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How to start a business in the USA? A guide for non-citizens

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  • 5 min read

The United States has long been seen as a land of opportunity, and for many non-citizens, starting a business here is a dream. The allure is undeniable, whether it’s the vast market, innovation-friendly culture, or the stable economy. However, starting a business in the USA as a non-citizen comes with challenges.

Starting a business in the USA as a non-citizen is a dream for many entrepreneurs worldwide. The U.S. is one of the most accommodating countries for non-citizens looking to start a business. Registering your business doesn’t need a U.S. visa or social security number. However, it’s crucial to be meticulous when filling out business formation and tax documents.

Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to embark on this journey.

1. Visa Considerations

Before starting a business, you must ensure you have the correct visa. Several options exist:

  • E-2 Treaty Investor Visa: Allows individuals from treaty countries to invest significant capital in a U.S. business.
  • EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program: This visa provides a path to green card residency for those who can invest $1 million (or $500,000 in targeted employment areas) and create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs.
  • L-1 Visa: For foreign entrepreneurs with an existing business who want to expand or create an affiliate, subsidiary, or branch in the U.S.
  • O-1 Visa: For individuals with extraordinary achievements or abilities.

Each visa has specific requirements, so it’s crucial to consult with an immigration attorney to determine the best fit.

2. Choosing a Business Structure

Depending on your goals and the nature of your business, you can choose from several structures:

  • Sole Proprietorship: While it’s the simplest structure, it doesn’t differentiate between the owner and the business, meaning you’re personally liable for business debts.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC): Popular among small businesses, an LLC offers liability protection. Popular among small businesses and foreign entrepreneurs, LLCs offer liability protection and don’t require members to pay corporate taxes. Instead, they pay personal income tax.
  • Corporation (C-Corp or S-Corp): Suitable for larger businesses with multiple employees. It offers liability protection and potential tax benefits.
  • Partnerships: Ideal if you plan to run the business with a partner.

You’ll also need a business address in the U.S. If you don’t already have one.

3. Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Essential for tax purposes, hiring employees, and opening a U.S. bank account. Non-citizens can apply for an EIN by filling out IRS Form SS-4.

4. Open a U.S. Bank Account

You can open a U.S. business bank account after obtaining an EIN. For business credibility, tax, and legal protection, it’s crucial to separate personal and business finances. To open a business bank account in the U.S., you’ll typically need your EIN, business formation documents, and a personal ID.

5. Understand Tax Obligations

Taxation in the U.S. can be complex, especially for non-citizens. Being aware of federal, state, and local tax requirements is essential. Consulting a tax professional familiar with international business operations can be invaluable.

For example, Delaware is a top choice due to its flexible corporate laws. It protects shareholders and directors and doesn’t require a local physical address or bank account. Florida is another attractive state for business registration. It has no franchise tax, potentially saving businesses thousands annually.

6. Comply with Licensing and Permits

Depending on the nature and location of your business, you might need specific licenses or permits to operate legally. Research local, state, and federal requirements or consult a business attorney.

7. Consider Hiring U.S. Representation

Hiring a U.S.-based agent or consultant can help you navigate the regulatory landscape, communicate with suppliers and customers, and deal with time zone differences.

Before making any decisions, consult with tax experts in your home country and the U.S. The tax implications for foreign nationals can be complex, and it’s crucial to understand them fully.

8. Build a Business Credit Profile

Building a credit profile for your U.S. business can help you secure financing, negotiate better terms with suppliers, and grow your business. Start by opening a business credit card and establishing trade lines with suppliers.

While starting a business in the U.S. as a non-citizen requires navigating additional layers of complexity, it’s entirely achievable with the right preparation and guidance. By understanding the visa process, choosing the right business structure, and aligning with local regulations, you can establish a successful enterprise in one of the world’s most lucrative markets.

While it’s possible to start a business without being fluent in English, learning the language can significantly benefit your operations, especially if you plan on dealing directly with American clients or partners.

Starting a business in the U.S. as a non-citizen is a feasible endeavour. With the right information, careful planning, and expert guidance, you can establish a successful business in the world’s largest economy.

Also read: Everything you need to know about Shutterstock

CT Editorial Team

CT Editorial Team