1. Steps to Starting a US Business
2. Where to Base Your US Business?
3. Can the Foreign Business Own the US Company?
4. Can Foreign Citizens Work in the US If They Own an LLC or Corporation?
5. How Long Does Incorporation Take?

Updated June 18, 2020:

How to register a company in USA? Starting a business in the country is fairly easy, even if you do not have a visa and aren't planning to visit. You can manage an LLC from another country, but it may not be allowed in the United States without a valid work visa. Non-citizens are allowed to be a shareholder and/or director of US corporations but to be an officer and perform any duties in the country, you would generally need a visa. If you plan to open a small business in the United States, you do not need citizenship or residency in order to open it either.

Having a US company allows you to do a number of things including:

  • Open online accounts with businesses like Amazon FA
  • Open a United States bank account so you can sell to domestic clients
  • Gain access to a new market that can enhance the reputation of your business, both in your home country and in the US

Steps to Starting a US Business

  1. Decide what type of business organization is right for you.
  2. Decide where you should form your LLC.
  3. Find a local registered agent.
  4. If applicable, register your LLC or S-corporation.
  5. Apply for an EIN.
  6. If necessary, get a US mailing address.
  7. Open a US bank account.
  8. Open a merchant account so you can accept payments from customers.
  9. Purchase business insurance.
  10. Get a local US phone number for your new business.
  11. Research what your tax liability is going to be.
  12. Be sure you are keeping your business and personal accounts separate.
  13. Pay annual fees and any other required fees.
  14. Make sure you're in compliance with any city, county, state, and federal requirements.
  15. Consult a US business lawyer licensed to practice in the state where your business is located.

Where to Base Your US Business?

Choosing your company's location is one of the most important decisions you will make. It can involve looking at a variety of things to decide what is best for you:

  • Demographics
  • Understanding your local competition
  • Finding your supply chain
  • Comparing state laws and tax regulations
  • Ensuring you stay on budget

The decision you make should be one that will meet all your business objectives in the most cost-effective manner without sacrificing quality. Each business is different, so you will need to decide what factors are the most important for your business. Is it the location? Transportation? Accessibility to skilled labor?

Can the Foreign Business Own the US Company?

If you opt to set up an LLC, then yes, your foreign business can own the US company. This is done by appointing your own foreign company as the managing member instead of an individual person. If you decide on a corporation, you must name a director, which must be an individual, at the time of registration. Directors are not necessarily company owners either. Shareholders own corporations, and in that regard, your foreign business can be the 100 percent owner of a US corporation.

If you are interested in the tax benefits, like pass-through profit distributions, a foreign citizen should consider an LLC. With a regular C corporation, the business is subject to double taxation. And, S corporations are off limits for non-citizens as they are not allowed to own any shares. This is why many foreign businesses opt to set up as an LLC.

Can Foreign Citizens Work in the US If They Own an LLC or Corporation?

Foreign citizens cannot receive a salary or compensation for services provided in the United States, unless he or she obtains a work permit issued in the country. There are some work permits that will allow a foreign citizen to work for a sponsoring employer only. These will not allow you to work for a different and new company that was formed by a foreign citizen. That would require a separate permit.

How Long Does Incorporation Take?

Processing times will vary between states based on the backlog of work they have. Foreign citizens will have to wait for at least 30 days to obtain an EIN in most cases. When you need to obtain a Tax ID and the directors or owners are non-citizens, it must be filed with a special IRS unit.

If you need help with registering a company in the United States, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel only accepts the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.