It is no secret that the United States remains one of the most sought-after destinations for immigrants worldwide. Any foreign nationals who wish to enter the country must first get a visa, either a non-immigrant visa for a temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence.
As a newcomer, you may not be aware that some US banks and credit unions allow Non-US citizens to open US bank accounts without a Social Security Number (SSN) or even without setting foot in the U.S.
In this blog, we address the question of whether a non-citizen US resident or a non-resident with no SSN or a US address can open a bank account. If yes, what conditions need to be fulfilled, what is the process like, and what alternative options are available?
Whether you're a temporary worker who has recently migrated to the United States on a temporary work visa such as an H1B visa, an international student, or a non-resident hoping to open a US bank account, read on to find out how you can do it.
If you don't live in the US or aren't a citizen, but you want to open a bank account so you can build a strong financial foundation, here's what you need to know.
The good news is that both non-resident and non-citizen foreigners can open bank accounts in the US.
Banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions are required to thoroughly check the identity of anyone who wants to open a US bank account. So when you apply to open a checking account or savings account, the banks will need to verify your name, date of birth, address, and ID number.
In general, banks will need you to provide:
Most small banks only allow US citizens and permanent residents to open a bank account. You need to provide your Social Security Number to open a bank account with these banks.
But there are large banks in the US, such as Bank of America, Chase, TD Bank, US Bank, and Wells Fargo accept alternative forms of identification from non-US citizens or non-residents trying to open an account (either a checking account or a savings account)
Instead of your SSN, they will ask for your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number and other documents. As long as the requirements are met, you will be able to open an account with these banks.
The SSN is a nine-digit number issued by the Social Security Administration to US citizens, permanent residents, and eligible nonimmigrant workers in the US. The Individual Taxpayer Identification Number is a nine-digit number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to individuals such as non-residents, resident aliens, their spouses, and their dependents who are not eligible for an SSN.
The requirements will vary depending on the state, the bank or credit union, and your US residency status. So it is always best to call ahead or visit the website of the bank to verify the requirements for non-residents so that you are prepared.
Once you have all the required documents, opening a bank account is straightforward and can be done in person or online.
If you are already in the US, you can apply for an account in person. Online services are usually available to US citizens and permanent residents only.
Here are the steps to apply for an individual taxpayer identification number:
As a non-resident, you can apply for personal accounts: Checking or Savings Accounts
A checking account is a type of bank account that allows you to easily deposit and withdraw money for everyday transactions like depositing a check, ATM withdrawals with a debit card, direct deposit for your paycheck, paying bills, buying groceries, etc.
Since you have easy access to your money, checking accounts are one of the most liquid bank accounts. They often allow unlimited deposits and withdrawals (though there are daily maximum limits, depending on the bank.)
The main purpose of a checking account is to keep your money in a secure place for the short term so that you can pay bills and other expenses conveniently.
A savings account is a type of bank account that allows you to keep your money that will not use for regular expenditures. Compared to checking accounts, they have higher interest rates, which means you earn more money with your deposits.
With savings accounts, there is a limit on the number of withdrawals and transactions, unlike checking accounts.
The main purpose of a savings account is to store money for specific purposes and goals. For example, funds for rainy days or a down payment on a home. When you are ready to use the money, you can withdraw it.
Some US banks and financial institutions that cater to international customers will allow non-citizen and non-resident foreign nationals to open a bank account without SSN or remotely before traveling to the US.
Once you get a work visa, a student visa, or any valid US visa, these banks will let you open an account even before arriving in the US.
If you are planning to move to the US on a work visa such as an H1B or L1 visa or a student visa such as F1 or J1 visa, you can open a US bank account before coming to the US:
For this, you don't need to have an SSN or be a US citizen. However, you will need to have a US address to receive your physical debit card.
Required Documents to open a bank account online:
You might also need paperwork to verify your name, current US address, date of birth, etc.
Some financial institutions may occasionally ask for a secure video call to verify a few personal details, validate your passport, and take a selfie for your photograph.
If you are a non-citizen US resident with a valid SSN, you can open a US bank account with most US banks, just like any other US citizen. You can also complete the account application process online.
Documents required to open a US bank account:
If you wish to have a US bank account while living in the US, some international banks can help you if you meet specific non-resident criteria:
If you can provide all the supporting documents to prove that you meet the above criteria, you may be able to open an account in the US as a non-resident without living in the country.
Usually, your business needs to be based in the US to set up a business bank account in the US. Larger banks such as JP Morgan Chase and TD Ameritrade are more open to non-resident applicants.
You may need to provide the following:
It can be challenging to open a bank account for your international business. Online banking is largely unavailable to non-residents. Fortunately, there are fintech firms or online banks that are changing the banking landscape. You don't need a business address to open a business account with some of these firms.
Some examples are Wise Business, Payoneer, etc. These services are best for businesses that are location-independent.
It can be challenging for non-residents to open a traditional bank account. If you are unable to qualify for a bank account at a US bank or credit union, you can consider the following options:
An offshore, or overseas bank account that you can open in a country you don't reside in. You can make and receive payments, hold money, and set up savings and investment accounts in at least one foreign currency, and sometimes in multiple currencies.
Banks with an international presence usually offer such international bank accounts. Major US banks such as HBSC, Charles Schwab, and Citibank have a wide presence in foreign countries. If you don't have a US address, you can open a bank account online, even without flying to the US.
Most banks have online banking facilities to let you set up a bank account online from the comfort of your home.
Despite the advantages, these international accounts are not for everyone. The income and deposit requirements for such international bank accounts can be quite high. The initial deposit can exceed $100,000 on top of monthly fees and a high minimum balance.
Some foreign banks have partnerships with US banks. If the bank in your home country has a partner bank in the US, you may open a bank account at a US bank, even with no US address.
Once set up, you can do wire transfers, deposits, and other financial transactions.
A correspondent bank account makes use of interbank relations. Let's say you want to make international money transfers from your home country to the US. You use your home bank to issue the transfer, and the correspondent bank helps move the funds from the issuing bank to a beneficiary bank in the US. You can get the funds from the beneficiary's bank.
Not all banks will offer this service. So it is better to contact your home bank to check if they have partner banks in the US.
The process will also differ based on countries, banks, and branches, so you’ll need to check with your home bank about the specific process and requirements.
Having a bank account has many advantages. It is an essential part of your financial planning and stability. It is a safe way to keep your money, pay bills, withdraw money, deposit funds, gets government subsidies, and much more.
No matter what stage of life you are in—student, working professional, homemaker, or businessperson—having a bank account makes life easier.
Here are the benefits of opening an account in the US:
Yes, a foreigner can open an account in the U.S. However, additional paperwork is required. You will need your government-issued ID, passport, visa, or resident alien number from a green card. You will need an ITIN if you don't have an SSN.
Yes, non-citizens can open a bank account in the US with proper paperwork. US non-citizens include green card holders (permanent residents) and US visa holders such as H1B, L1, or international students.
Yes, a foreigner can open an account in the US remotely without an SSN, even before arriving in the country.
Yes, you can open a US bank account without an SSN. In most cases, you’ll need to provide additional documentation such as a passport, visa, and proof of residency
Among the financial institutions that accept applicants with no SSN are Wells Fargo, PNC, U.S. Bank, BMO Harris, Alliant Credit Union, Bank of America, HSCB, and TD Bank.
Being a non-resident or non-citizen makes it difficult to open a bank account in the US. But with some research and a lot of patience, you can find the best banking options for your financial needs.
If you want to transfer money overseas, you have plenty of options aside from traditional banking services.
To see current currency exchange rates and compare fees and transfer speeds for sending money overseas, use CompareRemit's comparison tool today!
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