Purchasing U.S. stocks internationally requires that you have a brokerage account with a U.S. firm. You can be either a U.S. citizen or a foreign national to successfully open such an account, although both have slightly different requirements. U.S. citizens are required to pay taxes on all trading gains, even if they live overseas. Foreign nationals who complete all required IRS forms are not obligated to pay taxes on their gains.
Trading for U.S. Citizens
Open or maintain a brokerage account with a licensed U.S. securities brokerage firm. As a U.S. citizen, you must have a valid U.S. bank account and Social Security number. You will be able to access the funds in your brokerage account from anywhere in the world.
Keep your brokerage account adequately funded to finance trades. Most brokerage accounts have minimum account balance requirements to avoid fees.
Trade using the funds in your bank account either over the phone or using the online interface provided. There's no law against trading stocks abroad as long as you pay all taxes owed to the United States. In some rare cases, the country in which you reside may also require you to pay taxes on your trading gains.
Trading in U.S. Stocks for Foreign Citizens
Complete IRS form W-8BEN, "Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding." You can download a copy of this document from the resources link below. Also, you must complete Form 1001, "Ownership, Exemption, or Reduced Rate Certificate," to avoid needlessly paying U.S. withholding taxes on your brokerage account gains.
Open a U.S. brokerage account. Complete all information requested. When asked, submit copies of your completed W-8BEN and Form 1001 to the brokerage firm.
Transfer adequate funds to your brokerage account that exceed the minimum account balance and give you sufficient funds with which to trade. You may buy U.S. stocks while living internationally regardless of your citizenship status either online or over the phone.
Things You'll Need
Social Security number (U.S. citizens only)
U.S. bank account