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Forming company in Florida as a Non-Resident

Foreign direct investors have acquired, established, or expanded their existing and new businesses in Florida to the tune of $2.9 billion in 2019 with an extensive role being played by non-residents. If you are planning to start a company in Florida as a foreigner or a non-resident then this article will provide the right guidance. The article is targeted towards providing you information on the existing startup environment and how to start a business in Florida as a foreigner including choosing a business entity, securing business funding, registering your business, and obtaining business licenses and permits among others.

Starting a Company in Florida

Florida is home to 2.5 million small businesses that have a major contribution in the state’s GDP of $1.1 trillion. There are several reasons why small and medium sized companies are thriving in the state and this includes a strong infrastructure, second-largest foreign trade zone (FTZ) network in the country, creating the right platform for becoming a global trade hub, $55.89 billion dollar manufacturing industry, a strong and growing innovation ecosystem, and last but not the least; several types of business incentive programs. These factors contribute greatly towards helping non-residents and foreigners to start businesses in Florida.

Florida small business/startup environment

The Florida business environment has grown in leaps and bounds thus taking Florida from being the ‘sunshine state’ to becoming the ‘startup state’. Florida has a developing business landscape and its business environment has gone through a critical shift in several areas including creating higher access to capital, a flexible tax law, and embracing emerging technology. There are different elements that are entwined to create a business environment where you can start a company in Florida as a foreigner. Some of those elements are:

  • Business or startup environment – One of the top reasons to start a company in Florida as a foreigner is that it is a knowledge driven and innovation based economy. Florida is slowly transforming into a state that has brought together capital, technology, investors, and innovation creating a seamless and successful startup environment. The state is also home to several incubators, labs as well as accelerators including 500 Startups and Dreamit, which are the leading accelerators globally. The Florida business environment has been further strengthened with the growth of Miami as a top tech ecosystem in the country with venture-backed companies raising more than $950 million in 2020.
  • Florida Small Business Incentive Programs – When you start a company in Florida as a foreigner, one of the aspects that will benefit you and your company is the small business incentive programs offered by the state. The primary objective of these incentive programs is to ensure startups achieve bottom-line advantages, which further leads to long-term profitability. The incentive programs also play an integral role in creating the right Florida business environment. Some of the top programs include Corporate Income Tax Credit, Capital Investment Tax Credits (CITC), Tax Exemption for Machinery and Equipment Used for Research and Development, Quick Response Training (QRT) grant, and Brownfield Redevelopment Bonus among others.
  • Foreign Trade Zones – When you start a business in Florida as a non-resident or a foreigner, you may provide goods and services locally as well as globally. The trade industry is considered as one of the fastest growing industries in the state with several small business owners starting their new business as an exporter or importer. Florida imports up until August 2021 were $8,352 million while exports were $4,532 million. This is simply an indicator of the unprecedented growth the industry has been witnessing. When you register a Florida business as a foreigner, you can choose to make it operational within a designated Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ). There are 21 designated FTZ’s in Florida with three zones in Miami itself.

Steps to Form a Florida Company as a Foreigner

If you are wondering if it is possible for you to start a company in Florida as a foreigner or non-resident then the answer is yes, most definitely. There is a specific process that you would have to follow in order to form a startup. You will also be required to be compliant with all federal and state laws pertaining to starting a company. Let’s take a look at how to start a business in Florida as a foreigner and make it operational.

1.Prepare your Florida business plan

One of the most important aspects to consider before you start a company in Florida as a foreigner is creating a strong business plan. The objective of a business plan is to help create an operational roadmap that outlines the requirements, resources available, strategies, risks, opportunities and competition. If you want to register a Florida business as a non-resident or foreigner then your business plan should include the following:

  • Business objectives and mission statement
  • Business Overview
  • Operations Plan
  • Market Analysis
  • Competitive Analysis
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Financial Projections and Funding
  • Management and Organization
  • Products and Services
  • Marketing Plan and Sales Strategy

2. Secure your business funding

If you plan to start a company in Florida as a foreigner or a non-resident then there will be initial costs and annual costs. These costs include new business formation, rental or lease of commercial space, cost of purchasing or renting equipment, marketing and promotion of business, and obtaining business license and permits among others. If you feel that your initial budget is not enough to begin operations and sustain it then you will need to secure funding through other available sources in the state. Funding is an important aspect of how to start a business in Florida as a foreigner and before you apply for funding, it is important to determine your requirements. Some of the available funding opportunities are:

  • Bootstrapping or Self-funding
  • Crowdfunding
  • Florida Small business grants
  • Small Business Loans in Florida
  • Angel Investment
  • Venture capital from private investors
  • Government’s Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS)
  • Micro-loan organizations
  • Small Business Administration investment programs
  • Funding from Incubators & Accelerators

3. Choose a company name

A company name is an aspect that provides an identity to the business. A good choice of name can create a brand and a poor choice can kill the brand even before it takes off. Hence, you need to consider several aspects when creating a company name. You will also need to ensure the business name is in compliance with the Florida state laws, so that you can start a business in Florida. The important aspects to consider are:

  • The name should be catchy, short, and easy to pronounce
  • The chosen name should be SEO friendly
  • Since the name will be used to register a Florida business, it needs to be unique
  • The name should reflect your product or services and brand personality
  • Always check for trademark issues prior to reserving the name
  • Follow state statutes for choosing a name like a corporate name should have words like “corporation,” “company,” or “incorporated”
  • You can also use abbreviations like “Inc”, “Co.”, or “Corp” pursuant to FL Stat § 607.0401 (2019)
  • It should not contain any language that implies or states that the company is connected with a federal or state government agency

4. Choose a business entity

If you have decided to start a business in Florida as a foreigner then one of the primary considerations to make is the business structure. You can form different types of entities in Florida like:

The type of entity you want to form will be dependent on your requirements and what you seek from the business. Each business structure has its pros and cons as well as tax requirements and these aspects need to be considered as a part of the process of identifying how to start a business in Florida as a foreigner.

5. Choose a Registered Agent

One of the important and mandatory requirements governed by the Florida business statutes is that of a registered agent. If you want to start a business in Florida then it is mandatory to designate a registered agent for the service of process.

A Florida registered agent is also known as an agent for service of process and is appointed by a new or existing business for the purpose of accepting different official correspondences and legal notices. A registered agent like IncParadise will not only handle service of process but can help you register a Florida business. IncParadise is one of the most reputable registered agent service providers in Florida today!

6. Register your company

If you want to start a company in Florida as a foreigner then there is a specific process for registration of an entity. The new business formation process will depend on the type of entity or business structure. Since you are a non-resident or a foreigner, you will have to go through the process of foreign qualification. Hence, in order to register a Florida business, you will need to file an Authority of foreign business to transact in the state.

If you are planning to form a foreign corporation then you will have to file an Application by Foreign Corporation for Authorization to Transact Business in Florida pursuant to FL Stat § 607.1501 (2019) and for an LLC it will be a Certificate of Authority pursuant to FL Stat § 605.0902 (2019). IncParadise, one of the top registered agents in Florida can help you with the process of filing your new Florida company registration. You can order a new LLC or INC online right here – right now!

Form your business in Florida today!

7. Get EIN

If you are a non-resident or a foreign citizen and are planning to start a business in Florida then you will have to apply for and obtain an EIN or employer identification number. It is a unique 9-digit identification number that is issued by the IRS to different forms of domestic and foreign businesses. An EIN is most commonly used by businesses for filing annual tax returns.

8. Open a bank account for your business

If you are wondering how to start a business in Florida as a foreigner then it is important to remember that having a business bank account can be quite helpful. Although, it may seem that your existing personal banking account may be good enough, that is not the case, simply because mixing personal and business expenditures and earnings can cause accounting issues. A business bank account is primarily used for business transactions like accepting payments, purchasing business equipment, and paying employees among others. If you want to start a company in Florida as a foreigner then here are some of the top benefits of a business bank account:

  • You can be assured of financial protection for yourself as well as your company
  • It will help in keeping personal finances separate from your business expenses and income
  • It enables organized handling of business finances
  • With a business bank account, you can track your business expenses and monitor spending
  • It makes tax audit and filing of tax returns accurate and easy.

9. Obtain the necessary business licenses and permits

Florida has a strong economy that supports all forms of businesses and different types of industries. You can start a business in Florida in any industry including tourism, aerospace, cleantech, logistics, information technology, and manufacturing. Your business will be formed under the law when you submit registration documents but your business will not be operational till you have obtained the necessary business licenses and permits. It is important to understand that there are primarily two types of business licenses in Florida and they are:

  • General business license known as a business tax receipt in the state
  • License and permits for specific industries or professions.

You can order our Business License Research Report Service for more detailed information on licensing requirements when you register a Florida business.

10.Know about the annual and ongoing state filing requirements

Once you start a business in Florida as a foreigner or a non-US resident; you will be required to maintain it and ensure your business is compliant with all annual requirements. This will help in ensuring your business enjoys active status. Compliance with annual and ongoing state filing requirements will help you to avoid any penalties or fines related to late filings. Different forms of business entities will have different annual as well as ongoing requirements. The annual requirements are:

Know more about Forming a Florida Company as a Non-Resident

If you are planning to start a business in Florida, especially as a non-US resident or a foreigner then you may have several queries regarding how to start a business in Florida as a foreigner. We have created this section of “Frequently Asked Questions” to address some of the most common queries that you may have pertaining to types of business entities that you can register, documents required for registration,visa requirements if any, and getting an EIN as a non-U.S. resident among others.

Can a foreigner open a company in Florida?

Yes. It is possible to start a company in Florida as a foreigner or non-US resident and the process for company registration will be quite similar to that of a domestic or foreign entity formation. If you are thinking of forming a legal entity in the state then you are not required to be a resident of the state to register such an entity.

What types of business entities can a non-US resident start in Florida?

You can register a Florida business with ease even as a foreigner but it is important to note that you will be allowed to form only legal business entities in the state. Legal entity denotes those entities that are governed by Florida statutes and hence, you will be able to form a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or a Professional Corporation(C Corp) in the state.

What documents do I need to submit to form my Florida business?

In order to start a company in Florida as a foreigner or a Non-US resident, you will need to file specific registration related documents. The type of registration application will depend on the business Structure.

For example: If you register a Florida business as a limited-liability company then you will need to file Articles of Organization along with a cover letter and designation of Registered Agent. The application has to be filed with the Division of Corporations and follow the process of formation of a domestic LLC. You will also have to file for name reservation and submit an annual report as governed by Florida statutes.

What Visa requirements are required for a non-US resident to start a business in the US?

As a foreigner, you may wonder whether you need to obtain a visa to start a business in Florida. A visa is not a mandatory requirement for operating a business in the state but it will be required if you want to reside in Florida or anywhere in the USA. There are two main visa options that you have and they are:

  • E-2 Visa: This visa is meant for those foreign entrepreneurs who are citizens of countries with whom the US has the Treaty of Navigation, Commerce or Friendship. Hence, the E2 visa holders are also known as E-2 Treaty Investors and will be allowed to register a Florida business. Check if you belong to a Treaty Country.
  • EB-5 Visa: The EB-5 Visa is issued under the “Immigrant Investor Program” by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It is targeted at specifically foreign investors interested in making a capital investment with a Minimum Investment Amount of $1,800,000.

What’s the easiest way to get an EIN as a non-U.S. resident?

If you are a foreign citizen and want to register a Florida business then first you will need to obtain a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN). An EIN is mandatory for most forms of businesses in the USA and is used primarily for filing business tax returns. Since, a foreign resident planning to start a business in Florida does not have a Social Security Number (SSN), the easiest way to get an EIN would be by applying for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) first.

The ITIN is a tax processing number that is issued only to resident aliens and non-resident or foreign citizens and their spouses who are unable to acquire a Social Security Number (SSN). In order to get an ITIN, you will be required to file the IRS Form W-7-IRS Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.

How do I pay taxes as a non-US resident for my Florida business?

If you start a company in Florida as a foreigner, you will still be required to file taxes. The type of taxes you need to file will depend on the business structure although it is important to note that non-residents or foreign citizens are not allowed to become members of an S-corporation. If you form a corporation as a non-resident then you will have to file corporate taxes like domestic entities. If you register a Florida business as a limited liability company then the profits of the said non-resident run LLC will be taxed at 30%.

Can I open a bank account for my US business if I’m not a US resident?

If you are thinking of forming a startup in Florida or the USA; you will have to eventually look for business banking options. You can open a bank account in the US as a non-resident or a foreign citizen although the process is more complex with stringent rules and requirements as compared to resident entrepreneurs or US citizens. When applying for a US business bank account, you will need to furnish the bank with documents for verification of name, date of birth, and physical address. You can use a valid passport or other government-issued identification from your home country, or even Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

Looking to Start a Company in Florida?

If you are planning to start a company in Florida as a foreigner or a non-US resident then a leading registered agent service like IncParadise can help you with the formation or incorporation of your new business. IncParadise is one of the top registered agents in Florida and have helped thousands of companies to register their new business or startup in the US.

We can be your registered agent in the state of Florida and assist you with all your business related initial and annual requirements through a range of additional services like annual reports and EIN.

Start a Florida Business as non-US residents today!