The physical therapist, an expert in her field, stepped of the plane, full of excitement over the workshops she planned to teach in London. Not only was she set to make money off the registration fees for the workshops, but she had also pre-sold product, which was the basis for the new company she was launching.
She approached the customs line and was asked the nature of her business. “I’m going to be teaching a workshop,” she told the officer. “Are you going to be paid?” he asked. “Yes,” she said blithely.
With that, she was told that she could not enter the country without the proper paperwork and must return on the plane from which she came. Such scenarios are undoubtedly repeated all over the world, which reinforces the importance of understanding what needs to happen before your small to medium-sized entity can do business in another country.
Fortunately, there are a number of resources that can ease this process.
One is the Office of Commercial and Business Affairs (CBA), which plays a major role in coordinating trade and investment matters in support of U.S. firms doing business overseas. Its mission is to ensure that private sector business concerns are fully integrated into U.S. foreign and economic policy. To accomplish this, it engages U.S. government resources to assist and promote U.S. business interests overseas.
Among its many initiatives is one predicated around advocacy. Specifically, the CBA works on behalf of American businesses by providing assistance in opening markets, leveling the playing field, protecting intellectual property and resolving trade and investment disputes. It will even go so far as identify market opportunities in foreign countries, according to its web site.
Eliminating the Paperwork with Apostille
Another tool for opening doors overseas is the utilization of a concept – Apostille, which was born out of the Hague Conference on Private International Law. Apostille is a certificate that authenticates the origin of a public document that can be crucial to businesses that want to expand overseas. Since the U.S. is party to the Apostille Convention, the application of the authentication need only involve another country that is party to the Convention.
The following link indicates which countries participate in the Convention: http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=states.listing