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Can You Open a US Bank Account as a Visa Holder?

Updated on March 15, 2023 01:25 pm
can you open a us bank account as a visa holder

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.

Can You Get a US Bank Account as a Non-citizen in the US?

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.

Basic Requirements for Opening a Bank Account in the US

In general, banks will need you to provide:

  • Contact Information
  • Government Issued ID
  • Some form of Identification Number
  • Proof of Address
  • Initial Deposit

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.

Requirements for opening an account in a US bank

How to Apply for an ITIN?

Here are the steps to apply for an individual taxpayer identification number:

  • Fill out a W-7 application form and submit it to the IRS along with your completed tax return
  • Submit documents that validate your identity and your status as a foreigner.
  • You can mail the form to the address they provided in the instructions or submit it to the IRS walk-in offices in person or an authorized Agent.

Types of Bank Accounts

As a non-resident, you can apply for personal accounts: Checking or Savings Accounts

Checking Account

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.

Savings Account

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.

How to Open a US Bank Account with US Visa Remotely Before Arriving in the US?

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.

Open a Bank Account with a Bank or Credit Union Focused on Immigrants 

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:

  • Passport: Upload a scanned copy of your passport using the online application or mobile banking app. This document will verify your identity.
  • US visa: Upload a scanned copy of your US visa. This document will verify your identity and US residency status.

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.

How to Open a US Bank Account as a Non-citizen US Resident?

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:

  • SSN
  • Passport
  • Government-issued ID
  • Proof of address (lease or utility bill)

How to Open a US Bank Account as a Non-resident in the US?

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:

  • Working in the US for an extended period.
  • You are a customer of a US international bank that has a presence in your home country
  • You own property in the US

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.

How to Open a Business Bank Account in the US?

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:

  • Government-issued ID
  • Proof of US address
  • Proof of business address
  • Articles of incorporation
  • Federal Employer Identification Number

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.

Alternative Bank Accounts for Non-US Residents

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:

Overseas Bank Account

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.

Correspondent Bank Account

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.

Why Should You Open a Bank Account in the US?

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:

  • Keep your money safe. Funds in your US Bank account are insured by the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Company) up to $250,000. 
  • Easy access to your money. You can get your money deposited directly into your accounts or withdraw it via ATMs when you need to.
  • Avoid high banking fees for international wire transfers and currency conversion fees
  • Pay for utilities such as electricity, gas, water, phone bills, rent, and university fees, or shop online or pay to other merchants with services like Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, etc.
  • Link your bank account with peer-to-peer payment services like Venmo, and Zelle which make payments easy and convenient.  
  • Build your US credit score (FICO score), which is important for building a financial life in the US.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a foreign national open 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.

Can a non-citizen open a bank account in a US bank?

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.

Can a foreigner open a bank account in the US remotely?

Yes, a foreigner can open an account in the US remotely without an SSN, even before arriving in the country.

Can I open a bank account without an SSN?

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.

Conclusion

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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Also, there is no law preventing employees with bank accounts to opt for paycards as their payment option.Though generally, employees tend to prefer direct deposit because of its efficiency and the least costly method of payment, as a business owner or an employer, it is better to give options instead of imposing only one method.Ask your employees about their preferred method of payment and what benefits (convenience, low fees, etc.) serve them the best.In fact, Federal law requires employers to offer alternative payment methods like paper checks or direct deposits.Should Employer Provide Pay Stub?Pay stub provides details of the employees' pay for each pay period. Employers are not required by federal law to give employees their pay stubs. However, many states have laws that require some form of written pay statement.Even if your state doesn't need you to provide pay stubs, you are still required by the Fair Labour Standards Act to keep track of your employees' working hours.For employees, a pay stub gives a record of their wages, deductions, contributions, and other information. It is also proof of income or employment, which is often needed when applying for a loan, credit card, or housing.For employers, a pay stub is useful for tax purposes, and it can be used to resolve any discrepancies with employee pay.Is it Possible for Paycards to be Overdrafted?Usually, paycards works like debit card, allowing cardholders to withdraw up to the limit of the loaded amount. However, there are paycard that allows overdraft for employees. But it can come with hefty overdraft fees if employees use funds over the limit in their account. Usually, you should be able to prevent misuse by subscribing to an overdraft protection service.Will Paycard Affect Credit Score?Paycards, like all prepaid cards, do not affect an employee's credit score.What is a Paycard Gets Lost or Stolen?A replacement card can be issued in such cases. The employee needs to notify the employer, and then the employer should immediately notify the card issuer. The employee is not liable for the incident as long as the issue is timely reported. Paycards come with similar protection as that of a prepaid card.The reporting time is determined by the card issuer. If you wait longer to report after learning of the loss and theft, the fraudulent charges may increase. You may have to pay a fee for the replacement card.Pros and Cons of PaycardsProsA win-win situation for unbanked employees and their employers.Green alternative to paper checks.Immediate payment to employees.No hassle of cashing a paycheck.No monthly or maintenance fees.Added security when assessing their funds (paycards require a PIN).Employees can report to the issuer if funds are used unauthorized.Paycards can be reloaded during each payday, saving money on issuing paper checks.Added efficiency for the employer as the employer would not have to physically present or mail paychecks to unbanked employees.ConsEmployees may incur fees for several reasons. Be aware of such potential fees.Employers have certain responsibilities to educate employees about the usage of paycards.Limited range of services and flexibility in managing your funds compared to bank accounts and other prepaid cards.The best paycards programs are easy to set up, have lower fees, quick access to funds, and provide a range of benefits such as cashback and discounts. We have made a list of popular paycards providers for businesses:Wisely Paycard by ADPOnline portal and mobile appCompatible with Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google PayZero cost sign upNo hidden feesNo credit checkNo overdraft feeZero cost direct deposit of pay and other sources of income (including government benefits)Accepted wherever Visa is acceptedKeep track of spending and account balances 24/7 on the appGet cash back at major retailersSurcharge-free ATM withdrawalsFDIC insuredSecurity features include instant card lock, purchase protection, and travel alert notificationsRapid PaycardDirect Deposit onto rapid paycardLoad funds from approved checks with Ingo Money mobile appsNo fee for cashing paycheck24/7 account access with rapid! Access mobile appNo credit checkCan be used at ATMs, merchants worldwide, wherever Debit Mastercard or Visa debit cards are acceptedPay bills and make purchasesBook airline and hotel reservations onlineEarn interest on savings accountGet cash back rewardsFDIC insuredMoney protected with Zero Fraud LiabilityKittrell PaycardNo fees to use (there are fees for certain situations)Fee-free ATM network with MoneyPassWebsite and Kittreall AppGet real-time alerts and push notificationsCash back at point-of-sale terminals2-way texting to manage your card and accountCompatible with Apple Wallet, Google Pay, Samsung PayEasy portability (Get direct deposit of stimulus checks, tax refund, benefits)Freeze or unfreeze card on-demandSkylight PaycardZero sign up feeNo credit checkNo minimum balance Personalized your card with a family photo or unique imageManage money anywhere on Mobile AppDirect deposit your government benefits, tax refundsUse anywhere where Visa Debit & Debit Mastercard are acceptedFDIC insuredZero liability protectionPay bills onlineEarn interest on savings accountEarn cash back with Payback RewardsSend money to or receive money from friends and family with Netspend cardsSet text alerts about transactionsRefer a friend and boost your card balanceSkylight overdraft limit is $100 & 3 times/ monthConclusionOverall, paycards can be convenient and cost-effective for employees and employees when compared to paychecks or for those employees with no bank account. And the paycard fees are becoming more transparent and competitive.While paycards can be challenging at times, especially when you are employed in multiple jobs and have a separate paycard with each employer, your funds are scattered in multiple cards so it becomes difficult to manage your finances. Some may prefer to put all their money in one place, like a checking account.However, if you can't open a bank account, a paycard is a great option to get paid. Read the fine prints before signing up for a paycard and know the potential fees that come with it.

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