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How To Open a Bank Account in the US as a Non-Resident

 Are you hoping to open a US bank account as a non-resident?

Banking in the US isn’t as easy as it used to be. The US passed the Patriot Act to prevent the use of the financial system for criminal activity. Although it has far-reaching effects, one of the biggest changes it brought was increased verification requirements.

Now, you might be wondering, “Can a non-citizen open a bank account in the US?”

Yes, you can. The process might be a bit complicated for non-citizens, but it’s not impossible. Whether it’s for business, travel, or personal reasons, setting up a US bank account will be worth the trouble.

Banking in the US has many advantages. For starters, you can avoid exorbitant bank and card fees when you’re spending money in the country. Even as a non-resident, you can get deposits worth up to $250,000 insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

Read on to learn how to open a US bank account.

Opening Personal Bank Account Without Social Security Number or ITIN

A foreigner can open a bank account in the US. Most small banks only allow US citizens and permanent residents to open up bank accounts. These banks require a social security number, which non-citizens don’t have. This is the most common problem that foreigners realize.

However, larger banks such as US Bank, TD Bank, Bank of America, Chase, and Wells Fargo will allow non-residents to set up a checking account and a savings account. Instead of your SSN, they’ll ask for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and other documents. As long as the necessary requirements are met, you’ll be able to set up an account with these banks.

As a non-resident, you can apply for a personal account. Checking and savings accounts are types of personal accounts.

  • Checking account
    A checking account can be used for everyday transactions from buying groceries to getting gas. This type of account will come with different services, such as ATM withdrawals, debit cards, account transfers, and more.
  • Savings account
    A savings account, on the other hand, is for storing funds that you want to set aside for rainy days. Compared to checking accounts, they typically have higher interest rates. That means you can earn more money with the money you’ve saved up.

Since opening a traditional bank account can be challenging for non-residents, you can turn to other options, such as a multi-currency account, an international account, and a correspondent account. These alternatives might help you set up an account from your home country.

What documents do you need to open a US bank account?

If you’re living in the US but have yet to receive resident status, you can apply for a bank account in person. Online services are usually limited to US citizens and permanent residents only.

Bank requirements can vary per branch or per state. For instance, some bank branches in New York will require you to present a utility bill, which is addressed to your name and US address. The same bank in New Jersey, however, has no such requirement.

Thus, make sure to call ahead and verify the bank’s requirements for non-residents so that you won’t miss anything. Book an appointment so that you can open an account with the bank.

Here are other documents that you might be required to submit when you’re opening a US bank account for non-residents:

  • Valid passport
  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
  • Government-issued ID
  • Immigration documents

If you’re opening a bank account, you’ll be required to make an initial deposit. The minimum amount depends on your bank, but it can range anywhere from $50 to $3,000 or more.

Applying for ITIN

Short for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, an ITIN is essentially a social security number for non-citizen residents. Foreigners who aren’t qualified to work in the US, as well as their spouses and dependents, are eligible for an ITIN. It consists of nine digits, the first of which always starts with a nine.

According to the IRS, you must fill out and submit the Form W-7 to apply for an ITIN.

Along with the form, you’ll be required to present documentation validating the identity of each individual and your foreign status. You can mail the form and the requirements to the address provided in the instructions. You may also submit it to IRS walk-in offices or an authorized Acceptance Agent.

Correspondent Bank Accounts

Correspondent accounts leverage inter-banking relations. They make banking easier for you in countries where your home bank lacks a physical presence.

So, how does it work?

A bank from your country has a partner bank in the US. Your bank can help you set up an account in the US. Even without a physical location in the US, your home bank can still assist you. Once set up, you can do wire transfers, deposits, and other financial transactions.

These international transactions will be made through a network called SWIFT, which is short for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. A respondent bank will need the SWIFT code of the correspondent bank to carry out transactions to the foreign bank.

Let’s say you want to do an international transfer. You’ll need to set up an account at an issuing bank, which will be your home bank. That bank will use a correspondent bank to move the funds from the issuing bank to a beneficiary bank. You can get the funds from the beneficiary bank.

Not all banks will offer such a service. Hence, contact your home bank to determine if they have partner banks in the US.

The process will also vary per country, per bank, and per branch, so you’ll need to ask your home bank about the specific process and requirements.

International Bank Accounts

Banks with an international presence may offer international accounts. For foreigners who don’t have a US address, this can be a convenient alternative. You can open an account from your home country, so you don’t have to fly to the US to set it up beforehand. Most banks even have web services that will let you set up a bank account online.

Some of the top banks with a wide international presence in the US and beyond include HSBC, Charles Schwab, and Citibank. Of the three, Citibank may has the largest reach as it operates in more than 30 countries.

Here are some of the usual requirements for opening international bank accounts:

  • Government-issued ID
  • Proof of residency
  • Initial minimum deposit

Again, the requirements can vary per country and per bank. Make sure to confirm the requirements with your home bank before attempting to open an account.

Despite their advantages, these international accounts aren’t for everyone. For instance, international bank accounts often require large initial deposits, which can exceed $100,000. You’ll have monthly fees. Also, you’ll have to maintain a high minimum balance.

Corporate Bank Accounts for Your Business

Setting up a corporate bank account for your international business isn’t easy.

To set up a corporate bank account in the US, your business has to be based in the US. Larger banks, as mentioned, are more open to non-resident applicants. These include JP Morgan Chase and TD Ameritrade.

As with personal accounts, the requirements can vary per bank and per branch. In general, these are the documents that you’ll be required to submit to open a corporate bank account:

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

Online banking is largely unavailable to non-residents. However, there are some fintech firms that are changing the game and making traditional services more available to a wide range of people.

These financial institutions will help you set up a corporate account without residency. Some might still require your business to be registered in the US, while others will let you set up an account no matter where your business is based.

If you don’t have a presence in the US, you can turn to services like Wise Business, Airwallex, and Payoneer. These services are ideal for location-independent entrepreneurs as they make international business easy.

For companies that have a US entity, there are services like Mercury that will help you set up a business account remotely. They offer FDIC-insured bank accounts, which come with services such as virtual cards, API access, and team management.

Is It Possible to Open a US Bank Account Online as a Non-Resident?

No. Most US banks will require non-residents to apply for an account in person. That means you have to travel to the US and walk into a bank branch to set up your account.

If you’re living outside of the US but travel to the country often, you can set up borderless accounts, like international and multi-currency accounts, to have more financial freedom whenever you’re traveling.

Whether for business or personal use, these location-independent accounts can be set up from anywhere in the world. They are multi-currency accounts, too. That means they’ll let you store and access different currencies whenever needed. You’ll have the freedom to send and receive money from anywhere in the world without having to worry about exorbitant transaction fees and exchange rates.

Opening up a bank account in the US as a non-resident isn’t easy. But with a little bit of research and a ton of patience, you can figure out the best option for your needs.

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