What Do I Need to Do for My International Business to Operate in Florida?

International Business

Registering an international business in Florida involves several steps, tailored to ensure compliance with both state and federal laws. This detailed guide will walk you through the essential phases, including initial considerations, registration steps, obtaining necessary permits, and ongoing compliance. Let's break down the process.

  1. Initial Considerations

Choosing a Business Structure

  • Corporation (C-Corp) Ideal for businesses seeking to raise capital through the sale of shares. S-Corps offer tax benefits but are limited to 100 shareholders, who must be U.S. citizens or residents. C-Corps are subject to double taxation but provide more flexibility in terms of shareholders.
  • S-Corp: S-Corp isn’t a legal structure, it’s a tax designation. It can also be applied to LLCs. It’s an important consideration based on some of the limitations but also for the tax benefits. As an additional note, currently, S-Corp designation is not available for foreign ownership structure. A skilled business attorney and tax professional can work to utilize it for maximum benefits.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC): Provides flexibility and protection from personal liability. LLCs are pass-through entities for tax purposes, meaning the business itself is not taxed, but the profits are taxed on the members' personal tax returns.
  • Partnership: Suitable for businesses with multiple owners. Types include General Partnerships (GP) and Limited Partnerships (LP), with LPs offering limited liability protection for some partners.

Naming Your Business

  • Compliance: The name must not infringe on trademarks and should not imply an association with government agencies.
  • Distinctiveness: It should be easily distinguishable from other business names on record with the Florida Division of Corporations.
  • Suffix: Depending on your business structure, a suffix such as "LLC," "Inc.," or "Corp." is required.
  1. Registration Steps

Appointing a Registered Agent

  • Requirements: Must have a physical Florida address (P.O. boxes are not acceptable) and be available during normal business hours.
  • Purpose: To receive official and legal correspondence on behalf of the business.

Filing the Necessary Forms

  • Articles of Organization (LLCs): Include the LLC name, principal office address, registered agent information, and the names of the managing members or managers.
  • Articles of Incorporation (Corporations): Require details such as corporate name, purpose, authorized shares, par value, registered agent, and incorporator information.

Obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

  • Application: Free and available on the IRS website.
  • Necessity: Required for tax purposes, hiring employees, and opening a business bank account.
  1. Obtaining Necessary Licenses and Permits
  • Research: Utilize the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) and local city/county websites to identify required licenses.
  • Varies by Industry: Specific industries such as healthcare, real estate, and food services have distinct licensing requirements.
  1. Registering with the Florida Department of Revenue
  • For Tax Purposes: Necessary if you are hiring employees, selling goods, leasing property, or providing taxable services in Florida.
  • Sales Tax & Employer Taxes: Registration allows you to collect sales tax and pay state employer taxes.
  1. Compliance with U.S. Laws
  • Export Controls: Managed by the Bureau of Industry and Security for goods exported from the U.S.
  • FATCA: Foreign entities must report U.S. financial accounts and assets to avoid withholding taxes.
  1. Opening a U.S. Bank Account
  • Challenges for Non-Residents: Physical presence in the U.S. and documentation such as EIN, passport, and proof of business registration in Florida are typically required.
  • Significance: Essential for handling transactions and establishing financial credibility in the U.S.
  1. Ongoing Compliance
  • Annual Reports: Filed with the Florida Division of Corporations to keep your business information current and maintain good standing.
  • License Renewal: Ensure all professional and operational licenses are renewed as required.

Practical Example

Imagine "Global Tech Innovations Ltd.," a UK-based tech firm, deciding to establish a subsidiary in Florida. They opt for an LLC, "Global Tech Innovations USA, LLC," after ensuring the name is unique via Florida's Division of Corporations. They appoint a commercial registered agent service in Orlando. Filing their Articles of Organization online, they include detailed information about their business operations intended for Florida. Following this, they secure an EIN from the IRS, enabling them to tackle the next steps: applying for a software development license through the DBPR, registering for taxes with the Florida Department of Revenue, and finally opening a business bank account with a major U.S. bank using their UK passports, business documentation, and EIN for verification.


Expanding an international business into Florida requires navigating a series of bureaucratic and legal steps, from choosing the correct business structure to maintaining compliance with state and federal laws. While the process is complex, thorough planning, adherence to guidelines, and possibly engaging with legal and financial advisors can streamline the process, ensuring a successful establishment of your business in the Florida market. If you have questions or need guidance getting your business set up for success, contact the Business lawyers at MSD Business for a free consultation.

Additional References:

Sunbiz.org; Division of Corporations

Understanding the Corporate Transparency Act of 2024: Requirements for Business Owners and Professionals. Author: W. Chase Carpenter, February 13, 2024.

About the Author:

A person in a suit and tie

Description automatically generated Chase Carpenter is a partner in the Business Division of Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A.. His practice revolves around business transactions and business litigation. Mr. Carpenter handles a wide range of cases including contract drafting, partnership disputes, commercial leases, and construction litigation. These cases encompass diverse industries, including healthcare, technology, real estate investment, and government contracting.

About the Firm:

The Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A., also known as MSD Business, is a local business law firm in Tampa, FL, serving clients throughout Fort Lauderdale and statewide. Our firm has a long history of helping clients navigate all types of complex legal matters, including local and state tax issues. In our business law practice, we assist clients with everything from mergers and acquisitions to contract disputes, business litigation, general counsel, and more.