The Immigrant’s Guide to Starting a Business in Florida

Last updated on April 2nd, 2024 at 07:45 am

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Florida’s pro-business policies, incentives, and financing opportunities contribute to the success of business owners in the state. Understanding these different state and federal programs may help you determine the best way to start a business for yourself in Florida. 

This Remitly guide will give you an introduction to these resources and what other things you need to do to launch a new business in Florida.

What businesses are popular for immigrants in Florida?

Before getting into how to open a business in Florida as a foreigner, let’s take a step back and look at some of the most popular business ideas for immigrant entrepreneurs in the state.

  • Manicurists and pedicurists: In Florida, approximately 82% of manicurists and pedicurists are foreign-born, and many work at salons owned by immigrants.
  • Taxi services: Immigrants frequently start up taxi services— nearly 60% of all drivers in the state are foreign-born.
  • Roofers: Almost 66% of roofers are immigrants, and a portion of these workers are in business for themselves.

While these are only a few of the more prominent fields in which Florida immigrants start companies, there are many other industries entrepreneurs can consider for new business ideas.

What do immigrants need to do when starting a business in Florida?

There is a lot to do before starting a business in Florida, but you can tackle the process if you take things step-by-step. Let’s explore some of the key elements of starting a business in the Sunshine State.

Choose a business structure

The first thing you need to do when starting a business in Florida is to decide on a business structure (the way your new business entity will be organized). There are a few main options to consider, including:

  • Corporation: An independent that is separate from the people who own it and can enter into contracts, loan agreements, and other relationships on its own
  • Limited liability company (LLC): Similar to a corporation but structured in a way that reduces the personal liability of owners
  • Partnership: When two or more people share ownership in a Florida business
  • General partnership: A partnership where the co-owners share in rights and responsibilities equally
  • Limited liability partnership (LLP): A business entity where some co-owners have more responsibility for debts and other obligations than others
  • Sole proprietorship: A Florida business that is owned and operated by a single person

In Florida, sole proprietorship is the most common type of business, according to the Florida Department of State. The department offers a handy guide to business structures to help you decide which type is right for your business. You can find it here.

Choose a registered agent

If you’re forming a limited partnership, a limited liability company, or a corporation in Florida, you’ll need to give a person or organization a registered agent designation for your new business.

A registered agent receives legal paperwork from the state of Florida on behalf of a new business. Under Florida law, any business or individual with a Florida mailing address can typically provide registered agent services. However, a business can’t act as its own registered agent.

Your company can choose an internal registered agent, such as an owner, or hire an outside attorney or registered agent services provider to serve in the role. When you register your business in Florida, you’ll need to provide the agent’s name and business address.

Obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number

After you’ve decided on a structure and designated a registered agent, if needed, it’s time to obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number or EIN.

The EIN is like a social security number for your business. You’ll need it to pay federal corporate income tax, open a business bank account, and more.

To obtain an EIN, simply file online through the IRS’ EIN Assistant. It only takes a few minutes, and you’ll receive your Federal Employer Identification Number right away.

Acquire registrations, licenses, and permits

In addition to getting an EIN for your business, you’ll need to obtain all of the registrations, licenses, and permits needed for conducting business in Florida.

Refer to the information outlined above to complete this important step, and remember that Florida’s Department of Revenue is a good place to turn if you have questions about what your business requires. You can access their contact information here.

Write a business plan

Writing a business plan is an important step in the startup process. In simplest terms, a business plan is a document that allows you to describe your business concept, products, and services and serves as a roadmap for starting a business in Florida.

Your business plan will include market research for your industry, financial projections for your new company, and marketing and advertising ideas.

Business plans are generally needed to do things like apply for loans and attract investors, so it’s important that you write a strong one. Check out our Immigrant Entrepreneurs’ Guide to Writing a Business Plan in the U.S. to learn how to do just that.

Find a business location.

After you have written a plan for your business, you’re ready to choose the location where you’ll operate the business.

One option is to have a home business and no separate location from which you work. Home businesses can be a good choice for sole proprietors as well as for online business setups and consumer services providers whose employees only work remotely.

If you decide to base your business out of your home, you can look into coworking spaces for meetings and other activities. Check out the DropDesk site to find coworking options in your area.

For businesses that can’t operate out of a home, you can lease space or buy property.

Secure funding

Exploring and choosing funding options is another important step when launching business startups. Some entrepreneurs use their personal assets to fund their new Florida businesses, but this option isn’t available for every prospective business owner.

As a result, many entrepreneurs turn to other funding sources like angel investors, loans, and grants. Use the resources outlined above as a starting point for your research into funding options, and check out our article on Ways to Find Funding for Your Business in the U.S. for more ideas.

Open a bank account

Even if your Florida business isn’t a completely separate legal entity because you chose a sole-proprietorship structure, it’s still important that you keep your personal and business finances separate, and this means having a business bank account for your new business entity.

The most common type of business bank account is the business checking account, which usually comes with a checkbook and a debit card that you can use to make purchases, just like a credit card.

Most Florida banks offer business bank accounts, so it’s a good idea to shop around and see what’s available. Some things to consider include:

  • Balance requirements: How much do you need to open an account? Are you required to keep a minimum amount in the account going forward?
  • Fees: Is there a monthly maintenance fee for having an account? Are there fees for ATM withdrawals? How much are overdraft fees?
  • Access: Can you access the account for your business online or via a mobile app? Does the bank offer online bill pay services?
  • Convenience: Are there branches near you? What hours is the customer service hotline there to assist you with problems?
  • Extras: Does the bank offer business-specific perks that appeal to you?

Find insurance coverage

Insurance is a way to protect established and new businesses from financial loss.

Most businesses will require some type of insurance, but which policies you’ll need depends on your line of business. The Florida Department of Financial Services provides detailed advice about choosing insurance policies for new businesses. You can access the information here.

Unless you’re a sole proprietorship or a partnership with no employees, you’ll also typically need to acquire for your newly hired employees:

  • Unemployment insurance: Helps to cover the costs of the unemployment program offered by Florida’s Department of Commerce, which provides financial support for people who lose their jobs due to no fault of their own
  • Workers compensation insurance: Pays for medical expenses that arise due to illnesses and injuries employees acquire on the job
  • Disability insurance: Funds a state program that provides financial support to people who are unable to work due to an illness or injury

How to get business incentives and financing in Florida

Immigrants in Florida can take advantage of specialized financing or loan programs, financial incentives, and grants, including some of the ones listed below, to help get their businesses off the ground.

Black Business Loan Program

Black immigrants in Florida may receive funding through the Black Business Loan Program (BBLP) administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). The program offers direct loans to some qualified entrepreneurs and business owners.

In addition, the DEO will act as the guarantor for some loans for Black-owned businesses issued by financial institutions in Florida. In some cases, the DEO will even directly invest in businesses to provide ongoing capital in return for an ownership stake in the company.

Florida State Small Business Credit Initiative

A private-public partnership, Enterprise Florida seeks to expand access to traditional financing for small businesses.

Through its State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), the partnership provides capital to financial institutions so that banks can extend loans to business owners who may otherwise not qualify. Loans issued through the initiative are only available to businesses with 500 employees or less.

Microfinance Guarantee Program

Also administered through Enterprise Florida, the Florida Microfinance Guarantee Program strengthens the loan applications of business owners.

Through the program, Enterprise Florida serves as the guarantor for loans for small businesses that have 25 or fewer employees and gross revenue of $1.5 million or less for the last two years.

The backing of Enterprise Florida makes it possible for immigrants and other entrepreneurs to qualify for financing from Florida banks.

Florida Credit Union

Founded in 1954, the Florida Credit Union is a member-owned financial institution known for providing business loans for immigrants and other business owners.

Entrepreneurs can apply for installment loans and lines of credit with and without U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) backing. The financial institution also offers business car, truck, and van loans and loan programs for equipment and machinery.

LiftFund Florida

For immigrants looking for ways to fund a small business and who have struggled to qualify for traditional loans, LiftFund Florida may be a solution. This program provides traditional small business loans and smaller micro-loans to startups and existing businesses in Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, and Tampa.

Immigrant entrepreneurs and business owners can apply for loans ranging from $500 to $1 million to cover a variety of costs. The lending guidelines are relaxed to expand access to financing.

Opportunity Zone Program

Immigrants who choose to establish job-creating businesses in areas of Florida classified as Qualified Opportunity Zones may receive some tax deferments and reductions for a certain number of years.

The money saved can then be reinvested to grow a startup or established business. The state has 420 such zones, and each county is home to at least one.

Rural and Urban Job Tax Credits

The Florida legislature has established 36 rural areas and 13 urban areas as communities with a large need for additional employment.

Immigrants who establish job-creating small businesses in any of these locations may qualify for a $500 to $2000 credit for the Florida Corporate Income Tax or the Florida Sales and Use Tax per employee.

Targeted Marketing Assistance Program

The Targeted Marketing Assistance Program, sponsored by VisitFlorida, provides grants for immigrant-owned businesses and other businesses in the tourism industry. Qualified businesses can receive up to $5,000 to cover the cost of marketing campaigns that seek to attract visitors to Florida.

The money issued through these grants does not need to be repaid. However, business owners must match the amount given by VisitFlorida dollar for dollar. For example, if a business receives a grant of $250, it must also spend $250 of its own money to fund the marketing campaign.

Starting a Business in Florida

How to get business licenses, certificates, and permits in Florida

Before opening a business in Florida, entrepreneurs must obtain the licenses, certificates, and permits required by the state, county, and local governments. Rules vary based on industry and location, but the following are some possible requirements you may need to start a business in the state.

Tax licenses and registration

In Florida, business owners may need to register their business name with various government agencies to pay state and local taxes and collect others like sales tax from customers:

  • Sales and use tax: Assessed to customers who purchase certain tangible goods
  • Reemployment tax: Helps fund the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund for unemployed individuals
  • Other state business taxes: These taxes are usually industry-specific and include things like the Florida fuel tax that gas stations must collect from customers and pass on to the state.
  • County business tax: Most counties in Florida require businesses to apply for an occupational license and pay local business tax.
    • Contact the tax collector for your county for more information.
  • City business tax: Immigrant-owned businesses in certain metro areas may need to pay an additional local business tax to operate legally within the city limits.
    • City government offices can provide you with additional information regarding tax rates and registration requirements.

The Florida Department of Revenue is a good starting point for entrepreneurs looking to find out what state and local business taxes their newly formed business entities are responsible for paying and collecting. Click here to visit their website.

Business and professional licenses

A license is necessary to open a business within many industries in Florida. Depending on your line of business, you may have to obtain one or more licenses from one of the following state licensing agencies:

Florida’s list of professional licensing requirements is a good starting point for determining which business license or licenses you will need to start a business in Florida.


Local governments may require immigrant-owned businesses to obtain permits beyond professional or business licensing if they want to provide certain services to the public. Examples include food truck permits, ground transportation service permits, and zoning permits.

The state recommends contacting the county tax collector for your local area to learn about what types of permits you will need to apply for before opening your company.

Starting a Business in Florida

Other types of business support in Florida

Entrepreneurs in Florida can get advice, find networking opportunities, and seek support from several organizations and entities in the state, including those listed below.

Chambers of commerce

Chambers of commerce are organizations that bring together business owners across all industries for networking, education and training, lobbying, and other initiatives.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce represents the entire state, and more than 200 regional chambers serve business owners in Florida.

Industry-specific trade associations

These organizations are open to business owners who work in a specific industry, such as construction or food service.

Trade associations often lobby state and local lawmakers on behalf of their members. They may also provide educational programs and networking opportunities.

Ethnic trade associations

Immigrant business owners who are members of minority groups can join trade associations for specific ethnic groups, such as the First Coast Hispanic Chamber of Commerce or Gainesville Black Professionals.

Like trade associations, these organizations usually engage in lobbying and offer educational opportunities, networking events, and business support programs.


This state website offers a complete guide to opening a business in Florida and other resources that may benefit immigrant entrepreneurs.

Florida SBDC Network

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Florida colleges and universities, and several for-profit and nonprofit regional partners work together to provide services through the SBDC Network.

Small business owners can obtain advice, mentoring, education, and other services through the network.

Florida Women’s Business Center

This nonprofit organization collaborates with the SBA to provide free one-on-one business counseling to female business owners. In addition, it provides workshops and training opportunities for women.

To find even more trade associations and organizations for business owners in your area, you can also do an internet search or use a site like CauseIQ.

Get your new business in Florida off the ground

Entrepreneurs and self-employed people are a significant part of Florida’s economy, as the American Immigrant Council reports. Over 50% of businesses in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach metro area are immigrant-owned. 

Now that you know how to register to pay Florida taxes, obtain occupational licenses, fund your business, and more, you’re ready to take the first steps toward making your dream business idea a reality. Follow the step-by-step guide to make starting a business in Florida simple.

On behalf of everyone at Remitly, good luck with your new endeavor!

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