to work. When you get into day trading, much of your time may go into that and that is a grey area and subject to scrutiny. While some do day trading on and off, but it should not be done as a full-time job. It can raise questions on the maintenance of H1B visa status.

In fact, there is no immigration rule that clearly tells that you can do Delivery based Stock Trading or Day trading. The immigration rules for H1B tell that you need to work full time for your H1B sponsor and maintain status. You may do passive investments like Stock Trading. But, the passive investments or the time you spend for that cannot be equal to a full-time role like someone working as a Day Trader at a stock brokerage company.

Taxes for Stocks trading gains on H1B visa

You should pay all required taxes in US for all your Stock earnings. No exceptions as it is a source of income for you you are required to pay Taxes to IRS on your income. As an H1B holder, you are subject to standard taxation on capital gains on profits from selling stocks. This can be a tricky area, if you are doing a lot of trades and timing varies. It is a good idea to go to a tax consultant to get help with filing taxes.

If you are not sure, it is always best to use tax consultants for filing taxes for stocks,  as it can get complicated.  Because, if you lose money, it is tax deductible and you can get some advantages. You may miss some of these nuances, if you file on your own.

USCIS Rules on H1B holders doing stock trading

There are no USCIS official rules regarding H1B holders that tells they can do stock trading or not get involved in stock trading. USCIS only publishes information related to maintenance of visa status and its requirements. They say that you should not violate your legal H1B status, when you do these investing activities.

What it means is that, if you are a full-time student on F1 visa, you need to be enrolled full time and maintain legal status and not work off camps, etc. Similarly, if you are on H1B Visa, you are supposed to work full-time for the companies that sponsor your H1B Visa, you cannot do stock trading on your own as a full-time job…If you are in doubt, you should always check with your attorney or tax consultant.

Can I do Forex Trading on H1B Visa ?

Similar to other types of stock trading, there are no special rules laid out for Forex Trading. The same logic applies to that of delivery-based trading. Unless the stock brokerage restricts you, there is no restriction as such. It cannot be your full-time job. If it is done as an investment like delivery-based stock trading, you are free to do this as well.

Other Investment Options for H1B Visa Holders

In addition to investing in the stock market, H1B holders can also do investments in the below. Each of these come with their own pros and cons. Depending on your situation, you can invest in any of the below as well.

  • Buying a House
  • 401K investments
  • Crypto Currencies
  • Certificate of Deposits(CDs)
  • Fixed Deposits
  • FCNR Deposits as NRI

Summary

As a visa holder working in another country, it is important to make investments that can increase your returns. Investing in stocks is one of the most sought paths by many H1B holders. As mentioned in the above article, you can invest in stocks and there is no restrictions as such from an immigration standpoint. You need to pay relevant taxes for the gains.

What has been your experience?  Share your experiences in the comments section below

Image Credit : http://www.flickr.com/photos/bfishadow/3099537747/

   

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31 Comments

  1. Can I do options trading on H1B? I want to do it as side hustle, so not spending much time everyday on trading. Also, would there be any issue if someone on H1B starts earning more from options trading than their regular H1B income?

    Reply
    • I would like to know the same as well. Long term shares buying is fine but is buying or selling call / puts okay while you are on your H1B visa?

      Reply
    • ching,
      No, they cannot. Day Trading is technically working as a trader, so it can create issues. There is no official documentation on this, but H4 cannot work without EAD that is the key point.

      Reply
  2. Hi Kumar,

    Thanks for running the show and passing the information. Your site has been very helpful.

    As part of H1B life, one might acquire lot of stocks in US. I currently use eTrade. And they have confirmed that if I leave US and decide to stay in India, I will not be able to hold the account open/trade. I will need to close my account.

    Can we keep the account open and possibly trade after returning to India? Do you know any brokerage firms that allows this?

    Thanks
    SG

    Reply
    • SG,
      Thanks for nice words.
      That’s probably sad reality. It depends on the country. If you move to countries like Singapore, you can use certain players like Saxo capital, DBS Vickers, etc. to do stock trading. But, I don’t know, if you can transfer your US account. As far as India is concerned, I have not done due diligence, so cannot say. If you do find out, please share here for community benefit. I wish I could answer…

      Reply
  3. Hi, can a H1B visa holder do forex trading in USA ? Just as a side hustle not full time (say making 1000 usd per month – will it be considered passive income) – but definitely the buy and sell transaction will be happening in a single day !!

    Reply
  4. This article is so old, now we have apps like Robinhood, Webull, and even algorithmic trading is here now. if I create an algorithm that trades for me daily that means I m not giving any time to from my full-time job can it still be a problem?

    Thank you

    Reply
  5. Is there a limit on the amount someone can invest. RBI allows $250,000 remittance for Indian residents – but that rules is for residents. Is there a limit for h1bs residing in US from India to invest in stocks ?

    Reply
  6. Hello Kumar,

    Thanks for clearing doubts on the stocks investing , do we (H1b)have a specific stocks that we can invest in or can they invest in anything . Can we invest in cannabis stocks that are based out in Canada. Will it impact any of my status on H1. Some websites say we should not and some say we can ,so not sure which is correct . I just invested in them not doing any day trade or business .

    Reply
    • libraguy863,
      You can invest in anything that is typically categorised as investment as per US stock market view. There is no H1B list or anything as such.

      Reply
  7. Hello @Kumar ,

    Do you know any good immigration attorney , who can provide more information on this matter that how much trading is safe(which should not be misunderstood) for an H1B worker .

    Reply
    • singh,
      You cannot go wrong with reputed firms like Murthy’s, Balglobal, Fragomen, etc. These are big attorney firms. We technically do not endorse anyone…

      Reply
  8. Hi,
    So in your experience day trading is ok as long as it does not take away your full time job? What about swing trade? Are you a green card holder already?Thanks

    Reply
  9. Hi Kumar,

    Thanks for the article and I have invested in few stocks and I am on H1B visa. I am not sure is there USCIS info where it says to invest in stocks and mutual funds while in h1B visa. I would appreciate if you can share the info. As I google I don’t see any positive lead except your article.

    Vijay

    Reply
    • Vijaykumar,
      Well, USCIS does not have any guidance on stock trading. The fact is that, they will only tell the key things to maintain your stauts and key things you should not that violate status. For instance, they will clearly tell that H4 visa holder cannot work, if they do not have EAD through their spouse…but they will not specifically tell that you can study on H4 visa or you can drive on H4 visa, etc. Do you see what I mean ? If you are in doubt, it is always best to speak to the agency that you plan to do stock trading on the visa status and understand more on how to work with stocks as foreigner. This is a good article that talks about the same : http://www.fool.com/knowledge-center/can-a-non-us-citizen-trade-us-stocks.aspx

      Reply
  10. Additional info : Although I am on h1 and trade on tradeking.com. I was trying to open a trading account with Merrill Edge and came to know that Merrill Edge requires Green Card. I wish Merrill Edge would have allowed trading with H1, atleast they charge very reasonable commission . Till I don’t get gc, i guess i will have to stick to tradeking.

    Reply
    • Hi neeraj.. I have a few Questions regarding trading on H1B Visa, I had requested the Admin for some suggestions but didnt get any reply So I am directing the same Qns to U.
      1. SO the initial funding has to be 25000$, or U can trade with less initial Funding?
      2. I know I cant trade much on H1B visa as it can be misunderstood with interfering with my primary Job. But Can I hire some1 to daytrade my account as I know someone who r successful in Daytrading US markets and r willing to manage my account. If I take all responsibility of profit/loss.. then I guess I am not breaking any rules on daytrading for H1B visa holders ??
      Since U r there, I will appreciate ur help/suggestions Thnx.

      Reply
  11. hi Kumar,
    Thanks for the info U provided in this webpage. I have a few Questions regarding trading on H1B Visa.
    1. SO the initial funding has to be 25000$, or U can trade with less initial Funding?
    2. I know I cant trade much on H1B visa as it can be misunderstood with interfering with my primary Job. But Can I hire some1 to daytrade my account as I know someone who r successful in Daytrading US markets and r willing to manage my account. If I take all responsibility of profit/loss.. then I guess I am not breaking any rules on daytrading for H1B visa holders ??
    Pls share ur Views.. thanks

    Reply
  12. This is probably related to the topic ,I opened an account with some online broker and they are requesting for visa with photo ID and all i have is approval notice with I-94 card attached to it , how do i explain this person that i don’t have a H1 B visa with Photo Id and it will be pasted into my passport when i travel outside of USA (at least that’s my understanding) , Any suggestions? I explained it to him but the guy says its listed as required doc ,what to do i am in pickle!

    Reply
  13. @Kumar,
    greetings, and many thanks for the information
    but what about the category who is in US , like students, who is in F1 VISA
    can he trade, and what is the tax structure to pay in case you earn money.
    short term profit attracts taxes, if so
    what about long term profit
    by the by how is your experience as a trader
    or was
    care to shower us with information
    you are doing fantastic service Mr.Kumar
    keep coming and bless us
    love and gratitude
    easwaran
    india

    Reply
    • Yes, students on F1 visa can do trading provided they have SSN. I am not an expert on the details of specifics of taxing, I usually go to tax consultant. I have not done enough trading in US. The best idea is to talk to customer service of a stock brokerage firm to get more specifics.

      Reply

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