How To Buy US Stocks For Non-Residents

How do I buy Facebook stock if I don’t live in the United States?
How do I buy US stocks if I live in a foreign country?

Those are the questions I get asked over and over. There is tremendous interest in the US stock market by people living all over the world who are NOT citizens of America. 

Facebook has become a popular worldwide platform so the interest in the stock comes from investors in many countries. I get asked how to buy Facebook stock mostly from people living in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Australia.

Another company that is already exciting investors the world over is Snapchat. It is widely rumored that it will finally go public in the first half of 2017 and it will probably be the biggest IPO of the year. Interest in Snapchat stock is growing and will get even greater as we get nearer the IPO date. 

Find A Broker In Your Country

As foreign investors who try to sign up with US stock brokers quickly find out, a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is needed to open an account. If you don’t have one, and foreign investors usually don’t, you won’t be able to complete the usual online application process. 

Taxes are the reason one of those two numbers is needed. The US Internal Revenue Service wants to make sure all investors pay their taxes on any gains they might generate when they invest in stocks. To collect that tax the IRS requires a tax ID number. Foreign investors who don’t have such a number will, therefore, find they cannot open an American account at any of the online discount stock brokers. 

So, what should you do?

Whatever country you live in, your first step should be to try to find a stock broker in your country that will allow you to buy and sell stocks of companies that are traded on the US exchanges. There are hundreds of countries so I can’t be specific but some foreign brokers will have the mechanics set up so that their investors will be able to trade US stocks and the taxes will be taken care of through the broker. That is the easiest solution and the one you should try first. Opening a local account in your own country is the best option if they will allow you to trade US stocks. But many smaller countries don’t have any brokers so what do you do then….?

Try Some Of These Brokers

SureTrader might be your best option as they reportedly allow people from these countries to sign up and buy stocks: ALGERIA, AUSTRALIA, BAHAMAS, BELIZE, CANADA, CHILE, CHINA, CZECH REPUBLIC, DENMARK, FRANCE, GERMANY, ISRAEL, ITALY, JAMAICA, NETHERLANDS, NEW ZEALAND, POLAND, SOUTH AFRICA, SPAIN, SWITZERLAND, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, UNITED KINGDOM, UNITED STATES, VENEZUELA. SureTrader charges a low $4.95 per trade fee and there is a $500 minimum to sign up. 

Another one that you might try is eToro which caters to international investors and doesn’t even have a U.S. website yet. I have no experience with eToro or social trading as it is quite new but I know that eToro claims to have more than 5 million investors from over 170 countries. 

Some other US brokers allow you to open international accounts. What you will typically need to do this is a passport with photo, a copy of your W-8BEN, and a way to validate your address which can be a utility bill or notarized bank statement. 

**What you should do for each of the brokers listed below is scroll down to the bottom of their main page (or the “Site Map” page) that has some navigational links. Look for a link that says “International Accounts” or “Global Accounts” or “non-U.S. Residents“. Click the link to find out more information such as what countries they support, contact information, and what you need to have and do to sign up. If you have questions, find a toll free number and call them as that is the best way to find out whether their brokerage service will fit your needs!

1) OptionsHouse (China, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Taiwan, United Kingdom)

2) TD Ameritrade (Canada, United Kingdom, Luxembourg)

3) E*Trade (China, Hong Kong, Singapore)

4) First Trade (click “site map” link and then find “International Account” under FAQ’s

5) Scottrade (China) 

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