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International Law

Updated on December 14, 2011

The Law

By Andrew J Thompson

Beware: this is a broad topic! From immigration, to taxation and tax treaties, property law, international politics, human rights - and perhaps more than any other area of the law - international business law and regulation.

The latter is a very broad topic in and of itself. Trade, employment, contract interpretation, currency exchange, finance, securities, etc. - there are more facets of business law internationally than one article can possibly cover in a meaningful way.

This piece contains a bit of a catalog of topics in international law, with a few samples and examples of pertinent legal problems that are routinely faced by businesses and individuals endeavoring to move beyond their own domestic frontiers and to consider offshore engagements.

Business Law

In a general sense, business law between Americans and citizens of other countries is not much different than two individuals or companies doing business from different states. The several United States have significant autonomy and very different sets of laws in many areas of the law. For example, the securities laws of New York are far different than the laws of Indiana, the corporation laws of Delaware are quite different than any other state, the Trust laws of North Dakota are very unique, and the insurance laws of Arizona and Vermont differ significantly from the rest of the nation.

While every state has adopted some form of the Uniform Commercial Code, Louisiana is a state that has Codes for every are of law. Other states have "titles", but these are still refinements or additions to the common law, which functions quite differently than "code law", which is practiced in only one state.

On the international front, however, it becomes critical to think of the destination of your company or business venture, and the laws that govern business in that destination.

if you're a closely held business of any kind, this means that you must pay very close attention to local and national regulation of your kind of business and determine whether you can operate profitably where you intend to go.

On the determination that you can be successful, there remains much to the legal process. This means it's probably wise and may even be necessary to hire attorneys on both shores to set up operations. Your management team needs to be well informed of the risks and connections that need to be laced together to achieve success.

You need licenses, banking relationships and other legal structures in place to operate your business. The banking environment is very important and dictates your ability to access capital as quickly as you need it. In many countries, limitations on lending are placed on a company merely because its owners are not citizens. Sometimes companies take on local partners to overcome hurdles of this kind.

Contract issues present their own challenges in international business dealings. Both from the standpoint of cultural norms that guide the terms of an agreement, and the rules of interpretation that will apply, contract issues present unique risks. It's probably wise to consider clauses that select both the law that will govern the contract and the forum for where and how any disputes will be resolved. It might become a nightmare if you had to have a matter decided in a court in Uruguay under local law.

For help with issues relating to international law and business, contact Andrew Thompson at the Thompson Law Office (877) 365-1776 or via email:

Immigration Law and Immigration Lawyers

Immigration issues are the pervasive "road map" for international law, if you will. While it's more very practical today, to do business in another country without actually living there, one's ability to reside, live, work, or become a citizen of another sovereign nation governs much of the capacity to earn a living in that country.

Immigration law varies significantly from one country to another, but the help of an attorney licensed in the country of destination is usually necessary to succeed. In the United States, immigration is governed at the federal level, and it is possible for an attorney licensed in any state to be of help, provided he is familiar with and competent in US immigration law.

International Adoption

International adoptions are highly complicated, mostly by the requirements - laws- of the country of a child's birth. The costs tend to be extraordinary and there is often little help to pay for the adoption, thus it becomes the domain of the very wealthy.

Interestingly, however, the complexity of an international adoption from the standpoint of US law is much less in many states than, say, an interstate adoption would be. Each state governs how a child will become adopted into a family when the child is born overseas, but an interstate adoption is largely governed by the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, generally requiring that a child must be considered "hard to adopt" before the child can be moved to parents in a state other than the one where the child was born.

For help with issues of international adoption, please contact the Thompson Law Office at (877) 365-1776, or contact Marsha Eriksson at


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