Doing Business in the USA
by ChristineL, Former Moderator
- Created: March 23, 2010, 10:26 pm
Most foreign-owned companies expand their business in the USA by establishing a branch office or an online presence. Both processes are very similar to starting a new business as any American citizen would, except there are a few extra steps during registration and some special tax regulations. For foreign companies expanding their businesses in the USA, read on to learn more about conducting market research, opening branch offices, establishing an online presence, and staying compliant with laws.
Do Your Market Research First
Before you make the leap, make sure that expanding into the USA is the right move for your business by researching the US market:
- Market Data. Start your research with Business.go;s Business Data and Statistics guide, for an overview of free business and economic statistics provided by the United States government. For general economic statistics, read the USA.go-s guide to Foreign Businesses Doing Business in the USA. For a deeper look into new markets for your products and industry comparisons, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is another free resource to consider.
- Government Services. If you are interested in investing in the United States, the International Trade Administratio-s Invest in America supports foreign investors connecting with federal and state agencies. Whether you need more information about the economic climate, trade events, or government contacts, Invest in America is a good reference to look into.
Establishing a Branch Office in the United States
If you decide to establish a branch office of your foreign-owned business, you must register with the state in which the business will be located. Business.go's State Guide is a great resource for learning more about local registrations, state tax responsibilities, and employment requirements across the all U.S. states and territories. Once you have narrowed down your location, follow these basic steps:
- Establish a Valid Address: If you personally do not have a valid address in the state (note: PO Box numbers are not considered a valid address), find a registered agent who can receive legal papers on behalf of your business. It is common for an attorney, business partner, or secretary to serve as a registered agent. If you do not have a business partner or secretary, learn about how to find legal representation at Business.gov.
- Register with the Federal Government: Most U.S. businesses must obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. The IRS provides special EIN guidance for foreign business entities, including contact information to expedite an EIN request. See Foreign Persons and IRS Employer Identification Numbers on IRS.gov for details.
- Register with the State: Declare your business structure, business name, and state/local tax responsibilities.
Comply With United States Laws and Regulations
Once your business is established and registered, you must make sure that your business operations comply with local, state, and federal laws and regulations. You may need to follow some or all of the following depending on the nature of your business.
- Obtain Licenses and Permits: Most small businesses must obtain a general business license, and possibly industry-specific operating permits from federal, state and local government agencies. Business.go's Business Licenses and Permits tool provides a listing of the federal, state and local permits, licenses, and registrations you'll need to run a business.
- Comply with Tax Laws. You need to file with the IRS when you establish your branch office or online business. The IRS provides tax information for international businesses at IRS.gov.
- Comply with Employment Law: If you plan to hire employees in the U.S., you will need to comply with employment laws including workplace safety and mandatory poster requirements. Businesses that hire foreign workers also need to comply with federal regulations.
- Apply for Travel Visas. If you travel to the U.S. for business, visit the U.S. Department of Stat's Business Visa Center. It provides information about the visa application process, as well as the B-1 business visitor travel visa. If you are from a treaty country under the Immigration and Nationality Act and your business develops a trade that the U.S. is invested in, the E1 or E2 visa may be an option.
- Comply with Import Regulations. All foreign businesses that sell goods in the USA must verify that the goods are approved under American import laws. Some industries, especially those dealing with food or controlled substances, are subject to more scrutiny If you plan to ship products overseas, familiarize yourself with international commerce laws.
Establishing an Online Presence
The process of starting an online business includes all the steps of starting a branch office in the USA, with additional compliance steps with online business regulations such as digital rights, copyright, and advertising. Follow this guide to Starting an Online Business from Business.gov' it provides resources to help you plan, create, and start up within the law. The guide also provides more context on e-commerce practices like securing a domain name, selecting a web host, and driving traffic.
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