Things Europeans Need to Know Before Starting a Business in America

Looking to take your business to the United States? Read our complete guide to gain a deeper understanding of launching your business in the U.S.

European entrepreneurs are increasingly drawn to the vast opportunities offered by the United States – a country with a vibrant economy and rich tapestry of cultures. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that approximately 33.2 million small companies to be operating in the country in 2023. This highlights the attractiveness of the U.S. market.

So, what’s driving this interest? Having the greatest economy in the world, the US boasts a GDP of over 24.4 trillion which is expected to rise by 2.1% by the end of 2023. This opens up a wide range of opportunities across numerous businesses. However, navigating the American business landscape can be like a maze.

In this blog, we’ll simplify the challenges that European entrepreneurs might encounter when starting their ventures in the United States. We’ll arm you with the knowledge you need to succeed, from understanding the diverse American market to dealing with legal restrictions, taxes, immigration obstacles, cultural differences, and more.

Understanding the American Market

The American market spans an entire continent and is very diverse, with a wide range of locations, cultures, and demographics. From bustling urban centers to calm rural towns, and from the East Coast to the West Coast, the market’s diversity is striking. Understanding this diversity is paramount for success, and it all begins with thorough market research.

Market Diversity

The United States is home to people from all walks of life, with varying tastes, preferences, and needs. What works in one part of the country might not in another. This is where market research comes in. Comprehensive research helps you identify who your target audience is and what they want.

It enables you to tailor your products or services to meet their specific needs and preferences. Localization, which means adapting your products or services to resonate with local cultures and norms, can make all the difference in connecting with your American customers.

Legal and Regulatory Differences

American business regulations can be complex, and they often vary from state to state. The U.S. legal system operates on two levels: federal and state. Federal laws apply uniformly across the country, but states also have their own sets of rules. Understanding these differences is crucial.

Depending on your business’s location and nature, you may need to comply with specific state regulations in addition to federal ones. This challenge emphasizes how crucial it is to seek legal assistance in order to successfully negotiate the regulatory maze.

Consumer Behavior

American consumer behavior is as diverse as the country itself, and what motivates someone in New York City may be entirely different from what motivates someone in a small town in Texas. To succeed in the American market, you must analyze these behavior patterns and preferences. 

Knowing how Americans make purchasing decisions, what influences them, and what they value can help you tailor your products or services effectively. It’s about speaking their language, understanding their needs, and offering solutions that resonate with them.

Business Structure and Incorporation

Choosing the right business structure and navigating the incorporation process is a crucial step in setting up a business in the United States. 

Business Structures

You have several options when it comes to structuring your business, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

LLCs: LLCs offer flexibility, limited liability protection, and pass-through taxation. Owners, known as members, can enjoy personal asset protection.

Corporations: Corporations have well-established corporate governance, the ability to obtain capital through the selling of shares, and strong liability protection. However, they come with more complex compliance and taxation.

Partnerships: Partnerships are collaborative businesses that involve two or more people. Although they provide simplicity, they may subject partners to private liability.

Ultimately, your choice of business entity should align with your business goals, liability concerns, and tax considerations. Consulting with a legal professional is highly advisable to make an informed decision.

Incorporation Process

The process of incorporating your business in the United States involves several steps and requirements:

  • Choose a Business Name: Select a unique name that complies with state naming rules.
  • File Articles of Incorporation: Prepare and submit the required documents, which may vary by state, to officially register your business.
  • Appoint Directors or Members: Depending on your business structure, you’ll need to appoint directors (corporations) or members (LLCs).
  • Obtain an EIN: An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is necessary for tax purposes and hiring employees.
  • Register for State Taxes: You might need to register for state taxes depending on your location and type of business.
  • Comply with Licenses and Permits: Ensure you possess the licenses and permits required for your particular industry and location.
  • Draft Bylaws or Operating Agreements: These documents outline how your business will operate, including decision-making processes and responsibilities.

Taxation and Considerations

Understanding the U.S. tax system and implementing sound financial planning are essential for European entrepreneurs looking to succeed in America.

The U.S. tax system is multifaceted, comprising both federal and state taxes. Here are the key components:

  1. Federal Income Tax

Rates for federal income tax are dependent on an individual’s or business’s income. To maximize deductions and credits, you need to have a full understanding of the complex tax code.

  1. State Income Tax:

State income taxes vary by state, with some having no income tax at all. It’s vital to be aware of your state’s tax regulations, as they significantly impact your overall tax liability.

  1. Sales Tax:

Sales tax is imposed on the sale of most goods and some services. Rates and rules vary by state, making compliance complex for businesses operating in multiple states.

  1. Corporate taxes:

Depending on how they are set up, businesses may be required to pay federal corporate income tax. Additionally, some states impose their own corporate taxes.

Financial Planning

A successful business initiative in the US is built on solid financial planning.

  1. Budgeting:

Make a thorough budget that takes into consideration all business costs, such as taxes, employee pay, marketing, and more. Review the budget frequently and make necessary adjustments.

  1. Cash Flow Management:

Maintain a healthy cash flow by monitoring income and expenses. Having a backup for unexpected expenses is crucial.

  1. Hire a Certified Accountant:

Considering the intricacy of the US tax system, hiring a professional accountant is strongly advised. They can support you with financial planning, tax compliance, and tax planning.

  1. Tax Planning:

Strategically plan your business transactions to minimize tax liability. This may involve deductions, credits, and proper record-keeping.

  1. Compliance:

Stay diligent in complying with all tax obligations. Missing deadlines or failing to meet tax requirements can lead to penalties and legal issues.

Cultural and Business Etiquette

For European businessmen, knowing American business and cultural etiquette is just as important as knowing its legal and financial requirements. American communication is defined by a plain and direct attitude. In both professional and social settings, Americans respect communication that is concise, clear, and straightforward. what you need to know:

Directness: Americans tend to be direct in their communication. They appreciate honesty and expect others to express their thoughts and ideas openly. In business negotiations, being transparent about your intentions and expectations is appreciated.

Clarity: Clarity is vital in American communication. Avoiding ambiguity and using simple, plain language helps ensure that your message is easily understood. When discussing business matters, get to the point and avoid unnecessary jargon.

Active Listening: In conversations, active listening is highly valued. This means giving your full attention to the speaker, asking clarifying questions, and providing feedback when necessary. It shows respect and engagement in the discussion.

Punctuality: Being on time is an indication of professionalism. Punctuality is anticipated for all meetings, appointments, and deadlines.

Respect for Personal Space: Americans generally have a high sense of personal space. It’s essential to respect physical boundaries during conversations and meetings.

Handshakes: Handshakes are a common greeting in the U.S., both in business and social settings. When you meet someone for the first time, maintain eye contact and extend a firm, welcoming handshake.

Email Etiquette: In written communication, use proper salutations, concise subject lines, and a polite tone. Respond to emails promptly.

Access to Funding and Resources

Securing funding is a critical aspect of launching and growing a business in the United States. Fortunately, there are various sources of funding and valuable resources available to European entrepreneurs.

Venture Capital: 

Venture capital firms invest in promising startups with high growth potential. They provide not only financial resources but also expertise and networks to help businesses scale rapidly.

Angel Investors:

Angel investors are individuals who provide capital to startups in exchange for equity ownership. They often bring valuable industry knowledge and mentorship.

Bank Loans:

Traditional bank loans are a common source of funding for small businesses. These loans can help with initial capital or expansion plans.


Platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow entrepreneurs to raise funds from a broad audience. Crowdfunding can be particularly effective for product-based startups.

Government Grants and Programs:

The U.S. government offers various grants and programs to support businesses, particularly in research, development, and innovation.

Incubators and Accelerators:

Joining an incubator or accelerator program can give you access to a network of like-minded entrepreneurs as well as funds, coaching, and office space.

Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans:

The SBA offers loan programs specifically designed to assist small businesses. These loans often have favorable terms and lower interest rates.

Visa Options

European entrepreneurs have several visa options, each with its own set of requirements and benefits:

  1. E-2 Investor Visa: This visa is suitable for those who plan to invest a significant amount of capital in a U.S. business. It normally lasts for two to five years, with the option of renewal, and enables people to run and expand their business in the United States.
  2. L-1 Intracompany Transfer Visa: If you’re already operating a business in Europe and wish to expand to the United States, the L-1 visa is the option for you. It allows for the transfer of managers, executives, or employees with specialized knowledge to a U.S. branch or affiliate of the same company.

Immigration Process

The immigration procedure can be challenging to navigate, and there is no set schedule. Let’s take a look at a general overview:

  • Determine which visa aligns with your business plans and qualifications.
  • Establish or acquire a qualifying U.S. business, as some visas require an active business presence.
  • For the E-2 visa, make the required capital investment in the U.S. business.
  • Contact the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to submit the required visa petition.
  • Attend an interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. Prepare comprehensive documentation to support your visa application.
  • If approved, you’ll receive your visa. The duration and terms vary based on the type of visa.

Contact us

Get in touch with one of our specialists today and see how we can help you establish your company in the US and Europe. We offer consultations and our experienced team of advisors would love to hear from you. It’s as easy as picking up the phone. 

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