How to use Stripe when running a Canadian Company

If you don’t know Stripe, you should. They’re the easiest way to bill customers with your web app.

Ryan and I run SocialWOD out of Vancouver, Canada, but Stripe’s not available in Canada yet.

So we use Paypal.

And we hate Paypal.

I’ll spare you the play-by-play. But we’ve been rejected twice for Website Payments Pro with no explanation, getting our Paypal account connected to a bank account has been a nightmare, and to add insult to injury, the Paypal sales team continues to send us email to buy their products.

Things got so bad with Paypal that Ryan forwarded Stripe one of our email chains with Paypal as comic relief, exhorting them to get to Canada soon.

We didn’t want to get set up with another Canadian payment processor as we’d just switch to Stripe when they launched in Canada, so we decided to see if we could get set up with them today.

Turns out we can, even though we have a corp registered in Canada, not the US.

There’s one caveat though: you need a Social Security Number. So if you haven’t worked in the US, I think you’re out of luck.

Here’s how to do it (the usual caveats apply – I am neither a lawyer nor an accountant, so please get your own advice):

1. Get an Employer Identification Number from the IRS.
You can do this over the phone (phone number at link above) and the actual process takes 5-10 minutes. They’ll give you your EIN over the phone, but they also mail you a paper copy of your EIN which will take a couple weeks to get to you. (Also, to avoid paying US taxes, you’ll need to file a W8-BEN form. But you can do that later.)

2. Apply for a US bank account.
You can do this over the web at Harris Bank, a subsidiary of Bank of Montreal. A lot of US banks make this difficult – you have to go to a physical branch to open the account – but Harris lets you do it over the web. Plus, they’re used to dealing with Canadians who want to open US accounts.

You’ll need:

  • Articles of Incorporation
  • EIN (paper copy) <-- This takes a couple weeks to get to you from the IRS
  • Valid form of ID for each signer (driver’s license, passport, etc.)
  • Proof of personal address for each signer (utility bill, bank statement) issued within past 90 days
  • Proof of business address (utility bill, bank statement) issued within past 90 days
  • Verification of deposit (signed by a signer and banker) <-- Harris will send you this form
  • Mother’s maiden name for each signer
  • Home phone for each signer
  • Social insurance or social security number for each signer

2a. If you don’t have a US mailing address, get one.
You’ll need one for the next step.

3. Sign up for Stripe.
This is where you’ll use your US address and Social Security Number.

4. Be ecstatic about working with a company that cares about its customers and is easy to use.

I ran this by Stripe and John Collison (one of Stripe’s founders), replied:

Yeah, with this you meet all the requirements to set up an account
with Stripe, so we’d love to have you aboard!

Hope this is helpful – we’re waiting for our EIN to arrive so we can SAY GOODBYE TO PAYPAL!

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5 thoughts on “How to use Stripe when running a Canadian Company

  1. David

    Hey Kareem,

    Thanks for putting this together. Love finding loop holes 🙂 Nice Crossfit business idea by the way!

    So i was hoping you could clarify one thing for me on something you said:

    “There’s one caveat though: you need a Social Security Number. So if you haven’t worked in the US, I think you’re out of luck.”

    Obviously as a Canadian, i have a Social Security #. But i’ve never worked in the US before.

    Are you saying that you must have worked in the US? Or that you just need the EIN (which can be authorized by the IRS, even if you are from Canada)?

    Reply
    1. kareem Post author

      Hey David,

      Thanks man. If you’re Canadian you’ve got a Social Insurance Number. If you’ve worked in the US you’ve got a Social Security Number. Subtle but crucial difference unfortunately.

      BTW Stripe Canada is in Beta, you can sign up here: https://stripe.com/global. When it launches it will render this hack unnecessary.

      Reply
  2. Guillaume Lambert

    Great article, I’ve been meaning to use Stripe for a while (I’m based in Montreal, Quebec).

    Hopefully that Beta will be out to the public soon. You have an access to it right now?

    Keep up the good work on SocialWOD too, I too have something in the works for CrossFit gyms (I’ve been crossfitting for almost 2 years now, hehe)

    Reply

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