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Please check DHS's website. You can always work UNPAID. You can not accept any sort of compensation on F1 visa if you dont have approval from DHS.

I was myself on F1 and I know many students working unpaid for experience.

That's bad advice. You CANNOT work unpaid. If you don't have a work permit you can't do any type of activity that might be considered _work_ by the DHS, even if you are not compensated. Work is defined as an activity that usually carries compensation.

But, isn't this kind of unpaid internship illegal for everybody? (http://laborlaw.typepad.com/labor_and_employment_law_/2007/1...). though, of course, starting your own startup isn't exactly an unpaid internship. I'm sure the dividend payment bit would complicate things.

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