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Guide to starting a business in the US

11th June 2018 Print

Unsurprisingly, the process of starting a business in the United States can be somewhat complex. Nevertheless, all things become significantly easier by developing a rudimentary understanding of the steps in the process.  

Contrary to popular belief, there is no requirement to be a US citizen to own and operate a successful business in North America. Given the size and general prosperity of the US, there are few more appealing markets worldwide in which to do business.

Visa / Employment Authorization Documentation

The first step in the process of starting a business in the US is obtaining the required authorization and documentation. Services like gov doc filing significantly simplify the process of applying for and receiving authorization to do business. There are three standard visa types available – the suitability of which will be determined by your current situation and the type of business you intend to establish: E-1, E-2 and L-1. You may benefit from professional consultancy if unsure as to which visa is suitable for your requirements. 


If you successfully receive authorization to start a business in the United States, you’ll need to ensure it is incorporated at a state level.  This means ensuring that your business has its own valid postal address within the respective state – PO numbers and forwarding addresses do not qualify. You may also need to appoint a registered agent, which could be an attorney or business secretary authorized to receive and process legal papers on behalf of the business.

Once incorporated, the rest of the business establishment process is exactly the same as it would be for a US citizen.

Online Business Establishment

If you plan on starting an online business in the United States, you could be looking at significantly reduced overheads and fewer general complications.  However, there are very specific (and somewhat extensive) rules and regulations governing online business operations for expats. It’s not quite as simple as setting up a website and selling whatever you wish to sell – you need to know where you stand in a legal sense.

For example, if you are planning to import goods of any kind into United States, you need to ensure that you remain fully compliant with all applicable legislation from the US Department of Commerce. It can be highly beneficial to bring a licensed customs broker into the equation, helping you receive the permit you require and remain compliant at all times.

US Taxation for Expat Businesses 

One of the most complex aspects of business establishment as an expat in the United States is that of getting to grips with the taxation system. US taxation is an extremely complicated concept at the best of times, with surprisingly heavy penalties payable for even the slightest violations.  

How much tax you will be required to pay will depend on a variety of criteria, including the type of business you run, its value, in which state it is based and so on. Complete taxation information is available in the form of a guide from the IRS, though you may still benefit from professional consultancy if you find the whole thing too complicated to comprehend.