Many Canadians that live near the US border are interested in establishing a US presence and identity. Canadians may want to facilitate cross border shopping, hedge currency, or set themselves up for investing in US real estate. Everything from magazine subscriptions to eBay shipping charges gets cheaper with a US presence and if you want to invest in the US having a presence is even more important to establish credit and open investment accounts.
Set Up a US PO Box
Postal Offices in border towns are accustomed to renting to Canadians. No US residency is required, just Canadian ID, and the fee for the PO Box in US dollars. There is no real reason to rent a large box because the post office will hold overflow mail behind the counter. If there is extra mail or packages waiting for the box holder the staff will put a notice in the mailbox.
US PO Boxes can be rented for three months, six months, or 1 year at a time. The fee is less for the longer term rentals, and easier to deal with because the renewals are not so often.
Set Up a US Bank Account
Banks close to the border are more versed in opening a US bank account for a Canadian resident, but with the right couching any American bank can be convinced to take a Canadian's business. In fact, the US has structured itself as a tax haven for non-Americans to invest. To open a US bank account requires proving identity, residency, and citizenship. A passport, drivers license and perhaps a utility bill will accomplish this.
While getting a US bank account, consider the benefits of getting a US based safety deposit box as well. It can be a handy place to store valuables and documents that one may not want to take into Canada (and pay importation tax on).
Start Establishing a US Credit Rating
To build a US credit rating will take some time and effort but it will be well worth it if you plan to invest in US real estate. The US bank account is a great start, but building a credit rating takes getting on some mailing lists. Yes, there actually are some benefits to junk mail! Credit card companies buy lists from junk mailers, ultimately netting the preapproved credit card offers that are needed to build a credit rating and move up the credit ladder to real estate loans.
The two fastest and potentially most rewarding ways to get on the credit card mailing lists are to sign up for free product samples. Giving out the new PO Box and some basic demographic information for free sample products will net some targeted financial offers quickly. The other way is to enter contests. Both contest entries and gathering free samples can be done online, but don't pass up the chance to enter a contest with a paper ballot when you are in the US shopping.
Continuing the Process of Establishing a US Identity
Over time a US PO Box, US bank account and getting on US based mailing lists will lead to a true US identity that can be used as a springboard to doing business in the US, retirement in a sunny US retirement haven, real estate and stock investing, or anything else that one may like to do in the neighbour to the South.