Legal, Tax, and Accounting July 13, 2020

Setting up an US Delaware LLC and bank account fully remotely, as a non US citizen/resident

Ding Yu @felixding

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.

TL;DR

Stripe Atlas don't work for non US citizen/resident for LLC. Use First Base (https://firstbase.io/) for incorporation and Mercury (https://mercury.com) for banking.

The Goal

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.

Incorporation - Stripe Atlas

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:

  • Stripe Atlas can only do C Corporation, as I'm not an US citizen and nor do I live in the US
  • Stripe Atlas can't open a bank account and do not offer their payments products, because I want to start with a non-US market first whereas Stripe "are currently restricted to supporting businesses that primarily serve US, and not local, customers" (from their support)

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!

Incorporation - First Base

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.

Company address - Anytime Mailbox & Notarize.io

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.

First Base recommended Anytime Mailbox (https://www.anytimemailbox.com/) and Notarize.io. Honestly, I had bad experience with both.

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.

Banking - Mercury

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...

Payments - Stripe

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!

Wrap up

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!

:wq

  1. 1

    Thanks for this post, its exactly what I need currently!

  2. 1

    what are the ongoing fees of maintaining a UC LLC and how much is the Registered Agent Fees?

  3. 1

    If I register a LLC in Wyoming, can I have a street address with Anytime Mailbox in California?

    I'm reading that you need to register yourself where operate. So does this mean I need to register in California too?

    1. 2

      I think you can.

      For example, my LLC is in Delaware but my mailbox address is in Oregon.

  4. 1

    Another thing to note that once you have a LLC or CCorp incorporated in the US you have to FILE your annual taxes with the IRS in order to keep your company compliant.

    Depending on your type of business and what country you are from you might or might not have to PAY taxes, but you will always have to FILE your tax return at the end of the fiscal year.

    Paying taxes is different than filing taxes. :)

    Regards,
    A tax lawyer.

    1. 1

      That's right. Thanks for the heads up.

  5. 1

    Thank you for sharing, that's really interesting and uncommon!

    1. 1

      You are welcome. I got some emails/Twitter DMs asking for help after I posted the question on the forum here a few month ago, so I thought I could share what I have learned with more people.

Recommended Posts