How Can Non-US Citizens Open Bank Accounts?

Written by
Amber Hobert
Published on
July 9, 2024
Table of Contents

Do you wish to open a non-citizen bank account in the United States? Banking in the United States is not what it was years ago. The United States now has the Patriot Act, designed to prevent criminals from using the financial system. This Act has made the process of opening and operating bank accounts in the United States as a non-citizen a bit more strict.

Not only is the Act making account opening stricter, it has far-reaching implications, but one of the most significant changes it brought about was heightened verification standards. So, you may now be thinking, "Can a foreigner open a bank account in the United States?" Yes, you can.

Non-citizens may find the process complicated, but it is not impossible. Whether for work, travel, or personal reasons, opening a US bank account will be worthwhile. Why? Well, banking in the United States has various benefits. To begin with, you can avoid expensive bank and credit card fees while spending money abroad.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation will protect deposits of up to $250,000 for non-residents (FDIC). In this article, we will guide you through the process of opening a US bank account as a non-US citizen.

Ways To Open A Bank Account As A Non-US Citizen

You can use various means to open a bank account in the US as a non-citizen. These means include:

Method One: Through a known US commercial bank

The first and most obvious option for a non-resident to get a bank account in the United States is to open an account with a large, well-known US bank. If you choose this path, you'll need to spend some time in the United States (even if you already call another country home), and you may need a Social Security number or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) as well.

Banks, including Wells Fargo, Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, US Bank, TD Bank, Capital One, and others, fall into this category. This choice also necessitates physically traveling to the United States to open a bank account there, so it's most practical for those who already have a permanent residence in the United States or who frequently travel there on business.

However, to become a temporary or permanent resident, you can contact the bank to see what documents they want you to send in order to open a bank account online.

Most bank accounts in the United States are either checking or savings accounts. Both checking accounts and savings accounts include a routing number that identifies your bank and an account number that identifies your account.

Checking accounts

Checking accounts function similarly to current accounts in other countries and offer services such as Internet banking, bill paying, ACH and wire transfers, direct debits, debit cards, and ATM withdrawals.

Savings accounts

Savings accounts, on the other hand, permit you to deposit funds and earn interest on them over time. Typically, there are limitations on the number of times you can withdraw money from this account.

Method Two: An international bank with US operational presence

Because of their global reach, certain financial institutions may even let you open a United States bank account online even if you are not a US citizen or permanent resident. Big banks in the United States and other international financial institutions like HSBC may qualify.

These overseas alternatives are specialist accounts; sometimes, even sign up for one without a United States mailing address. There are, however, drawbacks to consider with these alternatives:

  • The minimum required initial deposit is usually above $100,000.
  • You must keep a mandatory minimum balance in the account at all times.
  • Monthly account maintenance costs.

These restrictions make opening an international account difficult for the average person.

Method Three: FinTech and Neobanks

In the United States, online accounts, sometimes called "neobanks," are a relatively new type of financial service that aims to compete with traditional banks by offering convenient, low-cost online banking. Most of the accounts on this page are not banks. Instead, they are fintech accounts with licensed financial institutions holding customers' money.

Online accounts usually require that you live in the United States, but they are less strict about (Social Security Number) SSN/ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) requirements than traditional banks.

Method Four: Wise Payment Gateway

Although it is not a United States bank, Wise is known worldwide as a provider of low-cost international money transfers. Wise offers money transfers as one of its services. It also offers a Visa debit card, a Multi-currency account, and a foreign currency spending account with low fees.

This is the quickest and most straightforward way for many people to open a United States bank account as a non-resident, whether they intend to hold United States cash, take trips overseas, shop online, or get wages from an American company. When you sign up for Wise online, all you'll need to do to confirm your identity is use the app's (User identity) UI.

Applications in the United States may not require proof of US residency (although [European Union] EU/EEA [European Economic Areas], UK [United Kingdom], Singapore, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand applications will).

Wise's top feature

One of the best features of a Wise account is that it provides bank account information in multiple countries and currencies. This includes the United States dollar. You'll be assigned a certain ACH (Automated Clearing House) routing number, wire routing number, account number, and (The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) SWIFT/BIC (Business Identifier) code.

These will be used for your Wise USD account at Community Federal Savings Bank (CFSB) and (EVOLVE) Evolve Bank and Trust. This will let you buy things and get paid in the United States as if you were a local, and it will also allow you to move your United States Dollar balance back into your currency without having to spend a small fortune in the bank. Once you've activated your Wise Multi-currency account, you'll have access to the following extra features:

  • Information on local banks in several countries, not simply the United States: the United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Romania, Canada, and Hungary.
  • Keep track of, trade, and fund up to 56 different currencies.
  • Convenient and hassle-free access to multiple foreign currencies with one Visa debit card.
  • You can immediately access Wise's full international money transfer service within your online banking platform.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can foreigners open a bank account in the United States?

Whether or not you can create a bank account in the United States as a foreigner depends on your status within the nation. Permanent residents will have no trouble opening a bank account in the United States.

Permanent residents without an SSN (Social Security Number) have options too. For instance, Majority is a financial business that partners with reputable institutions to provide checking accounts and other financial services to migrants residing in the United States.

If you do not have a permanent residence or a Social Security number, you may be unable to open a bank account in the United States. Still, you may be able to open one from outside the country. For example, you could use a full-reserve bank like Zenus Bank or a multi-currency account like the Wise Account, which most non-residents use.

Can non-citizens open a bank account in the United States?

Yes, if you have a permanent resident card (Green Card) in the United States, you can open a bank account in the United States even if you're not a citizen. If you also have an SSN, you can open a checking account anywhere, just like a US citizen would.

You will have fewer options if you are a green card holder without an SSN. However, financial service providers such as "Majority" can help. This is a financial business that collaborates with reputable institutions to provide checking accounts and other financial services to immigrants in the United States.

Can you open a US bank account without a social security number?

Some of the largest banks in the United States will approve your account application without a Social Security number. These restrictions vary from branch to branch. Banks like Bank of America and Charles Schwab usually accept new customers with an SSN, but you should check with your local bank branch to be sure.

Also, you can open a checking account and get a debit card without an SSN with an online checking account like Majority.

What documents do I need to open a US Bank Account?

Besides a filled-out application form, the documents that US banks ask for most often are:

  • Identity proof: This may include a valid government-issued identification document, such as a driver's license, passport, or identification card.
  • Address proof: Most utility bills, bank or credit card transactions, mortgage statements, or lease agreements that list the address of a US residence can be used as proof of address.
  • SSN: This is typically a Social Security Number (SSN) or a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN).

Even though many US banks require a Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number and proof of address in the country, the exact documents needed to open an account vary significantly from state to state and branch.

To receive an ITIN, you must apply at the IRS. But if you need temporary proof of address, check with your bank to see if they will accept a letter with your address from your university, employer, or future landlord.

It is also vital to note that most US banks require an initial deposit. You can transfer this sum (typically between $30 and $200) to your new account through a debit card, cash, or ACH transfer.

Factors When Choosing A Bank In The United States

The accounts you wish to operate

Any bank will offer its version of a checking and savings account, but you may require more from a financial institution. Do your children need an account? One for your retirement?

Do you prefer a money market account's interest rates and check-writing abilities over a traditional checking account? It would help if you also investigated the bank's additional offerings, such as credit cards and mortgages. It may be simpler to manage your finances if they are all with the same banking institution.

Once you know what you're looking for, you can quickly eliminate banks that do not offer the required financial items. The majority of large banks provide a variety of financial services and products. Consider the Big Four banks: Bank of America, Chase, Citi, and Wells Fargo. You can narrow your search by looking into what the best banks and credit unions offer.

Competitive interest rate

Competitive interest rates are a significant selling feature for banks nowadays. The national average annual percentage yield (APY) for savings accounts is 0.06% and 0.03% for interest-bearing checking accounts.

If you're looking for the maximum yield, you should choose an online bank. Since they only do business online, they serve as a save account, which they often give back to you through higher interest rates.

Online vs. in-person banking

Some people will never go into a bank, while others can't think of any other way to do their banking. Even though most traditional banks offer online and mobile banking, people who want an easy-to-use digital banking experience will probably find that a digital bank is a better fit.

The location will vary depending on the type of banking experience you seek. If you prefer to do your own banking in person, look for banks with a significant national presence and many ATMs.

Consider digital banks if you like to conduct all your banking online. But if you want a combination of the two, consider online banks. Online banks may not have a significant presence in the real world, but depending on where you live, you may be able to find a few branches nearby.


In 2019, banks earned approximately $11 billion annually from overdraft fees. Although it is preferable to prevent overdrafting your account, emergencies do occur. In addition to overdraft costs, check whether the accounts have monthly maintenance fees. If so, determine if they are simple to avoid.

You'll find that most online and digital banks are the most proactive in this way. Additionally, you can refine your search by browsing for free checking accounts. When you find a free account that you like, you can look into the bank to see if it meets your other banking needs.

Customer feedback

Customer feedback is a great way to gain a basic sense of a bank's services. Reviews can be subjective and exaggerated. But if the majority of reviewers are reasonable, you can probably believe that the bank is doing something correctly. The same holds for disproportionately unfavorable reviews.

Check the Internet for product and bank review articles. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau and Trustpilot to see how quickly they handle customer complaints and respond to them. There may also be reviews on community forums such as Reddit.

New account incentives

Numerous banks employ new account bonuses to recruit new customers. It will not be challenging to find a bank providing a new account incentive of between $150 and $300.

Both online and traditional banks sometimes offer these, so it's wise to look into them when shopping around. But you'll also want to ensure that the account is worthwhile without the incentive. Once the offer expires, you will be required to keep the account.

Benefits To Having A US Account Number As A Non-Citizen

The ease of sending money to others

For instance, if you have a bank account, you can easily send money to someone and pay by cheque or online bill pay. It is much less expensive than purchasing a money order, and you will have bank statements proving that you paid your bills.

If you use an automated teller machine (ATM) or debit card for the account, you can easily withdraw funds or make purchases. Debit cards are typically accepted everywhere credit cards are accepted.

Bank accounts are safe

Banks keep your funds safe against theft and fire. In addition, your funds will be federally insured, so you will receive them back if your bank or credit union fails. $100,000 is the highest amount of money that can be insured.

It's a simple way to save money

Many banks provide an interest rate when you put your money in a savings account. The interest will allow your funds to increase over time. You don't want to spend more on fees than you receive in interest, so be sure to shop around and compare the associated costs. If you have a checking and savings account with the same institution, you can periodically transfer funds from your checking account to your savings account to help your savings grow.

Bank accounts are less expensive

Banks and credit unions generally provide their account members with free or low-cost services. Using a cheque-cashing bank is exceptionally costly. Free cheque deposits and cash withdrawals should be available at the bank where you have a bank account.

Paying bills is straightforward

Without a bank account, you can pay your bills using cheque-cashing facilities, telephone bill pay, or money orders, all of which have associated fees. With a bank account, it is free to write cheques and inexpensive to pay online.

Wiring and transferring money

You will have to pay a fee if you use a money transfer service to send money to someone else's account. This fee is usually a percentage of the amount you send. This cost can be high, depending on the amount you wish to transfer.

If you wire money from your bank account to another person's account, your bank will typically charge a flat fee lower than the money transfer company's rate. You may use your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM when you need cash but do not have a bank account.

The credit card company will assess a transaction fee along with interest. However, if you have a bank account and a debit card or ATM card, you can withdraw money at no cost from your bank's ATM.

Even though you can get your cash at any ATM, you will probably have to pay a fee if you use an ATM from a bank that is not your own.

Bank accounts facilitate access to credit

Banks and credit unions can assist you in obtaining credit for a home, a car, a student loan, or a personal loan, as they tend to prefer current clients, especially those who are good with money management.

Also, getting a small loan from a lender who offers a quick cash advance can be quite expensive because of the fees and high-interest rates.

Banks will charge you if you use your debit card at a non-bank ATM. Depending on your account type, you may also have to keep a certain minimum balance to avoid fees.

Talk To An Expert About Your Options

In this article, we talked about some of your choices when opening a bank account. If you are interested in opening a bank account and are a non-US citizen, you can explore any of these options.

You can use Wise's payment gateway services; open an online account with a fintech or neobank; open an account with an international global bank that operates in the United States; or, more commonly, with one of the big US banks.

Whatever option you choose has its advantages and disadvantages, and you have to compare and contrast them before deciding which of them meets your demands and use case. Before opening an account, you may be required to present documents showing proof of residence and identity.

Some mailing businesses can help you sort that out if you don't have one. Some companies can help you get a driver's license (provided you meet all the requirements), which you can present to the bank as proof of residency. Talk to a mailing expert about your options if you want a US bank account for non-citizens.

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