Global Business GuideUSA

From Global Connections

This is one of a series of Global Business Guides designed for businesses wishing to expand into another country/territory. This Global Business Guide was produced in January 2016. The materials contained in this document provide a snapshot at that time and were based on the law enforceable and information available at that time.


The United States (U.S.) is the world's largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the world, according to the UNCTAD's World Investment Trends Monitor. FDI flows into the U.S. amounted to USD384 billion in 2015.

The U.S. ranked seventh in the World Bank's 2016 Doing Business rankings, retaining the same rank it held in the year prior. The U.S.' strengths were highlighted in the following topics: Getting Credit, and Resolving Insolvency, where it ranked second and fifth, respectively.

Key facts about starting a business in the U.S.:

  • The time needed to start a business varies according to state. However, it takes six procedures and approximately four days to start a business in New York; this process is detailed in the Doing Business in chapter
  • The statutory minimum wage in the United States is set at a nationwide level of USD7.25 per hour; employment regulations are discussed in detail in the Labour chapter
  • Corporation tax is levied at both the federal and state level; further detailed in the Tax chapter
  • In most cases, financial statements are prepared in accordance with the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP); further details can be found in the Audit chapter
  • There are three national securities exchanges in the United States that are available to overseas companies: the NASDAQ Stock Market (NASDAQ), the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the NYSE Amex; this is discussed further in the Finance chapter

The U.S.' attractiveness as a business destination can be attributed to a number of factors, including its strong and efficient legal system, its large domestic market and skilled labour force. Nevertheless, in order to make an informed decision, it is critical to understand the nuances of any local regime. The manner in which people conduct business in the U.S. may differ from the home countries of investors. Furthermore, variations on these distinctions may exist depending on the industry in which a company operates.

The U.S. has no official language. However, American English is the primary language spoken by the population and therefore the lingua franca of business. The U.S.' culture is characterised by individualism and diversity and, as such, business structures and cultures vary significantly.

Nevertheless, punctuality is critical when conducting business in the U.S. Typical business attire ranges from casual for high technology companies to formal for those that work in an industry such as finance. A handshake is the typical business greeting and business cards may be exchanged after initial introductions. Gifts are generally not given as part of business interactions.

Those looking to establish a business in the U.S. may look across North America for alternative options. However, the U.S. can be differentiated on the following factors:

  • With a population of over 310 million people, the U.S. is the world's largest consumer market
  • The U.S. has a highly productive and innovative labour force
  • The U.S. is the world's third most competitive economy, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Rankings
  • The U.S. has a strong judicial system that is rated 19th in the world by the World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Index; further outlined in the Legal overview chapter
  • The U.S. is a party to free trade agreements with 20 countries; discussed further in the Trade chapter
  • The U.S. ranked ninth in the world for the quality of its transport infrastructure; further detail provided in the Infrastructure chapter

Despite the myriad strengths of the U.S. as an investment location, challenges remain. There are considerable regional differences between the 50 states that investors must take into account. Furthermore, the American market is characterised by high levels of competition and many industries are saturated.

This guide has been developed to provide businesses with an overview of the U.S., its legal regime, start-up and market entry considerations, tax and customs requirements and a general summary of the factors that may affect the decision to do business in the U.S.. However, the information contained in this document is generic in nature and you should not act or rely on it without obtaining specific professional advice.

Please note that the Global Business Guides may only be available in English.

Useful Links

1 U.S. Department of Commerce
2 Inland Revenue Service
3 U.S. Customs and Border Protection
4 United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
5 United States Patent and Trademark Office
6 Business USA
7 United States Department of Labour



1 UNCTAD Global Investment Trends Monitor
2 Doing Business Rankings
3 US Population
4 Global Competitiveness Report/Transport Infrastructure Ranking
5 World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Index
6 Free Trade Agreements


Download Global Business Guide - USA (1.44MB, PDF)


This document is issued by HSBC Bank plc. (the Bank). This guide is a joint project with Grant Thornton. It is not intended as an offer or solicitation for business to anyone in any jurisdiction. It is not intended for distribution to anyone located in or resident in jurisdictions which restrict the distribution of this document. It shall not be copied, reproduced, transmitted or further distributed by any recipient. The information contained in this document is of a general nature only. It is not meant to be comprehensive and does not constitute financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. You should not act upon the information contained in this document without obtaining specific professional advice. Whilst every care has been taken in preparing this document, the Bank and Grant Thornton makes no guarantee, representation or warranty (express or implied) as to its accuracy or completeness, and under no circumstances will the Bank or Grant Thornton be liable for any loss caused by reliance on any opinion or statement made in this document. Except as specifically indicated, the expressions of opinion are those of the Bank and are subject to change without notice. The materials contained in this document were assembled in January 2016 and were based on the law enforceable and information available at that time.

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