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Can I Open a Bank Account in Another Country?

By Jamie Cattanach · January 24, 2024 · 6 minute read

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Can I Open a Bank Account in Another Country?

If you’re wondering, “Can I open a bank account in another country?” the answer is typically yes. Whether you are pursuing life as a digital nomad, studying abroad for a semester or two, or traveling with friends or your significant other for a few months, you’re going to need access to funds.

If you keep your American bank account, you’re likely to face a slew of foreign transaction fees, which can really take their toll on your finances.

Fortunately, opening a bank account in a foreign country is totally possible — and totally legal, as long as you’re not doing so for tax evasion purposes. However, it may take a few more steps than opening a domestic account would. Read on to learn the details.

What is Banking Abroad?

Banking abroad is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: It involves opening a bank account in a country that is not your primary or official country of residence or citizenship.

If you’re an American, this means opening a bank account in any other country, whether it’s Canada or Cambodia. Of course, some countries — such as, famously, Switzerland or the Cayman Islands — are specifically known for what are called offshore bank accounts, thanks to incentives such as high levels of financial privacy and serious deposit protections. These features can and have attracted the attention of high-net-worth individuals over the years.

But opening a foreign bank account isn’t reserved only for the ultra-rich. Regular, everyday individuals may benefit from banking abroad in certain circumstances. If you are wondering if you can open a bank account overseas because you’ll be spending the bulk of your time there, you probably can.

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Is Banking Abroad Legal?

Banking abroad is legal if you’re doing so for the right reasons.

Most of us associate banking abroad with nefarious activities like money laundering or tax evasion, which are, of course, illegal — and could result in large fines or even imprisonment.

But if you’re living in or earning legitimate wages in a foreign country, opening an account there is totally legitimate. It’s also likely your best bet for avoiding excessive foreign transaction fees. It will also reduce or eliminate the hassle of having to deal with a customer service team based in a very different time zone.

Some people also open offshore bank accounts for investment purposes. If this interests you, it’s worth enlisting the help of a financial professional to ensure you’re staying above-board. Foreign investments or offshore banking for tax purposes can be quite complex.

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How to Legally Bank Abroad

In order to legally open a checking account in a foreign country, you’ll usually need to verify quite a lot of personal information for the bank. This is so all the parties involved can confirm you’re banking in a foreign country for legal reasons and not engaging in illicit activities, such as tax evasion or money laundering. You will probably have to share some details with US officials, too.

So what does all that mean for you as someone interested in opening a foreign bank account?

Paperwork — potentially lots of paperwork, though it may not be that complex.

Recommended: Can You Have Multiple Checking Accounts with One Bank?

Requirements to Open a Bank Account Abroad

The specific documentation you’ll need to provide to open a foreign bank account will depend on a lot of factors. Among the variables that may impact exactly what you’ll need to provide: The specific bank you choose, the regulations of the target country, how much money you’re planning to deposit or hold in the account, and more.

Generally speaking, though, you can plan to provide the following:

•   Proof of identification, such as a passport or driver’s license

•   Proof of residence, such as a utility bill

•   Up to a year of bank statements from your current bank account in the US

•   Paystubs or a statement from your employer

•   Documentation relevant to investments or business transactions, such as sales contracts

Keep in mind that these documents may need to be notarized by a third party or sent through the local consulate for the target country in order to be deemed official. The bank will give you explicit instructions on all required documentation and may also ask for a written statement of purpose for opening the account.

Don’t overlook the home team either. The US government is likely to have its own questions about your activities. If the value of your account abroad will be more than $10,000, you’ll need to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR).

Note: Interest earned on monies held in foreign savings accounts are usually still taxable here at home. Always consult with a professional if you have questions about your tax liability.

Pros and Cons of Offshore Banking

So, what are the benefits and drawbacks of offshore banking? When does opening a foreign bank account make sense? Take a closer look.

Pros

First, the upsides of opening a bank account in another country.

•   An offshore bank account can help you avoid foreign transaction fees if you’re living or doing business in a foreign country.

•   Having a bank account in a foreign country you’re living in can also make it easier to perform basic daily banking tasks without having to navigate overseas phone calls.

•   Offshore banking can have some legitimate tax incentives — though in order to take advantage of these legally, you’ll probably need to consult a tax professional.

Cons

Now, the disadvantages:

•   Opening a foreign bank account can be a relatively arduous process, with a lot of paperwork and verification involved.

•   Foreign banking can have unforeseen taxation consequences — for example, interest earned overseas may still be taxable at home.

•   You may need to file additional paperwork with the IRS if your foreign account will be valued at over $10,000.

Here’s how these pros and cons stack up side by side.

Pros of Opening a Foreign Bank Account

Cons of Opening a Foreign Bank Account

Helps you avoid foreign transaction fees if you’re living or doing business abroadComplicated process involving a lot of paperwork
Easier to conduct day-to-day banking while abroadTax considerations; for instance, interest earned may be taxable in the U.S.
There may be tax benefits to having a foreign accountIf your account is worth over $10,000, you likely need to file extra paperwork with the IRS

The Takeaway

The answer to the question, “Can I open a bank account in a foreign country?” is likely to be a big yes. Gathering and submitting the right documentation may take a while, but it can ease your time abroad tremendously. It can help you spend more time reveling in the local culture than wrangling your personal finances.

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use banking alternative here in the US, consider your options to find the right fit.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.


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FAQ

What countries allow foreigners to open bank accounts?

Most countries will allow foreign nationals to open a bank account on their shores as long as they can provide proof of legal residence in that country (and other necessary documentation). Some countries make it easier than others to open a foreign bank account, however.

Can I open a bank account in another country without being a citizen?

Yes, but you will likely need to provide extra documentation to verify your identity, place of residence, and the legal purpose of the account.


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SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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