How to Open a U.S. Bank Account as a Non-U.S. Citizen

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by How to Start an LLC Team
Last updated: May 22nd, 2024
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For non-U.S. citizens and non-residents, opening a bank account in the United States may feel daunting. The financial industry has a wide range of regulations and requirements, and while it’s important to follow them, it doesn’t have to be hard.

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Here are some key points to consider before deciding to move forward:

  • Type of account. Most U.S. banks offer two main types of accounts—checking accounts for daily transactions and savings accounts for earning interest on stored funds. Foreigners are generally eligible to enroll in either type of account.
  • Required documentation. While specific requirements can vary, foreigners typically need to provide a passport, proof of address (either in the U.S. or abroad), and sometimes an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or Social Security Number (SSN).
  • Physical presence. Some banks require non-residents to apply in person, particularly if they don’t have an SSN. However, certain banks and international banking institutions may offer online applications or specialized services for non-residents.
  • Additional verification. Non-residents might undergo more rigorous verification processes, including background checks and additional identification procedures, compared to U.S. residents.

Who needs a U.S. bank account

For most people living outside of the United States, a U.S. bank account won’t be necessary. However, there are a few scenarios that would make these accounts important.

Travelers and Expatriates

Foreign individuals who frequently travel to the U.S. or who plan to reside there, even temporarily, can benefit from having a U.S. bank account. This is also true for students studying abroad. It simplifies managing expenses within the country, allows for easier access to cash withdrawals, and offers a way to avoid international transaction fees on purchases.

Business owners and entrepreneurs

Foreign business owners who operate or plan to start a business in the U.S. will find a local bank account critical. Having an account in the U.S. allows for smoother business transactions, such as paying local vendors, bill pay,  receiving payments, and managing payroll. Additionally, establishing a U.S. bank account can also enhance credibility with U.S.-based clients and suppliers.

Workers and freelancers

Non-residents working temporarily in the U.S. or freelancers with U.S. clients can use a domestic bank account to receive payments directly. This is particularly important for avoiding high fees associated with international payment services and currency conversion discrepancies.

Benefits of a U.S. Bank Account

Opening a U.S. bank account offers many benefits, especially for those starting a business.

  • Simplification of financial transactions.
  •  Lower fees for international transactions, currency conversion, and ATM withdrawals.
  • Access to direct deposit services from other American banks.
  • Establishes a banking and credit history in the U.S.
  • Advanced online services and apps.
  • Strong consumer protections.

How to Open a U.S. Bank Account

Navigating the process of opening a U.S. bank account as a non-resident can be straightforward with the right process in place. Below are the steps you’ll need to take to get started.

1
Obtain an EIN

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) anyone required to have a U.S. taxpayer identification number, who cannot obtain a Social Security Number (SSN). It is used primarily to enable individuals without an SSN, including non-residents, to comply with U.S. tax laws.

Who Needs an ITIN?

  • Non-residents who need to file a U.S. tax return.
  • Spouses and dependents of U.S. citizens or resident aliens who are not eligible for SSNs.
  • Non-resident aliens claiming tax treaty benefits.
  • Foreign nationals starting a business or opening a bank account in the U.S.

How to Get an ITIN

  • Complete the Form W-7: The IRS requires completion of Form W-7 to apply for an ITIN. This form must be filled out accurately, detailing your foreign status and true identity.
  • Provide Proof of Identity: You must submit documents that prove your identity and foreign status.  A passport is the most commonly accepted document, but other acceptable options may be national identification cards, U.S. driver’s licenses, and birth certificates.
  • Tax Return: Attach a valid federal income tax return to your Form W-7. Some exceptions may apply to this step.
  • Submission: You can submit your ITIN application and the accompanying documents through the mail, at IRS walk-in offices, or through approved Acceptance Agents (AAs) worldwide. AAs will charge a fee, but it is free when done on your own behalf.
  • Confirmation: Once the application is processed, the IRS will issue an ITIN through the mail, which can then be used for banking and tax purposes. This process typically takes about 7 weeks, but it can vary depending on the season and any additional reviews required for your documents.

2
Gather required documents

Each financial institution has their own requirements for documentation before opening an account, but you should be sure you have the most common on hand.

  • Identification (ID): Official photo identification, such as a passport or foreign driver’s license, to verify identity.
  • Proof of Address: Documentation to confirm your address, which can be a foreign or U.S. address. Common documents include utility bills or bank statement periods not older than three months.
  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN): A tax processing number issued by the IRS for those who are not eligible for a Social Security Number. Required for tax purposes and sometimes for opening a bank account.
  • Additional Supporting Documents: Depending on the bank, this may include proof of employment, student status, or visa documentation to establish your purpose in the U.S. 

3
Choose a bank

You will want to choose a bank that meets all of your individual requirements for banking, as well as one that works well for non-residents. Consider factors like:

  • Services Offered: Ensure the bank offers the specific services you need, such as online banking, international wire transfers, and multi-currency accounts. Check if they provide additional services like credit cards, loans, and investment options that you may want in the future.
  • Fees and Rates: Compare the fee structures of different banks. Look at monthly maintenance fees, ATM  transaction fees, transfer fees, and currency conversion charges. Also consider interest rates offered on standard savings accounts and CDs.
  • Accessibility: Consider the bank’s accessibility both online and offline. A bank with a user-friendly online banking platform is crucial if you are managing your account from abroad. If you spend time in the U.S., consider a bank with a convenient branch and ATM network.
  • Customer Support: Good customer support is essential, especially for non-residents who may need assistance navigating banking and tax implications in the U.S. Check if the bank offers support in your preferred language and 24/7 customer service.
  • Ease of Account Setup: Some banks are more experienced and better equipped at handling accounts for non-residents. Look for banks that offer a streamlined process with clear instructions and support for setting up an account as a non-resident.

4
Visit the U.S.

Many U.S. banks require non-residents to be physically present to open a bank account, due to identification verification and fraud prevention protocols. Visiting a branch allows you to meet directly with banking representatives, provide your documents in person, and obtain immediate assistance and clarification on how to manage your new account.

However, some banks offer options for opening an account remotely, especially those that cater to international clients or operate globally. These banks may have procedures in place that allow you to submit documentation electronically and verify your identity through video calls or partnered institutions in your home country.

Before opening an account, be sure to understand if you need to visit the bank in person and if that aligns with your schedule and needs.

5
Provide opening deposit

The final step in opening your U.S. bank account as a non-resident is to provide an opening deposit. This initial deposit activates your account, allowing you to start using banking services.

Different banks have different minimum opening deposit requirements, which can range from as little as $25 to several thousand dollars for premium accounts. Be sure to check what your chosen bank requires.

Consider what method you will need to use for the deposit (wire transfer, ACH, money order, cash, etc.), any currency exchange, and the amount of time it will take your deposit to clear.

Best U.S. Banks for Non-Residents

Mercury

Mercury is a digital bank tailored to the needs of startups and tech entrepreneurs, making it highly suitable for non-residents looking to establish a business presence in the U.S. without the hassle of traditional banking overheads. It offers no monthly fees and provides a fully digital banking experience with comprehensive online account management tools.

Key features

  • Fully digital platform with no physical branches, ideal for remote management
  • No minimum deposit required and no monthly service fees
  • Tailored services for startups, including business loans and credit options
  • API access allows for easy integration with other business software

RelayFi

RelayFi offers a dynamic banking platform designed specifically for small business owners, providing extensive features that facilitate efficient financial management and planning without the need for visiting physical branches.

Key features

  • Robust online account management tools with multi-user access, making it ideal for team handling
  • No minimum account balance or monthly maintenance fees, reducing operational costs
  • Integrated bookkeeping features to streamline financial tracking and reporting
  • Ability to issue corporate cards to employees, simplifying expense management

Found

Found is particularly tailored for freelancers and self-employed individuals. It seamlessly integrates banking with essential bookkeeping and tax estimation tools, all designed to work without monthly fees or minimum daily balance requirements.

Key features

  • Direct integration with major payment platforms to facilitate easier transactions
  • Automated expense tracking helps in maintaining financial records
  • Custom invoicing capabilities allow for personalized billing solutions
  • Real-time tax estimates to help prepare for tax obligations efficiently

Bank of America

Bank of America is one of the largest and most established retail banks in the U.S., providing a comprehensive range of banking products and an extensive branch and ATM network. This makes it highly accessible for non-residents who may require frequent in-person banking services and access to a Visa debit card.

Key features

  • Diverse account options catering to different financial needs and goals
  • Widespread ATM and branch network across the U.S. for convenient access
  • Possible monthly fees, which can be waived under certain conditions such as maintaining a minimum balance or setting up direct deposits
  • Multilingual customer support available to assist customers in various languages

U.S. Bank

U.S. Bank is a top choice for non-residents looking for comprehensive banking solutions in the United States. Known for its wide range of products and customer-focused services, it offers a variety of account options that cater to different financial needs and goals.

Key features

  • Offers everything from basic Bank Smartly checking accounts to more complex investment services
  • U.S. Bank Smartly, which includes innovative tools like online banking, a U.S. bank mobile app, and advanced security measures to enhance user experience and safety
  • Smart Rewards program, which offers cash-back rewards, fee discounts, rate bonuses, and overdraft protection transfers or overdraft fee forgiveness
  • Known for responsive customer support, available via multiple channels including phone, email, and chat
  • A significant network of US. Bank branches and US. Bank ATMs across the U.S., making it convenient for non-residents traveling or moving around the country.

CitiBank

CitiBank stands out with its global footprint, offering non-residents comprehensive international banking services. This is ideal for those who travel frequently or conduct business in multiple countries, providing a range of premium services and account types.\

Key features

  • Strong global presence offering international banking capabilities
  • Variety of account options, some of which may include monthly fees
  • Easy-to-use tools, including a mobile app for things like mobile check deposit and mobile banking
  • Wealth management and investment services for high-net-worth individuals
  • Extensive ATM and branch network worldwide, facilitating easy access globally

HSBC

HSBC is renowned for its international services, making it a favorable choice for non-residents who require a bank that supports extensive cross-border banking activities. HSBC offers tailored accounts for international clients, including the ability to manage accounts in multiple currencies.

Key features

  • Expertise in international banking helps non-residents manage their finances across borders
  • Accounts designed for international clientele, accommodating a range of banking needs
  • Capability to handle transactions in multiple currencies
  • Global transfer and foreign exchange services, simplifying international money management

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