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Guide to Opening a Bank Account as a Non-US Citizen

By Kelly Boyer Sagert · August 27, 2022 · 6 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Guide to Opening a Bank Account as a Non-US Citizen

When non-U.S. citizens arrive in America, a key concern can of course be keeping their money safe and getting their financial life up and running — which are two key benefits of opening a bank account. Fortunately, many financial institutions allow those who are not citizens to do just that…which is a big relief for those who are new to residing in the 50 states.

Here, we’ll share:

•   How to open a bank account if you’re a non-citizen

•   What kind of identification is needed

•   How to secure an ITIN for identification

•   Alternatives to a bank account

Read on for the full story.

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

Yes, it is possible to open a U.S. bank account as a non-resident. However, not all banks may allow this. You’ll need to check with an individual financial institution to learn their policies, including what forms of identification will be required.

It can help to be very specific with your questions. For example, you might ask about the process of opening a checking account for a non-U.S. citizen or a savings account. Find out in advance what the requirements are so you know (and can prepare) exactly the sort of credentials and paperwork are needed. The goal is no surprises, right?

Recommended: What is a Savings Account and How Does it Work?

Typical Requirements for Opening a Bank Account

Even if you are a U.S. citizen, you will have a number of documentation requirements when it comes to opening a bank account. According to the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, financial institutions must verify the identity of someone who wants to open a bank account to the “extent reasonable and practical.”

How this is accomplished can vary by financial institution, but here are typical requirements whether you are opening a bank account online or in person:

•   Contact information (name, address, phone number, email address)

•   Two forms of current government IDs such as a driver’s license and Social Security card

•   If you haven’t used a Social Security card as a form of ID, the financial institution will still ask for your Social Security number.

•   A current bill, such as a water or electric bill, with your current address

•   Minimum opening deposit (this is often $25)

Check with your bank of choice for more details.

Alternatives for Identification

Opening a bank account in a foreign country can mean, however, that you don’t have all the paperwork listed above. When applying for an account, if you can’t satisfy those requirements, you may be able to submit alternative documents. Other options can include the following:

•   If you don’t have a driver’s license, then you may provide a government-issued state ID or a U.S. military ID. All must be current/unexpired.

•   Other forms of secondary governmental IDs (besides a Social Security card) can include your original or certified birth certificate or your passport; a passport can also serve as your primary form of ID.

•   An ITIN if you’re not eligible for a Social Security number.

Next up: More about an ITIN, which can be a vital piece of identification for non-U.S. citizens, allowing them to bank in America.

What is ITIN?

You may wonder, “What is an ITIN?” as you pursue a bank account as an immigrant. It’s an important point to learn more about and can unlock financial services for you. ITIN stands for an “Individual Taxpayer Identification Number” and, according to the IRS, this serves as a tax processing identification number.

The IRS issues this number to people who need to have an identification number in the United States but are not eligible to get a Social Security number. A person’s immigration status is not relevant when applying for an ITIN because resident and non-resident aliens may each need to have this number. Worth noting: Getting an ITIN does not authorize you to work in America. It is simply a number that is used for tax-reporting purposes.

How to Apply for an ITIN

If you are not a U.S. citizen and want to apply for an ITIN, you have a few options. The IRS lists the steps for a couple of different options:

•   If you’d like to apply by mail, provide your W-7, proof of identity, tax return, and foreign status documents to the following address:

◦   IRS Austin Service Center, ITIN Operation, PO Box 149342, Austin, TX 78714-9342

◦   No return envelope is required for your documents to be returned. However, if you want your documents returned more quickly, you can include a prepaid express mail envelope or courier envelope.

•   If you will need these original documents within the next 14 weeks (which can be how long processing takes), you may decide to apply in person at a Certifying Acceptance Agent (CAA). Or you can submit certified copies rather than the originals.

◦   If you’re waiting for your original documents and 14 weeks have passed, call 800-908-9982 in the United States or 267-941-1000 outside the country for an update on their return.

•   Make an appointment at an official IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center . Multilingual operators are available.

Once you receive your ITIN, you can move ahead with opening a bank account.

Benefits of Opening a Bank Account

Opening a bank account can be a vital step in establishing and maintaining your day-to-day financial life in the U.S. Let’s spell out some of the benefits. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC ) lists numerous reasons why opening a bank account can be beneficial:

•   Safety: FDIC insurance keeps your money safe even if a bank would fail and even if an unauthorized electronic transaction is made. (With the second, you’ll need to contact your financial institution in a timely way.)

•   Convenience: You can seamlessly have a paycheck directly deposited into your account, eliminating the possibility of a lost or stolen paper check. You can pay bills from your account, and transfer money to friends and family members.

•   Accountability: You can track your balance and the transactions made, and you’ll have a record of all of them. You can set up alerts to stay informed about these transactions and, once you have an account with a bank, you can then benefit from other services that the financial institution offers.

Depending on your situation, you may want to open an individual account solo or you might want to bank with another person, which will provide some joint bank account benefits. In either case, if you are a new owner of a checking account, it’s important to learn how to balance bank accounts and keep on top of your cash flow to avoid overdraft fees and the like.

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Alternative Accounts for Non-US Citizens

What if you are not a citizen, want to open a bank account, but don’t have or can’t get that ITIN? Although an ITIN is one of most common ways for a non-U.S. citizen without a Social Security number to identify themselves to get a bank account, financial institutions may also accept other IDs. For example, you may be able to present a passport number and the name of the country that issued it, an alien ID number, or another type of government-issued ID that identifies residency or nationality. It’s worth doing a bit of research to see if you can open an account with these forms of identification.

If you’d like to open an account with funds other than U.S. dollars, you might also want to consider a foreign currency account, which lets you send and receive funds in a foreign currency.

The Takeaway

Yes, you can open a bank account as a non-U.S. citizen and enjoy the convenience and security of a checking or savings account. However, extra steps are involved when it comes to providing forms of ID. An ITIN can be helpful when opening a bank account as a non-U.S. citizen. This form of identification can be worthwhile in getting your financial life up and running in America.

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Can a non-resident open a bank account in the US?

The answer to “Can an immigrant open a bank account?” is yes. Opening a bank account in the U.S. for non-residents comes with added steps: Someone who doesn’t qualify for a Social Security number must identify themself in another way, such as an ITIN, that’s acceptable to the financial institution.

How do I open a non-resident bank account?

You can check with a financial institution of choice to see whether they offer accounts to non-citizens and their specific policies on how a non-resident can open a bank account in the U.S. Ask what forms of ID you’ll need; you will likely be required to have an ITIN or an alternate form.

What identification is needed to open a bank account in the US?

Although specifics may vary by financial institution, in general, a bank will ask for contact information along with a utility bill that confirms your address; two forms of a government-issued ID; your Social Security number; and a minimum opening deposit. If someone isn’t eligible for a Social Security number, an ITIN may be an acceptable alternative.

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