There are many great reasons why business investors choose the United States—a business-friendly environment, quality of life, diversity, etc. Many foreign investors are familiar with these great reasons, but many of them ignore the different rules and regulations that govern how a foreign investor does business in the U.S., everything from what kind of business entity investors choose to tax payments and contracts. If you are a foreign investor, learning about these rules can better prepare you for success in the U.S.
One of the most important things to know about doing business in the U.S. is that all business activities conducted in the country are subject to a range of federal, state, and local laws. Depending on whether you plan to base your business in the U.S. itself or are only looking to open a branch office, any transactions made in or involving the U.S. are governed by an array of laws at multiple jurisdictional levels. For example, copyright and patent laws are created and enforced on a federal level, while contract, employment, and sales transaction laws are typically created and enforced by each state.
Another key concept that businesses operating in the United States you should consider carefully is what type of business entity to choose. In the U.S., each business must choose a particular entity type. While the most common type of business entities in the U.S. are corporations, some choose to structure themselves as limited liability companies (LLCs) or partnerships instead. Each business type offers both benefits and drawbacks, and depend largely on a range of legal and internal business aspects. No matter which entity type you choose, however, you must ensure that it has been formed according to the laws of the state(s) in which you plan to conduct business.
In addition, foreign individuals coming to the U.S. to work must obtain permission to do so and comply with immigration regulations. There are many types of visas for foreign investors, for business visitors, and for sponsor-based employment. Each of the numerous types of visas has different requirements and allow for different authorized lengths of stay in the US. So, it’s critical for foreign business owners and their workers to adhere to the terms of their particular visa as a violation can result in removal or denial of re-entry into the US.
While understanding business laws and entities are both keys to getting your business up and running, it is equally important to understand issues surrounding hiring, employment, and immigration. Any business operating in the U.S. must comply with U.S. labor and employment laws. These laws make important distinctions between different employment relationships, such as “employees” and “independent contractors.” While the first is subject to tax withholding and is protected by federal law, the second is not. However, businesses also have less control over independent contractors, and must meet specific criteria in order to legally classify their labor force this way. To add further complications, anyone coming to work for your business from outside the U.S. must obtain the proper visas for those employees. This process can be time-consuming and confusing, which is why many businesses will consult an experienced attorney to help them avoid application mistakes.
Finally, it is important to note that one of the more robust sections of U.S. federal law is focused on regulating intellectual property. Intellectual property laws protect the intangible assets of a business. These assets are typically ideas, processes, or other valuables that set one brand or product apart from others. Patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets are the four main types of intellectual property covered by these laws. Knowing how these laws both protect and restrict the use of different intangible assets can help business owners to build their brand while maintaining control.
Ultimately, by learning as much as you can about these and other key aspects of conducting business in the United States, you can set yourself and your business up for long-term success. Doing business in the U.S. requires specific knowledge and effective strategies to capitalize on all the U.S. has to offer.