Can I own or participate in a US business if I am not a US citizen?

Generally, there are no restrictions on foreign ownership of a company formed in the United States. The procedure for a foreign citizen to form a company in the US is the same as for a US resident. It is not necessary to be a US citizen or to have a green card to own a corporation or LLC.

Can I work in the US if I own a Corporation or LLC?

Not without proper documentation. Being a director, as well as a shareholder, of a US corporation is allowed without a visa, but being an officer and performing your duties within the US is generally not allowed. Working for your corporation or LLC within the US without a valid work visa is not allowed and punishable with some significant fines and possible deportation.

Do I need a visa to own a US business?

We’ve already established that you don’t need to be a US citizen to own a US business. You don’t even have to step foot in the US to own an LLC or corporation, but you’re not allowed to work without a valid visa. If you want to work for the business you own, you’ll need to obtain a visa. Active Filings has compiled a list of some of the visas, and their requirements, that will allow you to work inside the US:

  • E-1 Treaty Trader Visa: An E-1 visa holder is only allowed to work in the activity for which they were approved for when the visa was issued. To qualify for an E-1 visa, you must be a citizen of a country with which the US maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation. An E-1 visa holder is required to create significant value for their company with regards to the legal trading of goods, services, and banking. There is no set limit to the amount of trade that must take place, although the US puts a greater emphasis on the number of transactions over total value of the actual trade. An E-1 visa also covers immediate family members (legal spouse and unmarried children under 21). The spouse of the visa holder is permitted to work, but the children are not. The E-1 visa is valid for two years. However, if you meet your visa qualifications, you can prolong your stay with unlimited two year status extensions or five year visa extensions.
  • E-2 Treaty Investor Visa: The E-2 visa allows you to travel in and out of the US, and work legally in the business that is your primary “investment vehicle.” The E-2 also allows you to bring over your relatives, your spouse, and any dependents (children) under 21. More countries are qualified under treaties for E-2 investment visa compared to E-1 visas. E-2 visa holders must have control over the money that’s being invested in the US business and arrive in the US with the specific goal of developing the business in question. Both E-1 and E-2 visas allow employees who are considered essential for trading and investment. E-2 applicants are expected to create more income than is needed to sustain themselves and their families. E-1 visas do not list this as a requirement. E-2 visas are valid for a period of five years and can be renewed with two-year extensions as long as you maintain the necessary qualifications. As it stands, there are no limits on the number of extensions you can take.
  • EB-5 Job Creation Visa or Permanent Residency Visa: The EB-5 visa is EXPENSIVE. The basic requirements to get an EB-5 visa are that you must invest at least $1,800,000 in a US business and create 10 jobs for US workers over 2 years. Based on your investment, you are eligible for a green card for yourself, your spouse, and your unmarried children under 21 years old. This amount can be reduced by half ($900,000) if you invest in a business that is located in a targeted employment area (TEA). Areas that qualify as TEA areas are any areas with high unemployment. In short, if you’re rich, the EB-5 is the way to go. EB-5 visa holders are allowed to apply for US citizenship 90 days prior to their five year visa anniversary.
  • L-1 Multi-National Transfer Visas: The L-1 Visa enables foreign companies to transfer managerial, executive, and specialized knowledge employees to a US subsidiary, affiliate, or branch who have been employed at the foreign company for at least one year. If the foreign company wishes to open a new US branch, affiliate, or subsidiary, immigration laws allow for the transfer of one managerial or executive employee to open and manage the new US entity through the initial start-up phase.
  • H-1B Visa: The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to hire and employ workers from specialized fields such as finance, accounting, IT, engineering, medicine, science, architecture, etc. Holders of H-1B visas are required to hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree, or a foreign equivalent. The degree requirement for the job is typical for the job, though applicants can bypass this requirement if they have at least 12 years of specialized work experience. The visa applicant must work in a field that requires a professional in a specialty occupation, and applicants must have intricate knowledge in the required field of employment. One final caveat is that the applicant’s employer must demonstrate the lack of qualified US applicants for the position. An H-1B visa is valid for three years, but can be extended to up to six years. Some visa holders are allowed to extend the visa for up to 10 years depending on their work expertise.

How long is the incorporation process?

Processing times vary by state. Usually you’re looking at between two days to two weeks depending on if you pay for expedited processing. It should be noted that processing times also change depending on how backed up the Secretary of State offices are. Stay ahead of the game and check out our State Processing Times page.

Can Active Filings help me open a checking account?

No. Active Filings cannot assist you with the opening of a checking account or other banking related issues. In order to open a checking account you will be required to walk into a bank of your choosing and provide proof of ID (your drivers license or passport), a copy of your articles of incorporation or organization and your company’s tax ID number (EIN). However, we do provide a Tax ID service where we can help you obtain an EIN. The procedure to obtain a EIN, when directors or owners are not US Citizens, can take up to 30 days. If you do not have a social security number (SSN), we add an additional $200, as the amount of paperwork required increases.

Can I use the Registered Agent address as my company’s address?

No, you cannot use the registered agent’s address as your legal address or the mailing address of the company. The registered agent address (and service) is strictly for receipt of official documents. The legal address of your company has to be the real one (i.e. your home or office in your country or a mail forwarding service that authorizes you to use their address as yours). Our International Business Formation packages provide you with unlimited mail forwarding. This means you’ll be able to have a US business address, where you can have your mail sent. Active Filings will scan and upload all mail to your online account so that you have immediate access.

Do I need a US address to incorporate a business in the US?

No you don’t. When you hire Active Filings, we provide you with registered agent services. Our registered agent service allows you to incorporate or form a LLC in the US. However, in order to open a bank account or to obtain an EIN (Tax ID), you are going to need a US mailing address, though not necessarily in your state of formation. This is where our International Incorporation Plan really shines. When you order either our Silver or Gold packages, you receive unlimited mail forwarding! How awesome is that? It’s like we’ve thought of everything.

Can my foreign company be the owner of a US LLC or Corporation?

If you form a LLC, yes. Instead of appointing an individual as a “managing member” you can appoint your own foreign company. If you chose to form a corporation, at the time of registration we only appoint “Directors” and they have to be individuals. Please note that Directors does not own a corporation. A corporation is owned by its shareholders, and from this point of view, your foreign company can own 100% of any US corporation.

We want to create a US branch of our company. Is that possible?

It sure is possible! A foreign company that wishes to set up a US branch or subsidiary will want to create a business entity in the United States. We recommend either forming a corporation or an LLC because both entities offer excellent liability protection from any potential bankruptcies or lawsuits. Corporations and LLCs are formed by selecting a state in which to establish the business and to submit the required formation paperwork usually to an office known as the Secretary of State.

Do I need to file a Beneficial Ownership Information report?

Most likely. The majority of corporations operating in the US (regardless of whether the business is based in the US or abroad) must file a Beneficial Ownership Information (BOI) report with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), though there are some exemptions. In your BOI report, you must disclose basic information about your corporation and the people with the most power over your business and its profits. This report is due within 30 days of company formation (domestic corporations) or of registering to do business in the US (foreign corporations). However, companies formed anytime in 2024 have 90 days, and those formed before 2024 have until January 1, 2025.

Will you file my BOI report for me?

You can certainly hire us to file your company’s BOI report. We charge a modest fee of $9 to ensure your report is filed accurately and on time.

What are my annual requirements for owning a US business?

Your annual filing requirements will vary based on your business structure and the state. Corporations have the strictest annual requirements, as they have to hold initial and annual director and shareholder meetings, record their meeting minutes, adopt and maintain bylaws, issue stock to shareholders, and record all stock transfers. LLCs requirements are a lot less complicated. Most states require an annual report, though some only require filings ever other year. The annual reports also come with fees, which vary by state, so prepare to pay up in order to remain compliant with state regulations. Also, if you’ve made any important structural changes to your company, maybe a change of address, number of shares, or ownership, you’ll want to report them with your annual report. Some states also hit LLCs and corporations with franchise taxes, excise taxes, and extra fees.

Some states have publishing requirements. Can you help me with those?

Active Filings has a direct link to publishing services in Georgia, Arizona, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and New York. Prices vary state by state, but expect to pay between $100 and $200 for most publishing requirements.

Will you provide a copy of the registration documents prior to filing them?

We do not provide this service. Our filings fulfill the minimum state requirements (with exception of nonprofit corporations where we prepare articles in compliance with the 501(c)(3) regulation).

Do I need an EIN for my business?

Your EIN, or more technically your Federal Tax Identification Number, consists of nine digits issued by the IRS. The IRS requires an EIN for any business that has employees, or is taxed as a C corporation, partnership or LLC. You’ll also need an EIN if you file employment taxes, excise taxes, or alcohol, tobacco, or firearm tax returns.

How do I get a EIN (Tax ID) for my business?

The IRS prefers that you submit your EIN application online, but you can also apply for one by phone, fax, or mail. Filing online is the fastest way, and in most cases you can receive your EIN immediately after completing the short application. You can go to the IRS website’s “EIN Assistant” page and click on “Begin Application” at the bottom to get started. Or you can hire Active Filings. Both our Silver and Gold International Business formation packages include an EIN.

Will I receive “originals” of my documents?

Some states fax the information, others send the documents by email, and some mail them. Documents returned as proof of filing can include an official certificate or just an electronic stamp with the company number and filing date. They can return an stamped copy of the original (they always keep the original) and payment receipt. If hire Active Filings, we’ll make sure to obtain a certified copy of the formation documents and also Apostille certification. Both services are available with our International Plan’s Gold Package.

If I don’t have a physical office in the US, do I need a business license?

Some business licenses are related to the county and city where your office or business is located. In this case, since you will not have a US-based office, you may not be required to hold a license. However, there are often business-specific licenses, that are related to the activity your LLC or corporation is engaged in.

What is a Certificate of Incumbency?

A Certificate of Incumbency is a corporate document issued by a corporation or LLC that lists its officers, directors or members of a business. A Certificate of Incumbency (also known as a Secretary Certificate, a Certificate of Officers, or Register of Directors) is a document that is often required by receiving organizations in foreign countries to make sure that the person who signed the documents on behalf of the company is actually authorized to do so. A Certificate of Incumbency will usually help when you want to open a business bank account for your LLC or corporation.

What is included in your International Plan?

Our International Plan includes not only the registration of a business entity (LLC, nonprofit or corporation) but also 1 year of Registered Agent services, unlimited support, access to templates of corporate resolutions, and more. We also allow our international clients to add other services not included with the basic package, such as Corporate Kits.

Ready to get Started with an International Plan?