Doing Business in the United States: What You Need to Know About Immigration
If you’re thinking of expanding your business to the United States, there are immigration requirements you need to consider. Here, I’ll break down what you need to know about immigration including visas, green cards and if you need a tax ID number.
Visas and Green Cards
Foreign companies that wish to do business in the U.S. should think about obtaining a green card or work visa. So what’s the difference?
- Visas – If you obtain a visa you do not become a U.S. citizen and your country of origin still remains your permanent residence. Visas allow you to enter the U.S. for a specific time and can be beneficial in opening a new business or expanding your business to the U.S. If you do obtain a visa, it can be a stepping stone to helping you gain a green card. There is more than one type of visa so make sure you’re applying for the correct one.
- Green Cards – If you’re approved for a green card, you become a citizen of the U.S. and can stay—and work—in the U.S. indefinitely.
If you only desire to obtain a visa, which can generally last for a period of three to five years, you must prove to the U.S. government that you do own property and have assets in your country of origin—such as a bank account.
It’s not wise to float in and out of the U.S. with a visa only. If you really want to do business in America, getting a green card should be on your long-term agenda.
For those coming from Australia, you will need a visa regardless of the length of your stay or what you plan to do while you’re in the U.S.
Finally, keep in mind that it can take time to obtain a visa or green card. Your country of origin’s relationship with the U.S. can significantly impact how long and invasive the process could be. Some receive approval in days where others might wait month; we recommend you apply right away.
Tax Identification Numbers
I have seen some of our clients come to the U.S. two or three times and they are able to sell products in the U.S. and then taxed on a corporate, not personal basis. How you’re taxed depends upon your corporate structure and how your company is formed and/or whether the individual will spend a substantial amount of time in the U.S. For example, an individual that plans to be in the U.S. for two years to get the business up and running and then appoint someone who is a citizen to run the business and subsequently return home, can usually do this with a visa and ITIN. Others who plan to move to America permanently should consider obtaining a green card.
ITIN – Non-residents opening or expanding to the U.S. may need to file for an ITIN number since foreigners do not have a social security number. However, if you have no personal filing requirements in the U.S. you may be able to skip the ITIN.
EIN – If you intend to hire people in the U.S. and open a bank account, you will need to apply for an EIN. An EIN is also the number you will need when filing employee wage reports, sales tax reports, and your initial and annual foreign corporation documents.
Social Security Number – While a social security number is not necessary for you to open a business in the U.S., if you plan on staying in America, consider applying for a social security number at the same time you apply for a visa.
You can still open a business in America without obtaining a visa or a green card. This is done by becoming a corporate officer and having your name listed on incorporation documents. HPC can recommend a highly qualified immigration law firm to help you through this process.
How you incorporate your business is important. Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) or C-Corporations are your two options. I’ll explain incorporation and how they affect the way you’re taxed in my next blog on legal considerations when expanding to the U.S.