Best Passive Income Ideas For F-1 Visa Holders

Studying in the United States can be a rewarding experience for many international students. However, it can also be costly and challenging, especially for those with an F-1 visa. F-1 visa holders are non-immigrant students authorized to pursue a full-time course of study at an accredited academic institution in the US. They are also subject to strict rules and regulations regarding their employment and income opportunities while in the country. 

According to the US Department of Homeland Security, F-1 visa holders are generally allowed to work on-campus for up to 20 hours per week during the academic year and full-time during breaks and vacations. They may also apply for off-campus employment authorization under certain circumstances, such as economic hardship, curricular practical training (CPT), or optional practical training (OPT). But be advised, this isn’t a work visa in the US.

a woman in a yellow jacket and light grey distressed jeans, holding a red register in front of a landmark building, epitomizing the essence of a modern-day international student and F-1 visa holder.

However, these options are limited in duration, scope, and availability and may require prior approval from the school and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Moreover, F-1 visa holders are prohibited from engaging in any unauthorized work or business activity that violates their visa status, as this may result in severe consequences, such as termination of their program, loss of their visa, or deportation from the US.

Given these restrictions, how can F-1 visa holders earn passive income during their studies in the US? Passive income is defined as income that is derived from sources that do not require active involvement or participation from the recipient, such as dividends, interest, royalties, rents, or capital gains. 

Passive income can be a valuable source of supplemental income for international students, as it can help them cover their living expenses, tuition fees, travel costs, and savings goals. However, not all passive income sources are legal or feasible for international students, as they may also entail tax implications, legal risks, or visa violations, so it’s important to consult an immigration lawyer before making any decisions.


One of the most common and accessible ways for F-1 visa holders to earn passive income is through investing in the stock market, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), or other securities. Investing can be a lucrative and flexible way to generate income from dividends, interest, or capital gains without requiring much time, effort, or expertise from the investor. F-1 visa holders can open a brokerage account with a US-based or online broker and start trading stocks, bonds, or other securities that suit their risk appetite, investment goals, and budget. 

However, international students should also be aware of the tax implications, reporting requirements, and legal regulations that apply to their investment income in the US. For instance, F-1 visa holders are considered non-resident aliens for tax purposes and are subject to a flat 30% withholding tax on their US-source passive income unless they qualify for a reduced rate or exemption under a tax treaty between their home country and the US. 

F-1 visa holders are also required to file a US tax return (Form 1040-NR) and report their worldwide income, including their investment income, to the IRS every year. 

F-1 visa holders may need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or a Social Security Number (SSN) to receive payments from their passive invetments.  

Real Estate

A third potential way for F-1 visa holders to earn passive income is through real estate, such as buying, renting, or selling property in the US. Real estate can be a profitable and stable way to generate income from rents, appreciation, or capital gains without requiring much maintenance, management, or supervision from the owner. 

International students can purchase property in the US with their own funds, a mortgage, or a partnership and rent it out to tenants, Airbnb guests, or other users. Alternatively, F-1 visa holders can sell their property in the US after holding it for a certain period of time and benefit from the increase in its value or market price.

A screen displaying stock exchange numbers, representing financial opportunities for F-1 visa holders seeking passive income.

However, you need to be mindful of the activities the F-1 visa holder performs in the management of the property.  The F-1 visa holder cannot be actively involved in the property’s management, as that can be considered an unauthorized activity, but they can hire a property management professional do take care of this.  F-1 visa holders should also be mindful of the tax implications, reporting requirements, and legal challenges that apply to your real estate income in the US. For instance, F-1 visa holders are subject to a 30% withholding tax on their gross rental income from US property unless they elect to treat it as effectively connected income and pay tax on their net rental income at graduated rates. 

F-1 visa holders are also subject to capital gains tax on their US property sales, which may vary depending on their residency status, holding period, and tax treaty benefits. 

Finding a Reliable Immigration Lawyer As a F-1 Visa Holder

F-1 visa holders are international students who are authorized to study in the US at an accredited academic institution. They are also subject to various rules and regulations regarding their visa status, employment options, and immigration opportunities. Students from overseas may encounter multiple challenges and difficulties during their stay in the US, such as visa expiration, change of status, work authorization, green card application, or deportation risk. Therefore, F-1 visa holders may need to seek professional help and guidance from immigration lawyers and get immigration law consultation to address their visa and immigration issues.

However, finding reliable immigration lawyers and getting good advice can be a daunting and confusing task for F-1 visa holders, as there are many factors to consider, such as cost, quality, availability, and reputation.

Lots of hundred-dollar notes symbolizing financial growth and prosperity for F-1 visa holders.

Do Your Homework

One of the most essential tips for F-1 visa holders is to do their research and homework before hiring or consulting with any immigration attorney.

F-1 visa holders should check the credentials, qualifications, experience, and reviews of the immigration lawyers they are interested in and verify their license, accreditation, and membership with the relevant authorities, such as the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the State Bar Association.

Prepare And Plan Ahead

Another tip for F-1 visa holders is to prepare and plan ahead for their immigration lawyer or immigration law consultation sessions. 

F-1 visa holders should have a clear and specific goal and objective for their immigration lawyer or immigration law consultation and gather and organize all the necessary and relevant documents, information, and evidence that support their visa or immigration case. They should prepare a list of questions, concerns, or issues they want to discuss or clarify with their immigration lawyer.

Keep Communication Clear

A third tip for F-1 visa holders is to communicate and cooperate effectively and efficiently with their immigration lawyer. 

F-1 visa holders should be honest, transparent, and consistent with their immigration lawyer and disclose all the relevant and material facts and circumstances that affect their visa or immigration case.  Communcaition with the lawyer is protected by the attorney-client previlegde and is confidential. 

By doing all of the above, students can maximize their chances of achieving their visa and immigration goals and objectives in the US.

A man with a backpack leaving a building, palm tree leaves entering from the left - symbolizing the journey of an F-1 visa holder.

Immigration Lawyers That Can Help

F-1 visa holders have several avenues and strategies available to earn passive income during their studies in the US. Still, they mustn’t rely solely on their passive income to fund their education and living expenses in the US, as passive income is not guaranteed, consistent, or sufficient to meet their financial needs and obligations. 

Are you an F-1 visa holder who wants to work, invest, or live in the US after your studies? Do you need an immigration lawyer to help you with your work visas for the US, citizenship application, or EB-1A, EB-2 NIW, or PERM? 

If so, IBP Immigration Law is the right office for you. We offer immigration law consultations and assistance for students who are seeking EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, or E-2 visas other options.  

Contact us today or schedule an appointment online, and let us help you achieve your immigration goals.

Attorney Ingrid Borges Perez speaks
English, Portuguese, and Spanish

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