Bank accounts are essential. It lets you send, receive, lend, borrow, and manage money with security. As an immigrant, bank accounts are important to maintain a financial footprint in your host country, in this case, in the United States. It is difficult to open a bank account without an address proof but not impossible. In this blog, we are going to explore how.
Opening a bank account as an Immigrant
Having a corporate/personal bank account is of absolute necessity for opening a business or to get a credit card or a debit card. It is a safe place to keep your money while maintaining a financial footprint and building a credit history.
Bank of America allows you to open a US bank account only with your passport and a US mailing address. Citibank and TD Bank also have these options but it is not the same case in every state.
Opening an account as a non-resident or a non-citizen can be confusing. As banks' requirements vary depending on the state and the branch you apply to. In almost all cases, you are required to personally visit the bank branch to open a bank account.
Related Articles: More On Non-Resident Indians in the US
Requirements for opening bank accounts in the US
Opening an account with any major banks and credit unions require a valid customer identification. This means you need to provide documents to prove that your identity is valid. Most banks in the United States require you to be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident of the country.
Usually, you will need a U.S. Social Security Number (SSN) and a proof of address to open a US bank account. Since all foreign nationals don't have a Social Security number, banks typically ask for one or more of the following documents to verify your identity:
Some banks even accept immigration forms. These requirements vary with banks, locations, and even bank branches. Make sure you check on their website or call up customer support to get clear information before visiting the branch office of your location.
What is SSN?
SSN is the short form of the Social Security Number. It is a nine-digit number issued by the U.S. government issues to all U.S. citizens and the eligible U.S. residents to track their lifetime earnings and the number of years worked. It is needed to open a bank account, get a job in the formal sector, collect benefits, and other government services.
What is an ITIN?
ITIN is the short form of the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. It is issued for the purpose of processing taxes by the Internal Revenue Service to non-residents and U.S. non-citizen who are not eligible for a Social Security Number. Foreign nationals can also open a US bank account by using their ITIN number instead of the Social Security Number in most cases.
Related Article: Everything you need to know about ITIN
How to open a bank account in the US as an immigrant?
There are two ways to open a bank account: Online and Offline. You can go to the website of your preferred bank or visit one of their branch offices with the required documents and that is it.
The process is fairly straightforward for a legal resident who is settled permanently in the US and holds a green card or has had one in the previous calendar year. Standard steps to open a bank account in the US:
Related Article: More About Opening a US Bank Account
Should I open a bank account online or offline?
For the residents with a Social Security number, there is no doubt that online is the best and the most convenient way of opening a bank account.
Although a non-resident does not need to provide a social security number to open an account, it may not be easy for foreigners without a social security number to successfully open a bank account online due to technological limitations. In such a scenario, the person will be asked to visit the bank to verify their identity in person. Chances are better if you go directly to the bank and speak with the bank representative.
It is important to note that online banking will be available regardless of how and where you open the account.
What kinds of accounts are available for immigrants?
The type of account depends on your needs for financial services:
Ways to open a bank account with no proof of address
Some US banks have an international presence, such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citibank, HSBC, etc. They will let you open a bank account even if you don't have a U.S. address. Keep in mind that their initial minimum deposit can be very high and you may need to pay a substantial amount of fee to maintain the account.
These accounts can be opened in case a bank in your home country has a partnership with a US bank. The bank in the country of your origin can help open an account with the US bank. You don't need to provide proof of address in the US.
Neo banks or digital-only banks in the U.S. are gaining popularity amongst the tech-savvy population. Many of the digital-only or mobile-first banks have partnerships with a network of banks to facilitate their own checking and savings account facilities. Some of the popular ones are:
For simple banking functions like everyday shopping, paying bills, sending money, splitting bills, and receiving money, it is the best option. We recommend checking with the banks for more details on the requirements.
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The bottom line
Without a bank account, you will have to carry cash everywhere, store cash at home, and chances of borrowing from a legal channel are slim. While there is a universally call for greater financial inclusion, it is still difficult to open a bank account for a foreigner, and for many residents without a social security number or valid address proof today. We do recommend checking with your respective banks and their representatives before, in case of any doubts.
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