How to open a bank account in the United States from abroad

Here’s how to open a bank account in the United States from abroad.. This article is meant for non-US persons – people who are not US residents, citizens or green card holders. If you’re selling into the US market, and need a US corporation and bank account, here’s how to open a bank account in the United States.

The reason for this article on how to open a bank account in the United States from abroad is that many international entrepreneurs are running online businesses from abroad and selling products or services to Americans. Maybe you’re selling on Amazon, maybe you’re an SEO blogger (like me), PPC master or affiliate ninja.

If you’re running a business from outside the US, and selling into the American market, you might want a US corporation and bank account. A US bank account will significantly lower your transaction costs and make it easier to receive payments from Amazon and affiliate networks.

A US bank account will also allow you to send and receive smaller transfers. If you have only international wire facilities, and are paying $50 to $100 per transfer, you can’t afford to pay your contractor in the United States $300 for their services nor can you receive a transfer of $75… at least, not efficiently.

I say this article is intended for non-US persons because there is a high cost for what I propose. A US citizen can always get a US account if they’re willing to fly home to open it up. A non-US person will have a very hard time getting a corporate or business bank account in the United States.

Back in the day, anyone could open an account in the US. Today, it’s very difficult. Banks don’t want to have problems with regulators over money laundering or tax evasion, so they have put up barriers for non-US persons who want to open accounts.

Anyone, including a US person, can use the system I describe below. However, the costs might be prohibitive for a citizen who can do it themselves. A non-US person is willing to spend the money necessary because this is their only option to open a US bank account from abroad.

Without any more adue, here’s how to open a US bank account from abroad. In order to get a US bank account, you need the following:   

  1. A US corporation,
  2. A US agent,
  3. A US address, and
  4. A business reason why you need the US structure and account.

In order for a non-US person to get an account in the US, you need a local agent willing to form the company and open the bank account. The agent will incorporate the company and open the account in his name. Once that’s done, you’ll be added to the company as the primary shareholder.

That is to say, you need a US person willing to take the risk of being your representative with the bank. Someone willing to put their name on the account and trust that you won’t do any shady stuff.

For this reason, the agent will usually do a lot of due diligence on you and your business. They don’t want you selling knockoffs or doing anything that will cause them problems. If the company gets sued in the United States, or gets into trouble with law enforcement, the agent will have significant personal liability.

Of course, this trust must go both ways. You must trust that the agent won’t steal your money or otherwise damage your business. You must have an agent who manages many such companies and who experienced in providing registered agent and banking services.

Once you have your company in the United States, you must watch out for US taxes. All US corporations are required to file tax returns, no matter who owns them. And, as a shareholder and business representative, the agent can become responsible for unpaid US taxes… again, he or she has an interest in ensuring that the business is fully compliant with US laws.

Note that an obligation to file your taxes is different from an obligation to pay taxes. If you’re selling a physical product into the United States, you probably have some tax payment requirements. A physical good typically generates US source income and thus US tax liability. This is a complex matter and well beyond the scope of this article.

If you’re an internet marketer, writing content from abroad, working as an affiliate, or running PPC campaigns for other people’s products, you might not have US source income. If the work to generate the profit is done abroad, with no significant ties to the United States, it may be foreign sourced income and not taxable by the IRS.

Assuming you have no US source income, you will want to transfer the money made in your US company to an offshore corporation each quarter. You want to move that money to a zero tax jurisdiction so that the US company has no profit at the end of the year.

The best way to accomplish this is to form an offshore corporation in a tax free country like Belize, Nevis, Cook Islands or Panama. Then have the offshore company invoice the US company for services each month or each quarter.

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The US company should be sending regular wires to the offshore company to minimize the risk of the US attempting to tax the profits of the business. Again, the US company should be breaking even at the end of the tax year (December 31).

Please note that this suggestion assumes you have no US source income. It also assumes you have no employees in the United States or other significant connection that the IRS can hit upon to tax your profits.

If you decide to proceed with this plan to open a bank account in the US from abroad, you should have a qualified tax professional prepare your tax returns. The tax return will be due March 15, but you should hire the tax preparer during the current year to ensure all necessary transactions and reporting is done before December 31.

I hope this article on how to open a bank account in the United States from abroad has been helpful. For more information on this, or to setup an offshore company, please contact me at info@premierofffshore.com or call us at (619) 550-2743. All consultations are free and confidential.