Is Citizenship Required to Run a Daycare Business?

There are a lot of requirements you have to meet if you want to run a daycare in the United States, but is being a U.S. Citizen one of them? This is an important question with a potentially complicated answer.

You don’t have to be a citizen to run a daycare, but you must be authorized to work in the United States, have either a social security or tax identification number, and you may want to consult an immigration attorney before proceeding.

While these requirements may seem daunting, I promise that your goal to open a daycare is possible if you are willing to put in the time and effort. Let’s break everything down and take a closer look at those conditions.

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Permission to Work

To start, you must be authorized to work in the U.S. if you want to open a daycare. In order to do this, you will need to obtain one of the following documents:

  1. A Permanent Resident Card, also known as a “Green Card”
  2. An Employment Authorization Card, also called a work permit
  3. A work visa

As you may know, a Permanent Resident Card allows you to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. If you wish to open a daycare as a non-citizen, this is probably your best option. A Green Card allows you to work for any company within the United States without having to apply for work authorization, which will make opening and running your own daycare as a non-citizen far easier. They do need to be renewed every ten years, but there are no limitations on how many times you renew them.

An Employment Authorization Card, or work permit, is a second option for non-citizens wishing to work in the US. They are generally sought out by immigrants who are waiting for their Green Card applications to be approved, or by foreign students. They are not as flexible as a Green Card and must be renewed every year, but they do offer more freedom than a work visa.

Work visas are the last type of document you can apply for in order to gain permission to work in the U.S. They are more restrictive than Green Cards and work permits because they limit who you can work for, and only give you permission to remain in the U.S. for three to seven years, depending on which type you get and whether or not you are eligible to renew it after the initial three year period. In order to get a visa, you must have a bachelor’s degree or specialized employment training and plan to work in a field that is directly related to your educational background. This means that, in order to open a daycare facility with a work visa, you must have permission to work for a childhood development related business.

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Applying for Your Social Security or Tax Identification Number

Even if you are not a U.S. Citizen, you will need to apply for a daycare license with your state, register your business, pay your taxes, and obtain an Employer Identification Number (or EIN) if you plan on hiring others to work for you. In order to do all of these things, you can use a Social Security Number, or an ITIN.

If you are in the country legally and are authorized to work in the United States, you may qualify for a Social Security Number. There are three types of Social Security Cards. They include:

  1. An unrestricted card, which is given to U.S. Citizens and permanent residents including Green Card holders.
  2. A restricted card, which is given to temporary employees who are working for a sponsoring employer.
  3. A non-work card, which is for tax purposes only and not valid for employment.

Immigrants aged 18 years or older can apply for a Social Security Number before leaving their home country, but if you did not get a Social Security Card during the immigration process, you can still apply for one by visiting a U.S. Social Security office at least ten days after your arrival in the country. You will need to bring a completed application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5) and two original documents that show your identity, age, work eligibility, and immigration status. To download the required SS-5 application form and see a list of approved identification documents, you can visit

If you are ineligible for a Social Security Number, you can still apply for something called an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the IRS. Though the ITIN is not the same thing as a Social Security Number, it will allow you to apply for your daycare license, get an EIN so you can hire employees, and open your business as a non-citizen. Do keep in mind that every state has its own special requirements that must be met when applying for a daycare license, but an ITIN is usually sufficient because it proves that you are prepared to file state and federal taxes.

Obtaining your ITIN is a fairly easy process. The application, also called a W-7 Form, is pretty simple to fill out right on the website. You will also need some specific documents in order to obtain your ITIN. These include:

  1. An original, valid U.S. Federal income tax return
  2. A letter of denial from the United States Social Security Administration (if you do not qualify for a Social Security Number)
  3. Original or certified copies of current identification documents that show your foreign status and match the personal information provided on Form W-7 (The IRS recommends using your Passport since it requires no additional documentation. If you do not have a passport, you will need two forms of identification from the approved list. Some of these include a driver’s license, birth certificate, military I.D. card, or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services photo I.D.)

After you fill out and send in your application and the required documentation, it should take about 6-8 weeks for the IRS to process them. You will then get a letter in the mail with your new ITIN. If you do not get your ITIN within ten weeks or wish to check the status of your application at any time, you can call the IRS and speak to a representative.

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Advice to Undocumented Individuals

At the time of this article’s publication, immigration law does not forbid an undocumented immigrant from opening a business in the United States, and owning a business can sometimes work in your favor if you find yourself facing deportation. Of course, immigration law is under deep scrutiny at this time and is subject to change. Your wisest course of action would be to consult an immigration attorney to learn the most up to date information possible before proceeding, then check your state’s daycare licensing requirements to ensure that you will be able to obtain a daycare license or open a legal unlicensed daycare as an undocumented immigrant.

Even if you are undocumented, you will still need to obtain an ITIN and pay your taxes if you plan on opening a daycare business. Just keep in mind that an ITIN does not alter your immigration status, give you permission to work in the United States, or enable you to get a work permit, meaning that it is still illegal for you to gain employment in the United States, even as a business owner. This may make it difficult, if not impossible, for you to get a daycare license from your state, depending on their specific requirements.

If you cannot get your daycare license, you may still be able to operate a legal daycare business, depending on local regulations. Some states do allow individuals to open unlicensed daycares under special circumstances, but you are very restricted on how many children you can watch and how much compensation you can earn. Even without a license, you will want to become First Aid and CPR certified, and your home will need to pass a safety inspection if you want to run a legal unlicensed daycare.

Running a daycare that is not in compliance with local laws is not advisable. It will open you up to fines, civil lawsuits, and can even result in jail time. An undocumented immigrant can also be expelled from the United States if immigration authorities deem their actions deportable.

It is possible for a non-citizen to open a daycare center. All you have to do is make sure you are authorized to work in the United States and are able to pay your taxes. Keep in mind that, if you are undocumented, you should contact an immigration attorney before beginning the process so you can make sure you are in compliance with current immigration laws.

Related Questions

Under what circumstances can I run a legal, unlicensed daycare?

If your state allows individuals to run unlicensed in-home daycares, some of the restrictions you may be subjected to include: earning hourly instead of salaried payment; caring only for relatives; watching a restricted number of children; serving migrant families.

I have my work authorization, Social Security Number, or ITIN, and I am confident that immigration law and state requirements don’t restrict me from opening my own daycare. What is the next step I should follow?

Once you are certain that you are able to open a legal daycare in your state, you can start working on your business plan, apply for your daycare license, and prepare to market your daycare.

Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.

Set yourself – and your new business – up for success. Take a look at our free ebook with tips for opening a daycare business!

Is Citizenship Necessary to Run a Daycare Business? -