US Investment Accounts Managed from Hong Kong

Can Americans or non-Americans open a US Investment Account in Hong Kong?

We often hear Americans go to local banks, often HSBC, and be told something like “sorry, HSBC can not open investment accounts or brokerage accounts for US citizens or green card holders”.

The fact is that it is 100% legal for US persons to open and own investment accounts outside the United States, although there are some additional compliance challenges for dealing with Americans that many foreign banks simply don’t want to be bothered with.  There are actually two overlapping areas of compliance to worry about here: the securities regulation definition of a US person according to Regulation S of the Securities Act of 1933, and the IRS definition of a US person for US tax purposes.

It is certainly far easier for a non-US person to open an investment account at a non-US bank that can offer trading in US stocks and ETFs, as many have done at banks like HSBC and brokerage firms like 8 securities.  Some firms, like Saxo and many Singaporean banks (for example OCBC), still open accounts for Americans easily enough, though often impose a restriction that these accounts can not buy US stocks.

How to open a US investment account in Hong Kong

For years, one of the main reasons we have recommended and worked with accounts at Interactive Brokers is because they are an established US brokerage firm with a Hong Kong office that make it the easiest to open a US brokerage account with a Hong Kong address.  As a US firm, they also issued detailed 1099 and other tax forms needed for US taxable accounts.

Americans living and working overseas have some more flexibility if they have a US address, including opening accounts at Vanguard.  In our experience, even Interactive Brokers asks for a US address when opening an IRA account.