Do you want to start a business in Florida as a foreigner? If YES, here is a detailed guide on how to start a profitable business in Florida with no money. Florida is the southeastern-most U.S. state, with the Atlantic on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. This state which has been nicknamed the Sunshine State boasts of hundreds of miles of beaches.

The sun and beaches are not the only favorable aspects of the city of Florida, as the state perennially ranks as one of the best states to do business in with its favorable business tax policies, world-class infrastructure, flexible enterprise zones, tax credits for R&D and abundance of major cities such as Miami, Jacksonville and Tampa.

The state’s economy relies mainly on tourism (because of the sun and beaches), agriculture, and transportation. Florida is also renowned for its amusement parks, orange crops, winter vegetables, the Kennedy Space Center, and as a popular destination for retirees because of the warm climate. Florida is the third most populous state in the US, surpassing New York with over 19.7 million people, making it a good place to start a business.

Florida’s corporate business tax is one of the lowest in the nation, allowing you to invest more money into your business. Till date, Florida has the second-highest density of startup businesses in the U.S., with more than 100 startups per 1,000 total firms. Plenty of new entrepreneurs either flock to or crop up in the state, particularly Miami.

Starting a business in Florida as a foreigner is quite possible (many have already done it successfully), but there are rules to be followed when forming an entity that is legal for a foreigner to operate. We are going to show you the steps you need to follow when you want to start a business in Florida as a foreigner.

12 Steps to Starting a Business in Florida With No Money as a Foreigner

  1. Decide on a Business Structure

Before starting a business anywhere, you have to first decide on the legal entity you want to set up your business as. You need to research very well into this aspect if you are trying to set up a business in a foreign land. In Florida, there are certain business structures that foreigners are allowed to build their business on. Let’s look at them.

Corporate Entities that Non-Residents Can Operate

Non-citizens can currently form two types of business entities in Florida. They include;

  • Corporation (C corp)

A Corporation is a business structure that provides liability protection to the owners. Its structure includes shareholders, directors and officers. This business structure is complex, but it is highly favored by large companies and startups that intend to raise funding for their business. Some professions are required to choose what is known as a “Professional Corporation” or PC (doctors, lawyers, architects, etc.)

  • Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC or “Limited Liability Company” is a separate entity that provides very easy management (doesn’t require directors or officers) and taxation. This newer entity has largely replaced the Corporation in popularity as it provides liability protection but with much less complexity (and taxation) than a Corporation.

Under Florida law, an LLC name must contain the words “Limited Company” or “Limited Liability Company,” or the abbreviations “L.C.” or “L.L.C.” The word “Limited” can be shortened to “Ltd.” and “Company” may be abbreviated as “Co.”

Your LLC’s name must be recognizably different from the names of other business entities already on file with the Florida Division of Corporations. Names may be checked for availability by searching the Department of State: Division of Corporations business name database. You may not reserve a name before organizing your LLC.

  • S corporation

Many people recommend that foreigners should form S corporations instead because this business formation comes with a number of benefits. However, this type of business entity is only available to foreigners who are permanent residents and citizens.

Although foreigners are usually encouraged to form C corporations, it’s worth looking at the advantages of forming a business as an LLC. The first and most appealing benefit is limited personal liability, which means that the owner(s) of the business are shielded from liability for any business obligations, debts, actions and decisions. If the LLC is sued, the owner(s) would generally only be responsible up to the amount they invested in the business.

An LLC also doesn’t have the same regulations imposed on it for recordkeeping that corporations are required to follow. The owners of an LLC, called members, have few restrictions on how the profits will be split between them. Although an LLC is an appealing business formation, many new business owners choose to form C corporations.

One of the main advantages of this business structure is the option to offer an unlimited number of stock shares, which can help the company grow more rapidly. This aspect of the formation often appeals to investors.

Foreigners starting businesses in Florida also appreciate the protection offered by the C Corporation structure, which prevents the IRS from being too heavily involved in their business. Although the IRS won’t be as involved, the trade-off is double taxation.

With thorough planning for the tax requirements, you can structure the financials of the company to avoid being double taxed and prevent major financial troubles. All LLCs organized outside of Florida must register with the Florida Secretary of State to do business in Florida.

Foreign LLCs must appoint a registered agent for service of process physically located in Florida. To register, file a Qualification of Foreign LLC with the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations. The completed application must be accompanied by a Certificate of Existence from the foreign LLC’s home state, dated no more than 90 days prior to the filing of the certificate. The filing fee is $125.

2. Pick a Business Name

The next step to take while starting a business in Florida as a foreigner is to choose a name for your business. You have to be careful here when picking your business as this singular act, if done wrongly can land you in a lot of legal troubles.

When choosing a name, make sure that the name of your business is unique, easy to understand and pronounce. You may need to practice saying it loud to see if it is catchy. To help you come up with a unique name, you may have to search Google, Bing and DuckDuckGo to make sure the name you chose is in the clear.

Do a trademark search with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This will be a very good indicator if your name will have any conflicts. This will help you stay clear of names that are already patented.

You should also make sure your company name choice is available by searching the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations business name database. Note: Make sure to search variations of spelling, plurals and misspellings as the state may reject a name that is too similar.

Once you pick an appropriate name, you have to pay $50 to officially register it. Note that names cannot be reserved—they’re awarded on a first-come, first served basis, so if you have a good idea, submit it quickly.

3. Register Your DBA 

This step is technically optional, but if you want to conduct business with a company that has a name other than your official personal one, you’ll want to invest in registering a fictitious name, or DBA (doing business as). For example, if your name is Jerry Khan and you want to open a barbershop, you may coin a business name out of your real name, like Jerry’s cuts. To make this happen, you need to register your DBA.

How to File a DBA in Florida
  • DBAs in Florida can be registered through the sunbiz.org portal.
  • Search your desired business name in the sunbiz.org fictitious name database.
  • Register your name with the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations

4. Set Up Your Business to Pay Taxes

Most businesses pay federal, state, and local (and sometimes city) taxes, so you should find out which of the taxes your business is required to pay.

Federal business taxes are collected by the IRS. These taxes generally include: income tax, estimated taxes, self-employment taxes, employment taxes, and excise tax. You can review all the required taxes (for example, income tax is a requirement for all businesses except partnerships), notable exceptions, and necessary forms on the IRS website, or visit a local IRS office to get more information.

State business taxes are collected by Florida’s Department of Revenue. They generally include: sales and use tax, reemployment (formerly known as unemployment) tax, corporate income tax, and other taxes. You have to register to collect or remit taxes online, which you can do here.

Local business taxes are collected by local county tax collectors. Each county requires you to pay taxes to operate within them.

City business taxes aren’t collected by every city, but some require you to pay taxes in order to operate within their limits. The municipal directory can point you in the right direction; then, contact your city officials for more information.

5. Get a Registered Agent

A Registered Agent is required for every Florida Corporation and LLC. The chosen registered agent must have a physical street address in Florida. While you can serve as your own registered agent, it will make your personal information visible to the public.

A professional Registered Agent who will provide their address and forward any important documents to you. This is convenient if you have to move, since you won’t have to file forms or pay fees, (just update your address with your agent). Note that you have to get a registered agent before you can complete filing your business structure.

6. Obtain a Business License, If Necessary

Before you begin starting a business in Florida, pay attention to the specific business licenses you may need. There are two main licensing agencies for “skilled trades”: The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) and The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS).

The DBPR provides licenses for a wide variety of professional services, including, but not limited to: architects, barbers, geologists, home inspectors, restaurants and food vendors, and veterinarians.

You have to keep in mind that just because you work in one of these industries mentioned above doesn’t mean you necessarily need a license. It depends on what you do, exactly. For example, a geologist working as a teacher or researcher without affecting the health or welfare of the public doesn’t need a license; one that performs professional “geological work” does.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation website has information regarding business licensing in Florida. It also has a list of types of businesses that require special licensing.

7. Prepare and submit Articles of Organization to the state of Florida

As you are moving on in the process of setting of your business in Florida, you must have generated a lot of papers and documents. All these documents and papers need to be brought together and properly notarized. After the documents are signed by the required persons, you need to submit it to the state of Florida.

8. Obtain your Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN or “EIN”)

Your EIN is like your Social Security Number for your company. It’s required for Corporations and LLC’s and optional for DBA’s (if you don’t have any employees, then it’s required). However, if you are a DBA and don’t obtain an EIN, you will be forced to use your Social Security Number on many documents so it’s typically recommended you obtain the EIN to prevent identity theft.

To obtain an EIN you can apply online with the IRS or via IRS Form SS-4.

9. Open Company Accounts: Bank and Credit Cards

To keep business and personal expenses separate, you should open a separate account for your business. In addition, getting business credit cards is how you begin to build a company credit profile (corporation or LLC required) and your business can later qualify for larger loans and lines of credit.

To open the account, simply call your chosen bank and inquire on the steps to open a business bank account. Typically you’ll need your filed paperwork, your EIN and a company resolution authorizing your company to open the account (signed by the owners, members, officers or directors, etc.).

10. Ongoing Requirements For your Business

DBA: Your Fictitious Business Name should be valid for 5 years unless you change company name or other information listed on the FBN. At this point you’ll need to renew it with the county.

LLC: All Florida LLCs must file an Annual Report yearly to maintain “active” status. The first report is due in the year following formation. The report must be filed online between January 1st and May 1st. The fee for the annual report is $138.75. After May 1st, a $400 late fee is added to the annual report filing fee. “Annual Report Reminder Notices” are sent to the LLC’s email address you provide when you submit this document for filing.

Corporation: Every year you’ll need to file the “Statement of Information” or Annual report which updates the state on your business address and other things. Florida corporations can efile. There is a $400 late fee for all for-profit corporations who do not make the May 1 deadline.

Franchise Taxes: Florida requires a franchise tax due on the last day of the month in April, June, and September, as well as on the last day of the tax year. This is calculated as a percentage of the company’s net income for that year.

11. Pick a Location

For most business people, picking a location is one of the first things they do, even before incorporating the business. But before you pick out a location, you must have to carry out thorough research so you don’t make a mistake. From Tallahassee to Miami, take your time and consider the pros and cons of each business location wisely. You may need to get a lot of advise especially from locals so as to know the peculiarities of where you want to start a business.

12. Fund Your Business

If you’re opening a business in this modern era, there are certain bases you need to cover regardless of whether you’re starting a business in Florida, Alaska, or most places in between. If you need a little extra capital to get started, there are many options out there. Between crowdfunding, SBA loans, credit cards, and short-term loans, there are a few ways a new business owner can find the money they need to start up.

Florida’s Small Business Development Center is a great place to start. They offer free financial advising for new entrepreneurs and can help you decide which funding options are right for you.

Keep in mind that not all small business loans will be available to a new business owner, but the Small Business Development Center can help guide you in the right direction. You need to find out first of all if these funds cater to foreigners, and if they do not, find out those that can cover you.

If a business loan is too much of a commitment for you, consider a business credit card with a 0% APR introductory rate. A 0% rate can act as an interest-free loan while you’re getting up and running, as long as you pay back what you owe before your introductory period ends.

Visa Requirement for a U.S./Florida Based Business

Many foreigners wonder whether they are required to obtain visas to form businesses in the united states. Although a visa isn’t a requirement to operate a business, it is a requirement to live in the United States, so it’s best to obtain one before you start your company. Foreigners have several visa options. The most popular option for an entrepreneur is the E-2 visa.

If you obtain an E-2 visa, the term is two years. After that term is up, you will need to apply to extend the status in two-year increments. In order to qualify for an E-2 visa, you must meet several requirements: You must show proof that you own 50 percent of your business or more (that you have a controlling share).

You must be a citizen of one of the countries under the Treaty of Navigation, Commerce or Friendship with the United States (for a full list of countries that fall under these treaties, visit the Department of State’s Treaty Countries website).

You must either be planning to invest or have already invested a large amount of capital in a business based in the United States. Currently, no dollar amount limit is set for an investment, but it’s more challenging to obtain this visa if the amount is less than $100,000. The investment amount must also be a large portion of what you have.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What Permits Do You Need To Start A Business In Florida?

The permits you would need to start a business in Florida is dependent on the business you want to start, but it is important to note that there is no general state of Florida business permit; however, all the cities require a zonal permit in order to operate.

  1. What Licenses Do You Need To Start A Business In Florida?

In Florida, you would need a business license/occupational license or business tax receipt to start a business.

  1. How Do You Start An LLC Business In Florida?
  • Choose a Name for Your LLC.
  • Appoint a Registered Agent.
  • File Articles of Organization.
  • Prepare an Operating Agreement.
  • Obtain an EIN.
  • File Annual Reports.
  1. How Do You Start A Property Management Company In Florida?
  • Conduct your market survey and feasibility studies
  • Learn everything you need to learn about owning and operating a property management company in Florida
  • Choose a name and register the business
  • Draft a detailed Business Plan
  • Secure the needed licenses and permits
  • Apply for an EIN (Employer Identification Number)/Federal Tax ID Number.
  • Open a corporate bank account
  • Lease, equip and furnish your office facility
  • Hire employees
  • Market and promote your services
  1. What Is Articles Of Incorporation in the State Of Florida?

Florida Law requires that any new company wishing to incorporate in the state of Florida file articles of incorporation with the Florida Department of State. The articles of incorporation is the document that establishes the formation of the company.

  1. How Do You Obtain A Business License In Florida?
  • Check with your County Tax Collector to see if you need a license.
  • Register your business with the Department of Revenue.
  • Register with the IRS.
  • Corporate entities or fictitious name registrants should register with the Department of State.
  • Appl for your license.
  1. What Is The Processing Time To Form Your Florida LLC?

Florida LLC Articles of Organization are processed in the order they are received, and can take up from 2 to 4 weeks. Please note that Florida typically processes online filings in around 8 business days, and paper filings can take a week or so.

  1. What Is A Good Business To Start In Florida?

Here are 10 good businesses to start in Florida;

  • Pedicab business
  • Roof and duct cleaning business
  • Rage room business
  • Fashion truck business
  • Seafood business
  • Open a Jazz club
  • Air ambulance busines
  • Pilot car business
  • Indoor go kart business
  • Open a gym
  1. How Do You Start A Cleaning Business In Florida?
  • Conduct your market survey and feasibility studies
  • Learn everything you need to learn about owning and operating a property management company in Florida
  • Choose a name and register the business
  • Draft a detailed Business Plan
  • Secure the needed licenses and permits
  • Apply for an EIN (Employer Identification Number)/Federal Tax ID Number.
  • Open a corporate bank account
  • Lease, equip and furnish your office facility
  • Purchase your Start-up inventory
  • Hire employees
  • Market and promote your services
  1. How Much Does It Cost To Register A Business In Florida?

The basic total cost of forming or registering an LLC in Florida is $125, which includes the fees for filing the Articles of Organization and the registered agent designation.

  1. How Much Does It Cost To Register A Florida DBA Name?

Registering a DBA name in Florida requires payment of $50, whether done online or via mail. A Certificate of Status costs an additional $10, and a certified copy costs $30.

  1. How Do You Get A Vendor’s License In Florida?

The primary step in acquiring a sales tax or vendor’s license is filing a seller’s permit application. Florida allows you to either file the Florida Business Tax Application (DR-1) online or download the form and submit it at a taxpayer service center or directly to the Department of Revenue.

  1. How Much Does It Cost To Get A Vendor’s License In Florida?

A license is available for as little as one day on up to a year. The fees start at $95 for a one- to three- day license, $105 for a four- to 30-day license, and $1,000 for an annual license.

  1. Does A Sole Proprietor Need A Business License In Florida?

Unlike other business entities, you don’t need to file anything or take any formal actions to form a sole proprietorship in Florida. It’s the default business structure for any new entity in Florida. That said, you will still need to obtain the necessary permits and licenses required by your jurisdiction and industry.

  1. What License Do You Need To Open A Restaurant In Florida?
  • Business License.
  • Liquor License.
  • Foodservice License.
  • Employee Identification Number (EIN)
  • Food Handler’s Permit.
  • Sign Permit.
  1. How Much Is A Restaurant License In Florida?

The process should take about a month, and it includes a $50 fee.

  1. How Much Is A Peddler’s License In Florida?

The average fee for a peddler is $75.13.

  1. How Much Is A Seller’s Permit In Florida?

There is no cost for a sales tax permit in the state of Florida when registering online, however, there is a $5 fee if applying by mail.

  1. Do I Need A Sellers Permit To Sell Online In Florida?

Among the 45 states with sales tax, all except Florida and Missouri now require online sellers to obtain a seller’s permit or sales and use tax permit. In most of these states, however, the requirement applies to businesses with taxable sales of at least $100,000 or 200 transactions within the state.

  1. How Do I Get A Food Permit In Florida?

You must obtain a permit from the DOACS to process food for sale to the public. To obtain information/requirements for a food permit, please call 850-488-3951 or visit the DOACS Food Inspections.

  1. Do Independent Contractors Need A Business License In Florida?

Licenses are a necessary part of doing business in Florida hence an independent contractor will need a business license to operate in Florida. However, it may not be mandatory in some cities.

  1. Do You Have To Pay For LLC Every Year?

The LLC annual fee is an ongoing fee paid to the state to keep your LLC in compliance and in good standing. It’s usually paid every 1 or 2 years, depending on the state. This fee is required, regardless of your LLC’s income or activity.

  1. What Are Florida’s New Hire Reporting Requirements?

State and federal law (409.2576, Florida Statutes and 42 United States Code 653A) require Florida employers to report newly-hired and re-hired employees to the Florida New Hire Reporting Center within 20 days of the employee’s start date.

  1. What Licenses Are Needed To Start A Food Truck In Florida?

Your Florida food permit application isn’t the only license you need for a food truck or mobile vendor service. Food trucks must get a general business license and a mobile food establishment permit to sell food from a mobile cart or food truck.

  1. Do You Need A License For A Cleaning Business In Florida?

The state of Florida requires all businesses to register with the state through the Department of Revenue. While there is not a specific license needed to run a cleaning business, but you will need to obtain a business license from the state.

  1. What Is A Notice To Owner Form Florida?

A Notice to Owner (NTO) is a written notice prescribed by Florida Statute (713.06) that officially advises the owner of an improvement that the sender is looking to the owner to be sure the sender is paid before payment is made to the contractor.

  1. Do I Need Insurance For My LLC In Florida?

Business insurance isn’t required by Florida state law except for workers’ compensation.

  1. How Long Does It Take To Get A Liquor License In Florida?

Completed applications must be processed within 90 days, but if you follow all the directions on the application and the license is not complex, then you could receive your license much sooner.

  1. Can You Rent A Liquor License In Florida?

Once you purchase your liquor license you will have freedom to do what you want as long as it’s in the county where you received it. Those who are unprepared to buy their own permit have the option to rent one.

  1. Can You Sell Food From Home In Florida?

You may sell your cottage food products from your residence directly to the consumer. Sales are also approved at farmers’ markets, flea markets and roadside stands, provided you have no other food items in your space that require a food permit.

  1. How Do You Start A Business In Florida With No Money?
  • Loan from family members and friends
  • Liquidate some assets.
  • Find a partner.
  • Tap your credit line or retirement funds.
  • Start small.
  • Leverage on freebies
  1. Do I Need A Sales Tax Permit In Florida?

In general, you need a sales tax permit in Florida if you have a physical presence or meet economic nexus requirements.

  1. How Much Does It Cost To Get A Food License In Florida?

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation charges a fee to issue permits. You do have a few choices on how much to pay. If you want a temporary license, the fee is $455.00. The permanent license fee is $1820.

  1. How Many Small Businesses Are There In Florida?

There are about 2.5 million small businesses in Florida. They make up 99.8% of all businesses in the state and employ 3.3 million workers, which is about 42.2% of the state’s private sector workforce.

  1. Do LLCs Pay Taxes In Florida?

Florida is a tax-friendly state that does not impose an income tax on individuals, and has a 6% sales tax. Corporations that do business in Florida are subject to a 5.5% income tax. However, LLCs, sole proprietorships and S corporations are, however, exempt from paying state income tax.

  1. Can I Start A Catering Business From Home In Florida?

No. Florida law prohibits conducting food establishment operations in a private home, a room used as living or sleeping quarters, or an area directly opening into a room used as living or sleeping quarters.

  1. Which Payroll Service Is Best For Small Business In Florida?
  • OnPay: Best for Very Small Businesses.
  • ADP: Best for Complex Businesses.
  • Gusto Payroll Software: Best for Added HR Services.
  • Deluxe: Best for Consultative Approach to Payroll.
  • Square Payroll: Best for Payroll Tax Preparation.
  • Zenefits: Best Payroll Module in HR Software Suite.
  • Paycor: Best for Employee Self-Service.
  1. What Is The Business Registration Process?
  • Choose business structure.
  • Find a location.
  • Register your business name.
  • Register with the IRS.
  • Register with state and local agencies.
  • Apply for licenses and permits.
  1. Is An LLC The Same As A Business License?

No. While an LLC operates on state statutes, getting a business license is much more specific. Licensees are authorized to operate in a geographical area — most commonly the county or city in which you are based. Both federal and state licenses may be necessary, but state licensing rules vary greatly.

  1. How Do You Change A Sole Proprietorship To An LLC?
  • Check your business name.
  • File articles of organization.
  • Write an LLC operating agreement.
  • Announce your LLC.
  • Apply for a new bank account.
  • Get business licenses and permits.
  1. How Do You Find A Company’s Registered Agent?

To find a company’s registered agent, you would need to go online to search for one or look through your state’s business directories.

  1. What Is A 4COP Liquor License In Florida?

4COP SFS license: “SFS” stands for “special food service.” This is a full liquor license (beer, wine and spirits/hard liquor) for a restaurant with at least 2,500 square feet and space to serve 150 people at one time, for on-premise consumption only.

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