Maybe you ask yourself, “Can a foreigner open a bank account in the US?” Actually, Yes, a foreigner, non-resident, expat, or traveler can open a bank account in the US. However, the process is not as easy as it used to be and requires patience and planning.
According to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, banks and private institutions can contract with foreigners but unfortunately, many banks rule it an unsafe option and avoid it while only a few banks have this as a valid option.
After 9/11, the Patriot Act set strict regulations for foreigners opening accounts in the US banks to avoid money laundering and terrorism problems. All banks must follow these guidelines to verify the individual’s identity.
Regardless, the requirements change slightly from one bank to another. Some banks rule that you must have a US-based address, online banks rule you must have an SSN (or an ITIN for a foreigner), and so on.
But first, who would need a US bank account?
A US bank account can do wonders for businesses! Especially small or medium sized businesses abroad, looking to expand their business. If you have US-based clients or partners, you probably know by now that international transfers can be very expensive.
Most US businesses prefer using local methods for their easiness and speed like ACH transfers (direct deposits) or sending checks, so having it would definitely give you a smoother workflow with partners or businesses you deal with in the US.
Others that would benefit from it are international students that need quick funding access, tourists, frequent travelers to the US, and even online shoppers.
Many online stores only accept US bank options, shopping online with a US bank account is a lot easier than using an international account to avoid extra fees and currency exchange problems.
How to open a US bank online account as a Non-Resident (Non-U.S. Citizen)?
A non-resident can open a US bank account. However, most small banks allow only citizens and residents of the United States to create an account with them. This is because these banks require you to use a social security number which isn’t given to non-residents.
However, large banks like CITI bank, Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America allow foreigners to create a savings account or a checking account using their Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) rather than their social security number (SSN). As long as you can provide your ITIN and other necessary documents, you’ll be able to create an account with these banks as a foreigner ex: bank of America nonresident account.
Even with this, non-residents can still find it hard to create a traditional bank account; as such, they’re provided with easier options like correspondent accounts and international accounts that you can set up from your home country.
Here are some ways you can set up a US bank account:
1. Set up a bank account online :
This is probably the least used solution because it is the longest process and your account may still be disapproved insufficient identity verification. Banks like Citibank, Chase, Bank of America and Silicon Valley Bank offer online bank accounts or online banking services.
However, each bank has its own set of conditions so it will be best to contact the bank and find out what documents need to be submitted then you can email or fax them.
There is one common factor when setting up bank accounts online, and that is having an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number).
This, in addition to other identification (like your passport, proof of residency…etc.) will boost your chances of getting accepted.
None of these banks are guaranteed to have you open a bank account in the US, but it’s worth a try. If the bank has a branch in your country, going directly to the bank is your second-best option.
2. Go to an international bank’s branch:
These banks have branches inside and outside of the US like HSBC or Barclays. If possible, head to your local branch and inquire what needs to be done.
You will either need to verify your identification and funds with the local branch if the US branch approves this, if not, you may be required to go to the US to get it done.
Many businessmen seek this option to get their accounts open before traveling to the US. In the end, going to the US to get your bank set up is your best option.
3. Travel to the US:
This is the third and most common option to get your US bank account. It’s common because it is the easiest and the most guaranteed to get approved and running. If you have the funds to travel and have US-based clients, moving to the US is what you need to do.
Certain banks can get this done for you quickly without much trouble and are well known for their foreign policy, like Wells Fargo or Citibank.
Let’s go through the common requirements you should follow to open your account as soon as possible.
What Do I Need to Open a US Bank Account?
Banks have increased security measures to ensure a trusted person creates every account. Some banks can even request a background check before approving your account.
It would help to verify your identity, reliability, residency, and business. For business people, it is easier to set up a bank account for your business if you have the required documents and approval. Below is a list of what is required to open a US account as a foreigner:
Requirements for Opening a Bank Account as a Foreigner (noncitizen / nonresident) :
- Two forms of valid photo ID: Your passport is a must + secondary form of ID like your student ID, driver’s license… etc.
- Immigration documents: All legal documents, including your work or visit visa
- EIN (Employer Identification Number): This is a number assigned to you (foreign business) by the IRS, you need it to open a business in the US or open a bank account.
- US address: Most, if not all, banks require a physical US address to open a bank account; we’ll later discuss how to get one without necessarily being a US resident.
- Initial Deposit: Every bank requires you to have a minimum deposit in your account (the amount varies from one bank to another), it can be as low as $10 or as high as $100.
How to Apply in Person
If you’re not a Citizen of the US, but you’re living there and have proof of address but don’t have residence status, you can apply for a US bank account in person.
The conditions depend on the state you reside in and the banking you want to use. Consider contacting the bank before going to ensure you didn’t miss anything.
To open a US bank account as a non-resident, here are the things that are required:
- Proof of address together with your personal details and contact information.
- Two forms of photo ID – a Passport, a driving license, or a government-issued ID.
- An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and a Social Security number (SSN)
Ensure you have the original copies of these documents, as banks don’t accept photocopies. You should know that most banks will only allow you to create an account when you’re 18 or older. Also, most banks have a minimum deposit that each customer must make when they first open an account.
How to Apply without a Security Number (Opening a Personal Bank Account Without an SSN)
Most banks will require you to provide your Social Security number (SSN) when opening an account; unfortunately non, residents don’t have this number. Nonetheless, most banks accept Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) as an alternative.
You can easily get one by filling out the IRS Form W-7 and IRS Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number,which can be gotten on the IRS website.
Use a Correspondent Bank
A correspondent bank is a financial institution that provides services on behalf of another bank, usually located in another country.
If you have a bank account with a financial ] that serves as a correspondent to a U.S bank account, you can contact them to see if they can help you set up an account. However, you should know that not all correspondent banks offer this service.
Open an international account.
One of the advantages that living in a digital world is that accessing International services has never been easier. Thus making it very easy to set up an international bank account.
An international account can be used as a substitute if you don’t have a residential address in the united states; however, It usually costs a lot.
If you want to get an international account, you’ll need to be able to invest an initial deposit of not less than $50,000, depending on the bank you’re using. You’ll also be required to keep a certain amount all the time in your account.
Types of US bank accounts
There are generally two types of US bank accounts, each with its purpose. Individuals use one while businesses use the other.
- Personal Account
Individuals use a personal account to reach their financial goals, either saving to buy a new ride, a new home, or to earn interest.
This bank account is very common as most people use it for their daily income and expenses. Two bank accounts are under this category – the checking account and the savings account.
- Checking account
A checking account is used for everyday expenses, from buying groceries and getting fuel and gas to another petty spending. This type of account usually offers services, such as ATM withdrawals, debit cards, direct debit, ACH and wire transfers, internet banking, account transfers, and more.
- Savings account
A savings account, on the other hand, is an account used for keeping funds that will be used on rainy days. These types of accounts usually have high-interest rates compared to checking accounts. Thus enabling you to earn as you save. Also, saving accounts usually restrict how frequently you can withdraw money.
Both checking and savings accounts come with:
- A routing number (that identifies your bank).
- An account number (that identifies your account).
- Corporate Account
The other common type of account in the U.S is the corporate account. As the name suggests, businesses mostly use it to keep their transactions and business information private.
Corporate accounts provide your businesses with privacy that keeps your finances more secure. These accounts also allow the owner to give someone the power to perform transactions on their behalf.
Which bank should I choose to open a bank account in the US?
If you’ve got your social security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), your next line of action is choosing the bank to partner with. There are a lot of options for you, but here are some of the most popular banks in the United States:
Founded on 31st December 2000, JP Morgan Chase is one of the biggest banks in the United States. With over 4700 branches, Chase has bank accounts for all your needs. Whether it’s a savings account to earn interest or a corporate account for your business, JP Morgan Chase got you covered.
Bank of America
The Bank of America was founded in 1998 and is headquartered in Charlotte, NC. With a minimum deposit of $100, you can create an account with this popular bank. They also offer all three types of accounts.
If you’re looking for a bank to create an account without an initial deposit, then Citi Bank is your ideal option. Founded as far back as 1812, Citi bank is known for offering the best services to its customers.
Wells Fargo is another popular bank that was founded in 1852 and had over 7000 branches. Students and young customers love the bank because of its low initial deposit and monthly charges.
Alternate Bank Accounts for Non-US citizens
- Rely on a bank in your home country: If getting a US citizen is too hard, you can resolve to use a bank in your home country. Because the charges for International transfers are high, you can decide to offer a discount to your customers on orders of a certain amount.
- Open an Offshore Account: If you can’t get a US bank account, you can open an offshore account to manage your investments and businesses internationally. However, this type of account is avoided because it has been linked to allowing customers to save funds they don’t want to pay tax for and funds acquired illicitly.
How to Apply for an ITIN?
Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is like a social security number to non-US residents. Those that aren’t qualified to work in the US as well as their spouses can file for an ITIN.
It consists of 9 digits with the first starting with 9. To apply for an ITIN, simply fill out the IRS Form W-7.
You’ll also be required to submit documentation that validates your identity and foreign status. The form and documents can be mailed to this address
Internal Revenue Service
Austin Service Center
P.O. Box 149342
Austin, TX 78714-9342
You can also submit it to the nearest IRS walk-in office or to a credible acceptance agent.
How to get a US street address?
Not having a permanent US address is the biggest problem you’ll face when setting a bank account in the US. Banks insist on this term as proof of residency and identity; they need a stable address to use as a mailing and billing address.
But if you’re only on a short visit or don’t have a business set up in the US, getting a street address can be expensive.
Unfortunately, banks don’t recognize a PO Box address as proof of residency so it must be a street address. Now what? The solution to this dilemma would be getting a virtual street address.
This means you get an actual street address and all its benefits without necessarily needing to be at the address.
Read more: How Virtual Street Address Works
Confused? Let me try to explain this further.
You get to choose from a variety of addresses available nationwide, it can be used as your personal address or business address.
You’ll not only have a street address but a mailbox too for all your mail within the US. All your US clients, investors, partners, and the bank will be able to send all your mail to your virtual mailbox.
Your mail will arrive at a secure mail facility; the envelopes will be scanned and uploaded to your online mailbox. You can log into your mailbox through your phone or computer, wherever you are in the world.
Have ultimate control over your mailbox; you’ll easily be able to sort and organize all your business mail. With just a few clicks, you can open & scan, shred, recycle, archive, or download any mail piece.
Sign up for your US street address today, get your bank account set up, and enjoy multiple mail benefits too!