How to Hire an Employee Outside of the US

Find out about three ways to hire an employee outside of the US — by opening a local subsidiary, opening a branch office, or using a PEO/EOR

Aerial view of the Gulf of Mexico outside the US as taken from outer space

Plane Team

Published on May 14, 2020

There are a few ways to hire an employee outside of the US. In this article we'll show you three possible options: opening a local subsidiary, opening a branch office, or using a PEO/EOR.

Open a local subsidiary 📑

This is probably the first thing that comes to your mind when you are thinking about hiring remote employees. It can be called a default path for the companies that are expanding. There are a couple of things to be mindful of when setting up a subsidiary.The biggest advantage of a local subsidiary is that it’s a fairly familiar path so your investors and colleagues should be acquainted with it and you could probably count on some advice.As for the disadvantages, first of all, a local subsidiary will have significant set up costs as you’ll need to find a local lawyer, incorporate, work with an accountant, etc. You’ll need to recreate all of the infrastructure you already have in the US, like payroll and HR. As a result, most companies don’t actually consider opening a local subsidiary until they have at least four or five employees or contractors in a particular country. Only then does it start to make sense to even consider that investment. If your team is very distributed, it's not really a viable option to set up so many subsidiaries.You might come across a country where it's super easy to open a subsidiary, but unfortunately it’s not the case for every location. Also, your US taxes will become more expensive and complex — for example, your company would have to submit 5471 form for foreign subsidiaries. Before you embark on this project, we would highly recommend that you ask your CPA if they’ll support you (from our experience, 80% of CPAs we contacted said they don't deal with companies that have international subsidiaries). If they don’t, you can find boutique accounting firms that work with international corporations but be aware, their services aren’t the cheapest. Make sure you fully understand the changes in taxes to avoid being surprised by how much this can increase your costs.

Branch office 🏢

This is a lightweight version of a subsidiary. It's important to note that you can’t set up a branch office in every country, so you have to check with your country bases if that's an option for you. If it is an option you can use, all you need to do is to register your foreign entity (US company) with the local authorities and ask for a tax number because you’ll need to run payroll in that country.This is definitely a good middle-ground option. You don't have the costs of having a subsidiary (though you still need an HR person or some tool, like a local equivalent of Gusto to run payroll). The downside is that it isn’t something you can do in every single country. Also, if you are a US company opening a branch abroad, you might encounter trouble with signing up for some tools or offices because of the lack of a residence address or an entity name (and it works the same in reverse).

Professional Employment Organization and Employer of Record 💼

The third option, which is less known, is the third-party route — a PEO/EOR. A PEO helps you with compliance across state lines and an EOR is its global equivalent. We distinguish between two types of Employer of Record providers. A direct EOR has legal entities in every single country and they can put employees on payroll for you in each of those jurisdictions. An indirect EOR has partners in every country, so technically they don’t own any entity, but they have relationships with companies that can do that for them. They are perfect for those who want to start fast as you don't have to open a legal entity or set up a bank account, which takes time. They are also a good option when you have employees in multiple countries. Big disclaimer though — this industry is not startup-friendly. Most companies in this space hit you with significant setup fees, even up to $3500 per country (if you're lucky) or per employee. You can expect to pay 20%- 30% of payroll in fees or 15-18% and $2000 a month per single individual! Also, the fees are not very transparent so if you ever consider working with a PEO make sure to read all the fine print. There’s a reason for those costs — the majority of PEO or EOR customers are huge companies, not startups. And huge companies can afford it. For them, the cost of hiring a foreign employee is probably less significant than not having that employee on their team.One of the reasons why we started Plane (formerly Pilot) was to help that industry. Because we experienced it at the receiving end, we know the struggles and costs too well. The needs of our customers are our needs from some time ago. Thanks to that experience, we started a service made especially for startups.

Remember 💡

Whichever option you choose, remember you have to comply with local employment law. Even if your PEO runs payroll for you, you are still bound by local law. For example, if you want to fire an employee and local law says you have to pay 3-month severance — you have to pay it. If you are a California company hiring a new employee in Brazil — you have to pay 52% employer-side payroll tax anyway. You are always obliged to follow local employment laws.

Legal Disclaimer:

The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.

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