How to open a US bank account as a non-resident

Panna Kemenes
02.17.21
6 minute read

Most US banks only allow residents to open an account. However, if you’re a non-resident, you still have options, and it pays to find the right US bank account for your needs.

There are several viable options to open a US bank account as a non resident. This post will cover every option and the most pressing questions on the topic, to give you a clear idea of what each one entails.

With the Wise account, getting US account details as a non-resident is made easy. Avoid bank appointments, and start spending as soon as you arrive!

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📝 Table of contents

Can a non citizen open a bank account in the US?

It can be tough to open a bank account in the US as a non-resident.

It’s not impossible, though, so don’t get discouraged!

Many US banks ask for proof of address and a Social Security number to set up an account. Given that you won’t have these as a non-resident, you’ll need to consider alternatives.

There are a few options, and you can learn about them throughout this post.

How to open a bank account in USA as a non-resident

There are several ways to set up a bank account, even if you don’t have resident status yet.

Apply in person

If you’re already living in the US and have proof of address, but do not have the resident status yet, you can apply for a bank account in person. The conditions are subject to change, depending on the state and the bank you’re dealing with.

Always check with the specific bank beforehand, to make sure you don’t miss anything.

To open a bank account as a non-resident, you will usually need the following documents¹:

  • Proof of address with contact information and personal details
  • Two forms of ID - Passport and government-issued ID or valid driver's license
  • Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

Be sure to take the original documents with you, as photocopies will not be accepted.

It’s worth noting that most banks will require an age of 18 or above to open an account. You may also need to provide a minimum deposit.

How to apply without a Social Security number

Usually, the bank will ask for a Social Security number. Fortunately, there’s an alternative called the ITIN.

With an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) you can set up a bank account. To get your hands on one, fill out the IRS Form W-7, IRS Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. You can find this on the IRS website².

Use a correspondent bank

A correspondent bank is a financial institution associated with a bank in another country³.

If you’re a customer of a bank that has this type of relationship with a US-based bank, you can use that to your advantage. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that this won’t always guarantee that you can set up a US bank account.

To confirm whether this is a possibility for you, reach out to your bank and submit a query.

Open an international account

One of the advantages of living in a globalized world is that it’s simple to access international services.

It’s easier than it’s ever been before to set up an international bank account.

Such an account can be useful if you don’t have a US address, although there is a caveat - it can be a significant investment.

If you want to go down this road, you’ll need to invest a lot of cash to get the ball rolling. Depending on the bank in question, the initial deposit sum can be as much as $35,000⁴, or even more.

There’s also usually a condition that requires you to keep a significant balance as a minimum.

Open a Wise multi-currency account

As a financially-savvy individual, you’ll know you have limited options for setting up a US bank account as a non-resident.

With that in mind, why not consider something different?

The Wise account helps you manage your money wherever you are. You can get a US routing number and account number, and anyone can use these to pay you - just like a local.

If you travel or do business internationally, you’ll know how important it is to convert money at a reasonable exchange rate. The Wise account lets you convert at the real exchange rate, the same one you find on Google.

You can also avoid SWIFT network fees and hold over 50 currencies.

Can I open a US bank account online from abroad?

It is possible to set up a US bank account online from abroad - but there’s a catch. With some banks, you can start the process online, but you’ll need to go in person to verify your documentation.

So unfortunately you’ll have to cast aside any hopes of opening a US bank account online from your local coffee shop.

Open an account online

Types of US bank account

There are two main types of US bank account, and each one serves a different kind of client. The first type of account focuses on the individual and the other targets businesses.

Personal account

The first type of bank account is a personal account.

A personal account is for reaching your individual financial goals. Saving up for a big purchase like a house or accumulating interest on your earnings for example. Both checking and savings accounts fall into this category.

The checking account is the most common bank account, and it’s the first one you’ll want to set up. This should be the account for your main income and expenses.

You can deposit money with a savings account that you don’t plan on spending right away. The money in this account gains interest over time, though it isn’t free money since interest is taxable income.

Corporate account

The other main type of account is a corporate account.

As the name suggests, the corporate account is for businesses. With it, you can keep your transactions under wraps and your business information private.

The privacy adds a layer of protection to your business’ finances, making things more secure. It also allows you to give someone else the power to complete transactions on your behalf.

You can read this post on how to open a business bank account in the US to find out more, or check out our comparison of the best business checking accounts to find the right one for you.

Corporate account

Which bank should I choose to open a bank account in the US?

If you’re further down the line in the quest to become a US resident, you might ask yourself which bank to open an account with.

Once you have proof of address and a valid Social Security or ITIN number, your options are numerous.

JPMorgan Chase

As the biggest bank in the USA, ‘Chase,’ as it’s known to its customers, has bank accounts for every need and every customer. Whether it’s a checking account without fees you want, or a corporate account for your business, you can find it with Chase.

Bank of America

Bank of America is an interesting option with three types of accounts. The three bank accounts cover everything from everyday banking to company checking accounts.

Citibank

Citibank is an excellent choice if you don’t like the sound of depositing an initial sum of money to kick things off. You also won’t have to deal with monthly service fees until you hit a certain amount of money coming in and going out.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo is a popular option among students and young customers. It has great offers for students, such as low to no monthly service fees and minimal initial deposits.

What do I need to open a US bank account?

Setting up a bank account once you are a US resident is easy, provided you have the necessary documents.

The documents you’ll need can vary, but make sure you have the following:

  • Your full US address, with contact information and personal details
  • Two forms of ID, such as a passport or driver’s license
  • A valid visa or Green Card
  • ITIN or Social Security number

It’s also worth having some cash handy since you might need to make an initial deposit to set up the account.

You can also check out this guide on how to open a bank account in the USA for more information on the process.

Wise - an easy way to get US account details for non-residents

Opening a bank account in America can be a bit of a nightmare for non-residents. Visiting in person may not be possible, and international bank accounts require a hefty financial commitment.

If your local bank has a correspondent banking relationship, this could be a good solution for you - but it could take some time to set up. It’s worth calling your bank and seeing how they can help.

If you need a fast and low-cost way to send and receive USD, then try Wise. After the fast registration, all you need to verify your identity is your government ID. You can then top-up your account and start spending around the world!

Create a Wise account in minutes!

Sources:

  1. Chase Bank - documents
  2. IRS - ITIN number
  3. Investopedia - correspondent bank
  4. Barclays

Sources checked 17 February 2021.


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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