Contrary to popular belief, non-US citizens can legally own a business in the United States – even if they do not live permanently in the country. Still, certain regulations limit or restrict the types of business entities a non-US citizen could form.
In this article, you will discover how a non-US citizen can own a business in America.
Can a Non-US Citizen Own a Business in US? – Understanding the Legal Requirements
Primarily, non-US citizens looking forward to forming a business in the United States must pay attention to four main factors – the applicant’s visa, the Social Security number, the Employer Identification Number (EIN), and the business address.
Obtaining a US Visa
To own a business in America, foreign entrepreneurs must have the appropriate visa. Legally, forming, owning, and managing a business in the United States requires a visa, usually an E-2 Treaty Investor Visa or an EB-5 Investor Visa.
If you are still unsure on which option may be better for your case, immediately contact an expert immigration attorney to have an individual assessment.
Getting an ITIN and Applying for an EIN
Non-US residents have no Social Security number. Therefore, if an entrepreneur is a not a resident or a US citizen, he/she may need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
Otherwise, if the foreign entrepreneur has a Social Security Number, he/she will not need an ITIN. Next, with the ITIN or the Social Security Number in hand, the aspiring US business owner must apply for Employer Identification Number (EIN) by submitting Form SS-4 with IRS.
Assigning a Registered Agent
Once again, if an entrepreneur is not a resident or a US Citizen, it is possible to list an address outside of the country as the company’s business address.
In any case, the entrepreneur must assign a registered agent within the state where the business is established. The registered agent will receive all legal (and other) documents on the business’ behalf, such as regulatory notices, tax notices, and correspondence.
Can a Non-US Citizen Own a Business in US? – Selecting the Right Business Structure
Currently, non-US citizens have two options when forming a business entity in the United States – the traditional corporations (S-corps) and the flexible limited liability companies (LLCs).
If the foreign entrepreneur has lawful permanent resident status (green card), it is also possible to form an S-corporation. Many foreign entrepreneurs are usually encouraged to form corporations (c-corps), although LLCs may offer more advantages for non-US citizens.
As its name suggests, an LLC has limited personal liability. Therefore, the owner(s) of the business (referred to as “members”) are not exposed to liability for any of the business’s obligations, actions, or debts.
When an LLC is sued in court, the owner(s) are not personally liable. Accordingly, if the opposing party wins a lawsuit against an LLC, its member(s) personal assets will not be exposed to creditors’ claims or judgments.
On the other hand, C-corps offer the possibility to attract investors by issuing stock shares, hence boosting the company’s financial structure.
Regardless, determining whether a business structure is a correct choice for a non-US citizen requires the guidance of a well-versed business immigration attorney in Florida.