I had successfully incorporated a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in Delaware US and opened a company bank account, as a non US citizen or resident, without even visiting the US personally. In other words, everything was done fully remotely. This post is to help people who want to do the same thing but don't know how.
I intended to incorporate a LLC in the US in order to run my tiny SaaS projects (https://getizumo.com/ and https://gfwaas.com/). But opening a legal entity offshore as a non US citizen or resident is not easy. After some research, I found that I could only make it possible by using agents.
Of course I started with Stripe Atlas, I have been using and admiring Stripe's products for quite a while. Unfortunately, as I posted here (https://www.indiehackers.com/post/stripe-atlas-alternatives-42d2a94f24), Stripe Atlas has a few critical drawbacks in my case:
So although they kindly suggested that they could do the incorporation part alone and recommended some other companies for banking and payments, but I'd rather go with someone who can offer a one-stop solution.
By the way, @patio11 from Stripe learned about this and offered to help. Thanks!
I think I knew about this startup from both Hacker News and Indie Hackers, the two sources I trust. I decided to check it out and, it eventually worked!
The process was fairly straightforward. You submit everything they need, wait, submit more, and voilà, you are now an US business owner!
It's a bit slower than I originally expected, though. It took a little bit more than a month from application to the point where we were told by First Base that "You can now operate your business in the US. Our job here is actually done". But that's not a big issue and to be fair, a big chunk of the time was spent on notarizing our company address and dealing with our mail forwarder (more later).
I'm mostly happy with First Base.
During the process, you have to have a physical address for your company, and you have to prove that you actually "own" the address by notarizing it.
Anytime Mailbox looks like easy to use, but is quite confusing in practice. I once received a pricing like "Free storage for 0 days, then $0 for additional days" from them - do I need to pay or not? And to my surprise, Anytime Mailbox is just a mail forwarder, or in their own words, "a software developer. Our website is like a list of all mail center who are using our platform in giving out their mailing service to their renters" (from their support). That means in some cases you have to contact another vendor behind them for support, not Anytime Mailbox.
As to Notarize.io, their customer service was generally OK but their software UX was somehow broken. For example, the website asked me to submit a photo copy of a document. The problem was there was no way to upload it as a file. They only allowed me to take a photo with my laptop webcam and later told me the quality was not high enough (me rolling eyes). After some emails and video sessions with their support back and forth, I managed to notarize the address with a combination of a phone, a laptop and a hardcopy of the document.
Mercury is awesome! Yes, it's a relatively simple banking service but their UX and customer support put all other banks I've ever used to shame.
Besides the normal company banking stuff, an unexpected benefit for me is I can issue my own card, a real Visa/Mastercard card! Time to say good-bye to those US-credit-cards-only websites...
I didn't expect Stripe to work, but it did! I guess the "US first" thing is just specific to Stripe Atlas. Anyway, once I had incorporated, got an Employer Identification Number (EIN) and opened a bank account, I immediately applied for Stripe and got approved in literally two minutes. Yay!
There are also other stuff you may want to take into consideration before incorporating a LLC in the US. For example, you need to carefully choose a location for tax exemption to avoid double taxation. I recommend using https://incorporations.io/ and check the eligible tax treaty. Another suggestion is you should get an US phone number as it'd make your life a lot easier - don't forget you are technically an US entrepreneur :D
Now it's time for the real challenge - bootstrapping the business. Good luck!