If you want to sell physical products to an American market but you’re not a US citizen, you might wonder if it’s even possible. Even if citizens in your country are permitted to sell on Amazon US, there are quite a few hoops to jump through before you can get started.
However, don’t give up hope just because the setup looks difficult. In this article we’ll tell you what you need to know to set up an Amazon account from outside the United States, so you can start selling in the US market.
The United States is a massive and lucrative market with minimal language barriers. Aside from the economy being larger than the entire European Union combined, you’ll also have an easier time selling in the US than you would in most EU countries. This is because while you have dozens of languages across the EU and a wide range of cultures and legal systems, Americans mainly speak English, and US state laws vary less than laws across Europe.
Selling in the US as a foreigner is more complicated than simply making an account, though. So let’s walk through it, step by step.
Before we get started, you’ll want to first check that your country of residence is one of the 102 countries Amazon accepts sellers from. Once you’ve found your country on the list, read on.
Now, to get started you’ll need an Amazon seller account and a way to get paid. We recommend setting up a separate account from the personal account you make orders from.
To set up your Amazon seller account, you should have the following information:
Most of these are pretty straightforward, but these last two can get tricky, so let’s unpack them. To get the overview of this in video form, watch our Youtube video about selling on Amazon from another country.
To get paid when selling on Amazon US from abroad, you’ll need a way to receive your hard-earned cash! But you don’t always need a bank account. Here are some of the major methods people use to get their money:
These are all great options, but there are some exceptions. If you intend to scale into a larger company, if you’ll be moving a lot of money (and want better control over it), or if your country simply isn’t covered, you will want to create a legal US entity to receive payments. This involves registering as a business and creating a US bank account.
If you’re not a citizen or resident of the US, you can only register two types of legal businesses: an LLC (Limited Liability Company), or a C-Corp (corporation). For e-commerce platforms like Amazon, we suggest going the LLC route.
Registering as an LLC in the US
You can form a US LLC in any state, though Nevada, Delaware, and Wyoming are popular. We like Wyoming because it has no income tax, low sales tax, and is easy to work with. Registering an LLC costs around $150 in Wyoming.
You may want to go through a registered agent in the state of your choosing to do this. According to the US Small Business Administration, a registered agent “receives official papers and legal documents on behalf of your company. The agent must be located in the state where you register. Many business owners prefer to use a registered agent service rather than do this role themselves.”
Going through an agent will help keep you in good standing with that state, and also gives you a physical address in the US to receive legal notifications. Many businesses like these offer services to people without physical addresses, which is useful for anyone living abroad.
A note about visas: you don’t need a US visa to register your business, but simply getting registered does not mean you can travel to the US. If you need to travel to the US, you may want to follow the example of many foreign business owners and apply for a visa when you register. As a startup, consider applying for the E-2 Visa.
Register an Employment Identification Number (EIN)
With your new legal address you can generate an EIN, which is like a Social Security Number (SSN) for a business. In other words, it’s the legal ID number of your new company. The EIN is also referred to as the FEIN, which just adds “Federal” to the beginning of the acronym. Like the SSN, the EIN is used for tax returns and banking.
Technically you can get the EIN without registering a business, but in the long run it’s generally a better idea to register. If you still want to register as an individual, you’ll start by filling out Form SS-4 on the IRS website. You won’t need legal status in the U.S. to get this, and once you have it you can start selling.
Open a US bank account
Unless you plan on flying to the US to open an account in person, you’ll need to hire a US attorney for this and give them power of attorney to open one for you. To open a bank account, you or your attorney will need the following:
Bear in mind, due to all kinds of legal protections against black market trading, terrorism, and other illegal activity, US banks will want to be able to verify that you’re not breaking any laws or planning to break any. For this reason, any extra documentation (such as proof of income to show where your money is coming from) will smooth the process for you as a foreign citizen.
Alternative to opening your bank in the US
For some countries, you may have branches of US banks in your area. Banks such as Chase, Western Union, and Wells Fargo have an international presence, and you may be able to open up your bank account in person at one of these locations.
Now that you have the legal standing to sell products as an American company, make sure you know how your business model works!
If you don’t know what to sell, here’s how to decide which products to sell on Amazon. This article goes over the process of finding a profitable niche.
When you’re ready to take all the guesswork out of finding the right niche, learn about how to use our product research tool for free. Stop wasting time and money trying to compete in saturated markets. Instead, use this powerful keyword analysis platform to find products with high demand and low competition.
If you already know about the differences between dropshipping, wholesaling, retail arbitrage, and private labelling, skip this part. But if you haven’t decided on how you plan to buy and sell physical products, you’ll want to figure out which e-commerce business model works for you. Any of these options can work from abroad, though retail arbitrage is often too expensive to be worth your time and money.
For a number of reasons, China may not be the best choice anymore to source products from. If you still don’t know where you’re getting your goods, you’ll want to read about different sourcing options for e-commerce.
Now that you have the rest figured out, how do you ship everything? We’ve covered this topic in detail in two articles. First, learn how to get your products from the factory to FBA by employing a freight forwarder.
Next, there are a ton of freight forwarding options, so once you understand what a freight forwarder is, you’ll want to know how to choose the best freight forwarder for Amazon FBA. Once you get the product made and sent to FBA, Amazon will take care of shipping for you.
Well, what are you waiting for?
Now that you know how to set up your business outside the US, it’s time to get started! Get your business registered and bank account opened, open your seller account, and get your system set up to ship products from your factory of choice and import them into the US. It might seem complicated at first, but just take it one step at a time and you’ll be a top seller in no time!
Remember, if you don’t have a product picked out yet, you’re invited to use some of Massview’s research tools, including our product research tool – free of charge!