The customer journey on Amazon is as diverse as the world around us. Equally diverse are its marketplaces.
Amazon's international marketplaces are a bustling phenomenon, estimated at over $127 billion in 2021. Yet that's still only a small fraction of Amazon's total third-party sales.
Why Sell on Amazon as a Non-US Resident
Amazon's online sales in 2021 were nearly $470 billion, with close to 60% being the direct result of third-party sellers. Global online marketplaces may come and go, but few have the staying power quite like Amazon.
But one of the more common questions we hear from international small businesses is whether or not they can sell on Amazon's US online marketplace. The answer is yes, Amazon does allow international sellers to sell in the US.
It's not even a complicated process to apply for an Amazon international seller account. Amazon knows that it's an international marketplace, and makes the process of seller registration relatively simple.
What can get complicated is the paperwork that follows.
Because tax laws and regulations vary dramatically in international markets, it can seem hard to keep track. As a result, we see many potential online sellers get discouraged and actively avoid selling on Amazon.
Don't be. We may not be able to provide specific tax advice about your country, but we can recommend some tools to help you begin selling products on Amazon.
Requirements for Selling Internationally on Amazon
A bank account in a country supported by Amazon
Many sellers use a separate business account specifically for Amazon global selling. While Amazon does permit international sales using a local bank account in a country that's supported by Amazon, global sellers may find they can maintain more control and flexibility selling internationally by opening up a US bank account.
The process can be complex, however. You may need to create a legal business entity by incorporating it in the US, so we recommend speaking with a banking, legal, and tax specialist who can advise you on the best course of action for selling internationally.
Many global sellers find it much easier to sell internationally on Amazon by incorporating in the US; particularly as an LLC, even if you're the sole proprietor of your eCommerce business. To do so, you will need a separate business name and a US Employer Identification Number, and both can be easily obtained by contacting the IRS.
Depending on the type of entity you'll be incorporating, both tax benefits and drawbacks can vary from state to state. We recommend speaking with a tax adviser specializing in international incorporation to discuss your best options.
You will need US taxpayer status if you plan on conducting more than 50 transactions a year — which you likely will. Amazon requires you to go through an online step-by-step interview to determine whether you'll need to complete a W-9 form (as a US taxpayer) or a W-8BEN (as a non-US taxpayer.)
Payment processing services
Amazon has recently centralized payment processing services through Amazon Payment Services. In addition to standard international credit cards such as American Express, Mastercard, and Visa, Amazon currently accepts multiple international payment options including KNET, Mada, MEEZA, NAPS, and Sadad, as well as digital wallets including Apple Pay, Master pass, and Visa Checkout.
Other requirements for Amazon global selling
Customer support in the local language of your residence
A valid phone number, including Viber and Skype
A valid credit card that can be charged by the country you reside in
Amazon Individual and Professional Seller Accounts
Another common dilemma for non-US residents is registering either with an Individual or Professional seller account with Amazon. The type of seller account can be largely dependent on the number of transactions you plan on conducting in a year.
While both are available at a corresponding monthly subscription fee, we always like to recommend that new sellers opt for the latter service.
In our experience, the additional benefits of Professional services (including bulk listing, customizable international shipping rates, and top product placement eligibility) can be fundamental to your business as a seller, especially if you plan on conducting more than 40 transactions a month (and you should!)
Order Fulfillment for International Sellers on Amazon
Eventually, you're going to find that merchant fulfillment as an Amazon seller can be a logistics nightmare if you're not a US resident.
While you're not required to use Fulfillment By Amazon services, you'll find order processing will be much more effective with a qualified fulfillment center. Inventory storage, order fulfillment, international shipping, customer service, and returns should be the last thing on your mind when operating an international business.
Amazon FBA is one of the most cost-effective and trusted services for global sellers. Local language customer service is included as part of your monthly fees. In addition, Amazon FBA Export offers export-eligible inventory to international customers at no extra cost.
Product Approval for International Amazon Sellers
Product approval isn't automatic and is subject to both Amazon's internal requirements as well as the laws and regulations of your country, including popular product categories such as:
Beauty, Health, and Personal Care
Clothing and Apparel
Grocery and Gourmet Food
Jewelry and Watches
Luggage, Shoes, Handbags, and Sunglasses
Automotive and Powersports
Industrial and Scientific
Luggage and Travel Accessories
Toys, Games, and Baby Products
In addition, there are intellectual property, copyright, legal, product safety, and environmental regulations which differ dramatically from country to country. The regulations of your own country may not only differ from the US but may be entirely contrary to the terms of service on Amazon's online marketplace. It's your responsibility to understand these distinctions. If you have any questions, contact a legal specialist or Amazon's customer service for further clarification.
Disbursement and Taxes as an International Amazon Seller
Disbursement through Amazon's Currency Convertor Services is one of the fastest ways to receive payment through Amazon — even if your account is with a supported bank. However, you do have to reside in a supported country or region and you may need to register for an additional Hyper wallet account to be eligible for payment.
Most US states require a sales tax for goods held in inventory storage, including Amazon fulfillment centers, even if your merchandise is being held in multiple states. Many states will only accept tax payments using Automated Clearing House (ACH) transfers from a US bank, which means you're required to open a US bank account.
Contact a trusted tax adviser if you plan on conducting business in the US. States can be notoriously complicated when it comes to business tax issues and this is one area you simply can't afford to overlook.
Customs And Selling Internationally On Amazon
Being familiar with US Customs and subsequent duty taxes is another burden we frequently hear about from international sellers.
Unfortunately, this can also vary from state to state and may require manual approval for many of the more popular items on Amazon. However, most customs brokers and freight carriers will consider this service as part of your fees. The CBP has provided a convenient Ports of Entry guide to help you choose the most appropriate one.
Import restrictions may require an additional permit from federal agencies, including the US Department of Agriculture, the US Food and Drug Administration, and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. For a list of prohibited and restricted items, please review the US Customs and Border Protection guide.
Managing Your Amazon Business as a Non-US Resident
Given the amount of paperwork and effort you're going to be putting in as an international seller, managing your business on Amazon can seem like just as hard of a task as selling on Amazon — if not harder.
The last thing you need to worry about is losing potential customers. That's why working with an account management company that knows Amazon inside and out can be invaluable. They don't just know how to manage your account, they maximize it — based on experience, know-how, and a proven track record of providing both success and security.
Amazon can be, quite literally, a jungle for new domestic businesses in the US. But internationally, it can be just as bewildering as it is intimidating. The good news?
You don't have to go it alone.
Color More Lines knows Amazon's US online marketplace and what it takes to make your business thrive. Find out more at Color More Lines.