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How to Open a Bank Account as a Non US Citizen

How to Open a Bank Account as a Non US Citizen
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updated: March 12, 2024

Having a bank account makes life easier in all kinds of ways, whether you need to make regular deposits or withdrawals or want an account you can use to pay bills. A bank account also makes it considerably easier to save money for a rainy day or for the future, and all while earning interest on your deposits and protecting your money.

If you're not a U.S. citizen, you may believe you are barred from opening an account with a U.S. financial institution. However, this is not the case at all. You absolutely have the right to open an account provided you can prove, with supporting documentation, your identity and where you live.

Benefits of opening a bank account

Why should non-citizens (and everyone else) have their own bank account? While Federal Reserve data shows 6% of adults were "unbanked" without an account of their own in 2022, there are numerous benefits that come with using a traditional bank or credit union over alternative banking options.

Avoid fees

Most banking alternatives come with considerable fees that can make them expensive to use. If you opt for prepaid debit cards over a traditional bank account, for example, you may get stuck paying fees for every transaction, fees to check your balance, and even more fees for every withdrawal you make.

Build important financial habits

Having a bank account positions you to learn financial habits that can benefit you in the future. For example, you'll learn how to monitor purchases and keep track of the balances you have over time.

Build relationships

A bank account with a traditional bank or credit union can help you build a financial history that can benefit you if you ever need to apply for a loan or access other financial products.

Gain financial protection

Banks offer Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insurance on balances up to $250,000 per depositor, and credit unions offer similar coverage from the National Credit Union Association (NCUA). This means you won't lose funds, up to the $250,000 cap, if the bank fails or has a financial crisis.

Get your own debit card

Having a checking account typically means a free debit card is included. This makes it easier to shop for purchases online or when you're out and about. You may also be able to withdraw money without any fees from the ATM network through which your bank operates.

Have paychecks automatically deposited

Having a bank account means you can have your paycheck directly deposited into your account, often faster than you would get it otherwise. For example, many checking accounts promise you'll get paid a few days sooner with direct deposit.

Online bill pay

Most traditional bank accounts offer online bill pay that makes it easy to set up bills for payment without writing checks or delivering the money. This can save you time and help you stay on top of your finances..

Requirements for opening a bank account

While you don't have to be a U.S. citizen to open a bank account with a range of U.S. financial institutions, you do have to be able to prove who you are and where you live. This is true for anyone who wants to open a bank account, not just non-citizens.

In fact, Section 326 of the USA-PATRIOT Act requires banks, thrifts and credit unions to identify a customer who opens an account. Financial institutions are also required to establish a "Customer Identification Program" (CIP) as part of their Bank Secrecy Act compliance procedures, according to the FDIC.

Requirements to open a bank account include being at least 18 years of age (in most cases) and providing the following:

  • Contact information: Opening an account requires you to supply your name, address and phone number.
  • Identification: Be able to supply at least two forms of government-issued identification, such as a passport or a driver's license.
  • Opening deposit: Some bank accounts let you get started with as little as $25; others let you open a bank account with a $0 starting balance.
  • Social Security number (SSN) or ITIN: Non-citiizens who meet requirements can apply for an ITIN by filing the Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and following the directions here.
  • Utility bill with name: A utility bill with your name and address helps prove where you live.

Alternatives for identification

The alternatives you can use for identification as a non-resident of the U.S. vary from one bank to the next, along with other requirements. For example, some banks only require U.S. citizens to apply for a bank account with an ITIN if they were issued one, whereas others won't let you open an account without one.

If you're a non-citizen hoping to open a bank account, it can help to compare banks and their requirements to get started. As an example, Chase Bank lists the following forms of identification that can help anyone (including citizens and non-citizens) open a bank account:

  • Driver’s license with photo.
  • Matricula Consular Card.
  • Passport with photo.
  • Student ID with photo.
  • U.S. Employment Authorization Card with photo.

Bank of America is even more specific when it comes to the identification non-citizens need to open one of their accounts. The institution says applicants will need two forms of identification from the following lists:

Primary ID options:

  • Foreign passport with or without passport visa (with photo).
  • U.S. Non Immigrant visa and Border Crossing Card-DSP-150 (with photo).
  • Mexican, Guatemalan, Dominican, Colombian consular ID (with photo).
  • Canadian Citizenship Certificate Card (with photo).

Secondary ID options:

  • Foreign driver's license with photo or U.S. driver's license.
  • U.S.-issued employment/work ID card or badge.
  • Debit or major credit card with Visa® or Mastercard® logo.
  • Major retail credit card from a nationally well-known company.
  • U.S. Department of State Diplomat ID.
  • Mexican voter registration card (with photo).

Alternative accounts for non-citizens

If you don't have the documentation required to open a U.S. bank account or you decide not to, you can still manage your finances and pay bills. You'll just have to do so with one of the following alternatives:

  • Maintaining a bank account in your home country: You may be able to manage your finances using your bank account from home, especially if your bank offers online account management. That said, you will likely encounter challenges when it comes to cashing checks, making deposits, and paying bills.
  • Opening an overseas bank account: You can also open an offshore bank account. However, minimum deposit and income requirements for these accounts can be on the high side.
  • Alternative banking apps: Some banking apps make it easy for non-citizens to open an account without a Social Security number. An example is the Revolut app, which lets users pay bills and manage money after providing alternative ID options.

Banks and credit unions that accept alternative IDs

Some banks and credit unions advertise the fact that they accept alternative IDs to open an account. Others may also permit this if you inquire.

Here are some (but not all) of the banks and credit unions that make it easier to open an account as a non-citizen:

Bank or credit unionRequirements
Alliant Credit Union
No residency requirements, but non-expired ITIN is required
Axos Bank
Varies
Bank of America
Must be living in the U.S.
Chime
Permanent residency required
First Citizens Bank
Permanent residency required
Live Oak Bank
Permanent residency required
Revolut
Must be living in the U.S.
Sofi
Must be living in the U.S. and have an SSN
Wells Fargo
Must be living in the U.S.

TIME Stamp: Non-citizens can get a bank account with proper documents

If you have heard that non-citizens can't get a U.S. bank account, we hope we've proved that this isn't the case. Non-U.S. citizens, including permanent residents and international students, can get a bank account with major financial institutions if they reside in the U.S. and provide proper documentation.

Taking the steps to open an account as a non-citizen will definitely be worth it due to the benefits that come with having a bank account to pay bills and grow savings. The choice is yours when it comes to which bank to use.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

How do I open an international bank account?

Requirements to open an international bank account vary. For example, you'll typically need to provide information such as your employment, income and tax details, proof of identification, bank statements or utility bills to prove where you live and more.

Can I open a bank account without a SSN?

You can likely open a U.S. bank account without an SSN if you meet other requirements, which may include the requirement to have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) instead.

Which U.S. banks don’t require a SSN?

Some U.S. banks that don't require an SSN to open an account include Bank of America, Alliant Credit Union, Axos Bank. Revolut, a neobank that offers banking services, also doesn’t require one.

The information presented here is created independently from the TIME editorial staff. To learn more, see our About page.

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