1. What you can do / can’t do with a Virtual Office in the USA
A virtual office is a set of solutions that help international companies conduct business without having a physical presence in the USA. Such solutions aim to give local US prospects, clients, and suppliers the impression that the foreign company has a local presence (to a certain extent at least) and can thus be trusted.
The main services include: professional mailing address, mail opening & scanning, mail forwarding, phone answering & forwarding, business meeting space, etc.
It’s different from a US entity:
Usually, a virtual office is a great temporary option when you need to have a US presence to generate your first leads. It can be managed 100% from your home country, it’s affordable, and it helps build trust and credibility with US contacts.
Since a virtual office is not a US legal entity but only a virtual presence in the USA, you need to comply with the same rules that apply to non-US companies exporting products and/or services to the US market.
After a few months, your US clients will most likely ask you to create a US entity instead of this virtual office for legal, tax, and operations purposes… but when you reach this point, investing in setting up a US entity is a no-brainer!
Show a US address and a US phone number on your marketing assets (website, business cards, etc.), receive mail and have it scanned and forwarded to your home country, and receive calls via a US phone number.
Obtain a Tax ID Number (FEIN) – which is always required to open a US bank account -, deposit checks received from US clients, import products to the USA, or protect your existing company against US litigation or US tax exposure.
2. Multiple options for your Virtual Office
Several plans are available, from receiving mail only (up to a certain limit, e.g. 25 or 50 envelopes per month) to full packages with online access and an unlimited amount of mails that can be received, scanned, and forwarded (locally or even internationally).
Several plans are also available for US virtual phone number services that range from only forwarding calls to having a human receptionist who will answer calls and redirect callers to your phone number or a voicemail box.
Depending on your needs and whether it is crucial to impress your contacts or not, you can get a prestigious mailing address (e.g.: 5th Avenue in NYC) or a standard address in a less famous location.
3. Process & Application
- You chose the options and plan that best fit your needs.
- The service provider sends you the foreign owners application form.
Most of the time, the application requires:
- Standard application form: name, address, etc.
- Photo ID: passport or national ID card + driver’s license
- Form 1583: authorization to receive mails on your behalf
- Usually, you need to fill in at least boxes #1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, and 16.
- By law, this form must be notarized: this can be any official who can verify your identity and apply an official stamp or signature to box 15 of the form. It can be a “notary public,” a lawyer, a bank, or a government office.
- Ask our Sherpas for their instructions to fill out the form.
- Credit card information
- Once the application has been submitted, it usually takes 24 to 48 hours to get approval (sometimes even less).
- Then you can start using your US address!
US phone number:
- The application is very easy and can be done online: you provide your name, your business name, and your current phone number (make sure that someone is actually able to answer incoming calls)
- Some providers will offer you a free trial with no set-up fee.
The budget depends on the service package you choose. It usually ranges from $15/month for a mailing address that includes forwarding mail services to $150/month if you wish to have a local receptionist.
Typically, foreign companies start with the most basic mailing services, then upgrade after a few months according to their needs.
Regarding the US phone number, this depends on whether you already have clients that you want to redirect to your team (from $50 to $99/month) or if you only need to show a US phone number on your marketing assets ($5/month) to sound credible and available.
Once the application has been received by the provider, it usually takes 1 business day to have full access to the selected services.
The materials provided in this US Toolbox are for general information purposes only and are not intended to constitute comprehensive or specific legal, accounting, tax, marketing, or other advice. These materials may not reflect recent developments in the law, may not be complete, and may not pertain to your specific situation and circumstances.TradeSherpa, Inc. assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions in the materials, or for any losses that may arise from reliance upon the information contained these materials. Because these materials are intended to provide only general advice, specific advice should be taken from qualified professionals when dealing with specific situations and circumstances.