How to start a us bank account?
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.
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.
Thankfully, there are modern banking apps that know banking in the US can be tough for non-citizens.
With Wallet by BOSS Money, you don't need a Social Security Number or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. No credit check, just your foreign government ID, and you're good to go. In about two minutes, you can start using your new account online or at any of our 90,000+ locations across the US.
When you sign up, you get a free Mastercard debit card that works with Apple Pay and Google Pay. You can also make virtual cards for safer online shopping. These virtual cards protect your main account because the merchant only sees the virtual card number.
With Wallet by BOSS Money, you don't have to worry about monthly fees, minimum balances, or foreign transaction fees. You can pay bills, send money around the world, and transfer money for free. You can even set up direct deposit with your employer, and your money is FDIC-insured up to $250,000.
You may think all banks are out of the question for non-residents.
As a non-resident, you can apply for a personal account. Checking and savings accounts are types of personal accounts.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
If you’re in the US, and you want to wire money overseas, you have plenty of options aside from traditional banking services. Money transfer services such as BOSS Revolution are much more convenient and hassle-free.
BOSS Revolution can help you wire money to different countries across the globe, including Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, and France. Depending on the country you’re sending money to, you might be able to choose from different delivery options. That includes cash pick-up, home delivery, and mobile wallet. In some countries, you can wire money directly to a recipient’s checking and savings account.
To complete a transaction, you just have to provide your complete name, email address, residential address, and phone number to sign up. You’ll also be required to give the recipient’s full name as it’s listed on their valid ID or bank account.
You won’t have to jump through hurdles to carry out a transaction. You can set up an account without residency. You typically won’t need an SSN or an ITIN.
BOSS Revolution has a desktop version and a mobile app, which you can use to send money to select countries.
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:
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.
No. Most big traditional 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.
Ken Teegardin (CC BY 2.0, modified)
The first and most obvious way to open a US bank account as a non-resident is to open an account with a big-name US bank. This route requires residence in the US (even if your primary residence is abroad) and sometimes (although not always) also requires a SSN/ITIN and other documentation. Banks in this category include Wells Fargo, Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, US Bank, TD Bank, Capital One, and others.
This option also involves visiting the US and opening your bank account face-to-face — therefore it usually only makes sense if you have a home in the US and regularly visit the country. Otherwise, it’ll be very difficult to open a bank account online without proof of residency, though you could still contact the bank to check what their requirements would be if you wanted to become a temporary or permanent resident.
Most US bank accounts are either 'checking' or 'savings' accounts. Checking accounts work like current accounts in other countries and provide services such as:
Savings accounts, on the other hand, allow you to deposit money away over time and pay interest on that amount There are usually restrictions on how often you can withdraw money from this type of account.
Both checking and savings accounts come with:
In addition to a completed application form, the documents that are most commonly requested by US banks include¹:
While many US banks will require you to have both a SSN or ITIN and proof of address in America, the exact documents needed to open an account are not set and stone and can vary significantly from state to state and branch to branch.
You can visit any U.S. Bank branch to open a checking account. You'll still need identification and personal details, such as your Social Security number and a valid government-issued ID.
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