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Starting a Business in the U.S. as a Foreign National

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Starting a Business in the U.S. as a Foreign National

By NicoleD
Published: June 8, 2009 Updated: February 28, 2014

Breaking into the U.S. market can be a rewarding venture for many foreign businesses. Because U.S. citizenship and residency are not required, foreign nationals are able to start or expand on U.S. soil without experiencing much more red-tape than an American-born business owner would.

Steps to Starting Up a Foreign Business in the U.S.:

  • Foreign business entities are incorporated at the state level in the U.S. The process will vary from state-to-state, but generally involves two steps: applying to register in that particular state, and establishing a registered agent with a valid address in that state (no PO Box numbers). A registered agent can be either the business owner or another person who is authorized to receive legal papers on behalf of the business, such as an attorney or secretary.
  • The rest of the steps to starting up are similar to those that an American citizen would take. The breakdown of 10 Steps to Starting a Business includes information on naming your business, requirement licenses and permits, and tax matters.
  • Establishing an online retail presence in the U.S. is a popular choice for many foreign business owners. You can read more about general resources for online businesses, including privacy and advertising regulations here, along with specific information on international sales.

Importing Goods into the U.S.:

  • The Department of Commerce's Trade Information Center provides information and web links to importation procedures.
  • Working with a licensed customs broker could be a valuable asset to your import plan. A customs broker prepares all the documentation required for importing goods. To learn about laws and regulations applying to custom brokers, including licensing requirements and importing procedures, visit the Transportation and Logistics Guide.
  • Many imported and exported products are regulated by federal agencies and may require specific licenses and permits. Check here to see if you need to obtain additional paperwork.

U.S. Tax information for Foreign Businesses:

  • The U.S. tax code can be confusing even to life-long citizens. Violation of any taxsales, payroll, income, etc.can incur fees and penalties. The IRS offers a guide specifically on International Business, but if you are still left with more questions, it is always safe to check with a qualified attorney or accountant.
  • U.S. citizens will likely need an Employment Identification Number to start up, a process that requires their social security number (SSN). In the case of foreign businesses, an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) will suffice. The IRS issues these 9-digit tax processing numbers to individuals who are required to pay US taxes but who are ineligible for a SSN, including resident and non-resident aliens and foreign nationals.
  • You may be required to file IRS Form 5472, which applies to US corporations with at least one foreign owner who owns 25% of shares, to account for the nature of monetary transactions.
  • There are also special tax credits and incentives available to businesses, including foreign tax treaties. The IRS offers a tax treaty overview and resources here.

Edited for formatting issues.

About the Author:


Dear sir Kindly inform us by all details/fees to issue a commercial company in USA Mainly working in furniture domain Would like to present myself as a furniture producer in egypt And we would like to expand our business in USA Kindly inform us by all procedure steps and þhe duration of each steps We recommend to start this business in florida unless you have another point of view Awaiting for your kind reply Name : hassan issa E.mail : Blueprint97@gmail.com Cell : +201223321145
Good afternoon. I come from Brazil an I'm living in the USA since the beginning of this year. I have a project to start a business to produce for bread without gluten. I want to open a fisical company here. Currently my visa status is L2, I already have my SSC - Social Security and permission to work. Along with me, should participate in the Social Contract this company a partner who lives in Brazil. May He Need ITIN? Maybe He could apply for any specific visa etc ....?
Hi, I'm a foreigner graduated in International Relations and former exchange student in Monroe/NC from Brazil. I am planning to open an online service business to host databases for some of my brazilian costumers in US. As a foreigner what should I do first in this case since my business does not require a fisical address to function?
Boa noite Vi a sua mensagem Sou Brasileiro ja nos EUA ha mais de 25 anos e em negocios ha mais de 15. Se ainda estiver precisando de ajuda e so falar Abs e boa sorte Marcos
Any foreign national can start a business in the United States while in the United States as a business visitor. The business visitor (B-1) visa regulations permit a person to establish a business in the United States and attend board meetings as a director. As a business visitor, you can gain entry to the United States for up to six months on each entry using a B-1 visa (although the admission period could be shorter), and three months using the Visa Waiver Program. However, you could not manage or direct the operations of the business as a business visitor on a B-1 visa.
A non-resident alien can invest in the US including being the owner/"partner" in a business entity. The one most commonly used is an LLC.
Many small businesses pay too little for a legal framework for their business, which can be a big mistake. When starting or buying a business, you hire a lawyer specializing in business immigration. I am planning to import some goods from the UK and I want to start renting warehouse services. I've learned quite a lot from the article. Thank you very much.
Many foreign entrepreneurs make simple mistakes when starting companies in the United States. They don”t correctly form their businesses in the United States. They don”t separate their personal from their business accounts. You can consult a business immigration attorney and avoid all the headache.
Hi We have been approached by a company who are looking to acquire our uk company, or a majority shareholding. They have also made known that at least one member of our management team would need to relocate to the Pittsburgh office. What is the process with visa's and the transfers?
Hi, I'm a foreigner looking to start a pet business in SoCal. I would like to know how much I must invest and what visa I need to obtain in order to stay in the US to run my business? Thanks and I look forward to your replies :)


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