AdSense on a Visa

September 22nd, 2006

No, not the credit card but the entry permit that is stamped in your passport.

Are you in the country on a visa? Like the H1-B, H-4 and other kind of visas where you are allowed to be in the country for a specific purpose? To work, to study, as a dependent and so on.

Do you have AdSense, Chitika, Yahoo! Publisher Ads, or any other type of ads or affiliate promotions on your blog or your web site? Do you have an aStore from Amazon? A Cafepress store, maybe?

If your answer to all the questions above is in the affirmative, then believe me, you want to continue reading.

So! You have a blog and you thought you’d like to monetize your efforts by converting your traffic into some $$. Smart move, those affiliate links, stores and AdSense ads! NOT! Here’s why…

Affiliate commissions and Ad Revenues
When you sign up to be a publisher for an ad network or an affiliate to promote products and services for another company, you are viewed as an independent sub-contractor. You are now self-employed! The companies you sign up with won’t write this down anywhere but it is understood that when you are issued a 1099 for the commissions or revenues you have earned through the year, you are an independent sub-contractor. The onus is not on the company that pays you, to verify your legal status in the country. It remains your responsibility. Just like it is always your responsibility to report your earnings on your taxes. The company that is paying you will only deduct taxes from your earnings if they cross $600. But there is more to it than just how or whether the taxes are reported. As soon as you sign up, you become a defacto subcontractor for another company. If you are here on a work permit, you are not allowed to work for another company or for yourself without a valid visa. So, as soon as you sign up, you are in fact falling Out of Status as far as your visa is concerned.

Chat User : Once the 1099 income is accepted on H1B on the side job, is it going to jeopardize the green card processing in the I-140 stage and I-485? Can anything be done to correct this?

Attorney Murthy : A person on an H1B is not allowed to work on a 1099 at all. One who is on an EAD is allowed to work as an independent contractor if s/he is the I-485 dependent on the EAD and not the principal applicant for the GC, to be on the safe side. If the total time working was less than 180 days, there is possible hope to obtain the I-485 in the U.S. Otherwise, it adds complications and will not generally allow the person to obtain an approval of the I-485 from within the U.S. You should consult an immigration attorney to discuss this issue since it could have serious consequences.

Sheila Murthy said this in October 2004. Not much has changed since then.

Is there a way out? Sure! You could incorporate a company, hire someone for minimum wages, pay them to work your sites for you. Your company earns the revenues, you get passive income. You cannot be actively involved in the business. If you think you can pull that through in an audit, go ahead!

Better still! Stop! Think. Figure out your priorities. Let’s say you have a very popular blog. How much will it bring you in revenues? Several hundred a month? Several thousand? How does that compare with what you have at stake: your job or your spouse’s job, your careers, your home, your kids’ schooling, your future plans. Is it worth the revenues you will earn through your blog? You may never get caught. I know you’re thinking of the millions who are illegal and who walk the streets with abandon. But do you want to take the chance and put what you have in hand in jeopardy? Will you be able to sleep at night knowing that you have now joined the throngs that are illegal? So what if your neighbor or the BCIS or the IRS don’t know. You know.

Consider waiting till you have your permanent residency in hand before you place ads or affiliate links on your blog. It’s just not worth it, my friend.

I don’t know what the situation is in European countries. I can only imagine that it is similar if you or your spouse are there on a work permit.

Additional reading: H1-b visa and Google AdSense

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney or a tax consultant. These are conclusions I have come to based on my understanding of the H1-B and H-4 visa rules as posted on the USCIS web site. Consult your immigration attorney on how to handle your particular situation. Don’t bother asking your tax consultant or your local H&R Block agent – they have no clue about immigration laws!

So do you know why? Not yet?

September 8th, 2006

Let’s go with the assumption that you don’t know why you blog or you’re just not sure. But now that you have heard of the concept, you’re curious about your traffic.

There are several ways traffic finds itself to your web site:

  • Via your comments: You may have commented on someone else’s blog and included your blog’s URL in your signature to that comment. Someone may click on that link and find your blog.
  • Search engine referrals: Search engines like Yahoo!, Google, MSN, etc., may have crawled your blog and included it in their index. Visitors may land on your blog through searches they make on the search engine of their choice.
  • Via direct links: Your blog may figure in someone’s blogroll or a direct link in a post.
  • Via directories of blogs: yes, just as there are directories, categorized by topic, for web sites, commercial and non-commercial, so there are directories for blogs. Also categorized by topic. Some of the better known directories are Technorati, Blogwise, and Blogflux. There are others that do more than just list blogs, they track your page impressions through a script or an invisible 1×1 pixel image that is pulled from their server. They then use this to give you a blogrank. Many bloggers wear this button or chiclet with pride. The referrals I have seen from these directories have been far and few, though. I think most of these come from those who are adding their own blogs to the directory and decide to do a search to check out their competition! But it’s a great way to get the search engines to find your blog as these directories are crawled bythe search engine spiders. Once you’re in and you have other bloggers linking to you, I’d recommend getting rid of these little chiclets. These chiclets add clutter to your blog. And quite frankly, if you write well and your posts are relevant, smart and witty, who cares whether you are ranked #1 or #241. Some people do and they need to get over it. Your blogrank is worth nothing if you can’t convert it to something worthwhile. But, I digress from the topic of this post, which if you haven’t figured out yet, is: Where my traffic comes from.
  • Via Bookmarks: Someone visits your site and then saves your URL to a Bookmark or as a Favorite in their browser. Then there are social bookmarks, a fancy term for shared bookmarks, like, ma.gnolia, pageflakes; or someone may have even dugg your post!
  • Via links in emails: Someone may have found your post so worthy that they sent your blog’s URL in an email to their friends.
  • Yourself: A lot of your traffic comes from you. Yes, you! When you check your posts as soon as publishing them; when you view your comments; when you show off your blog to your friends and neighbors; when you surf your blog for that mutter paneer recipe you posted a year ago; and sometimes because you surf your own blog because you are your favorite writer.
  • Search engine spiders or bots: In order to make your blog ‘findable’, it must be crawled. Search engine spiders are automated programs that grab the content of your blog and then save it in their database. It is categorized, indexed and ranked according to their special algorithms. For a long time, the only visitors you may have besides yourself, are search engine spiders.

Well, that about covers where your traffic may come from. Let’s hope that by my next post, I will have more human visitors than search engine spiders and that you will have figured out why you blog.