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Can a Foreigner Open a Bank Account in the USA? Here's How.

Jan 24, 2024
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So can foreigners open bank accounts in the USA? The direct answer is yes, but it comes with a certain set of eligibility requirements. Usually, this includes presenting the following to a physical bank branch:

  • 2 forms of government-issued ID;
  • Tax ID (such as a US-issued ITIN);
  • Proof of US residency.

In this article, we delve into specific visa scenarios and kinds of visas that might make you eligible to open a bank account in the US as a foreigner. We will explain the documents you need and also recommend innovative alternatives, such as Majority and Revolut, for online checking accounts if you don't have an SSN/ITIN or US residency.

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Here are our highlights to get US account details:

Majority offers the best online US checking account with services designed specifically for immigrants.

Revolut offers the best US checking account for non-US citizens with a valid US visa. Plus, you can sign up completely online.

Wise's multi-currency account is available to many foreigners (without visa or proof of residency) to manage USD and 40 other currencies.

What You Should Know About Opening a Bank Account in the US as a Foreigner

📄 Essential Documents

2 forms of government-issued ID, 1 tax ID, 1 proof of US residency

🛤️ Easiest Pathways
🏦 How to Get an ITIN

Send Form W-7 to the IRS

💼 Have ITIN?
🌎 Have proof of US address?
🌐 Have a US visa?

Can a Foreigner Open a Bank Account in the USA?

Yes, although the feasibility of a foreigner opening a bank account in the US will be contingent on visa and residency status. For instance, those holding a student visa or an employment visa generally have fewer difficulties when setting up an account.

If you only have a tourist visa, on the other hand, then you will not be able to open an account with institutional banks in the US.

Can Visitors Open a Bank Account in the USA?

No, tourist visa holders cannot open an account at a bank in the United States.

A helpful guideline to check if you can open a bank account in the U.S. is the "substantial presence" test. The IRS uses this test to figure out a foreign national's tax status in the United States, meaning whether you need to pay taxes to the U.S. government or are eligible for benefits like social security. To pass the test, you have to show that you've been physically present in the country for 183 days or more each year and provide evidence of having a job.

Visas That May Let Non-Immigrants Work in the US

Each bank will have its guidelines, so we recommend you double-check the specific bank's policies with your visa type. In addition to the H-1B and L-1 visas in the US, which we explain below, there are several other visa categories that allow non-citizens to work and live in the US (widening the potential for you to open a US bank account).

Here are some examples:

  • H-1B Specialty Occupations Visa: Designed for individuals with specialized knowledge or a bachelor's degree or higher, this highly-sought visa requires sponsorship by a U.S. employer. The initial duration is up to three years, with the possibility of extension.
  • L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visa: This visa allows multinational companies to transfer employees to a U.S. office. It is divided into L-1A for managers and executives while L-1B is for employees with specialized knowledge. L-1A provides an initial stay of up to three years, with a possible extension of up to seven years; L-1B provides an initial stay of up to three years, with a possible extension of up to five years.
  • F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) Student Visa: F-1 students in the U.S. can apply for Optional Practical Training, which allows them to work in their field of study for up to 12 months after graduation. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) degree holders may be eligible for a 24-month extension.
  • J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa: The J-1 visa is for individuals participating in approved exchange programs. Some J-1 categories, such as the Research Scholar and Professor categories, allow participants to work and engage in research or teaching activities.
  • TN (Trade NAFTA) Visa: Citizens of Canada and Mexico may be eligible for a TN visa, which allows certain professions to work in the U.S. The professions deemed eligible for this visa are based on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and is now under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
  • O-1 Visa for Extraordinary Ability or Achievement: The O-1 visa is for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in their field, including sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.
  • E-1 and E-2 Visas for Treaty Traders and Investors: The E-1 visa is for individuals involved in substantial trade between the U.S. and their home country, while the E-2 visa is for investors who have made a substantial investment in a U.S. business.
  • H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers: The H-2B visa is for temporary non-agricultural workers, and it is often used in industries such as hospitality, landscaping, and other seasonal jobs.
  • H-3 Trainee Visa: The H-3 visa is for individuals coming to the U.S. for specialized training that is not available in their home country, with the goal of enhancing their career.
  • L-2 Dependent Visa: Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old of L-1 visa holders may enter the U.S. on an L-2 visa, which allows them to study and work in the U.S.

What Documents You Need to Open a US Bank Account as a Foreigner

To open a bank account as a foreigner in the United States, you'll need to provide these documents to a bank representative in person:

  • Primary ID: Common IDs include foreign passports, U.S. non-immigrant visa and border crossing cards (DSP-150), consular IDs, or Canadian citizenship certificate cards.
  • Secondary ID: In addition to primary IDs, you can often use foreign driver's licenses, U.S. driver's licenses, U.S. issued employment ID cards, debit or credit cards, or Mexican voter registration cards.
  • Tax Identification Number: A few banks, like Bank of America may accept a Foreign Tax Identification Number (FTIN) issued by a country other than the U.S. Otherwise, you'll need at ITIN.
  • Proof of US Residency: Commonly accepted proof include utility bills, rental agreements, or letters from your employer confirming your US address of residence.

How to Get an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)

To get an ITIN, you'll need to send in the following to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS):

  • Form W-7;
  • Original identification documents.

You can either send these two documents on tax day with your tax return, send an application before tax day in the mail, or bring them in person to an IRS "accepted agent" office. On the IRS website, you can find an accepted agent near you.

Where Do I Send Form W-7 on Tax Day (April 18th)?

The IRS has offices across the country that process different kinds of documents and specialized tasks. For non-citizens seeking ITINs, you'll need to send Form W-7 to this address:

Internal Revenue Service
Austin Service Center
ITIN Operation
P.O. Box 149342
Austin, TX 78714-9342

What Kind of ID Does the IRS Accept?

Along with Form W-7, you must submit an original ID document (you cannot submit a copy). Once your application is accepted, the original will be returned to the return address that you write on the form.

While we recommend you read through the detail instructions that the IRS provides for Form W-7, we've listed the 7 documents that you can use to verify both your foreign status and your identity:

  • Passport;
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) photo identification;
  • Visa issued by the U.S. Department of State;
  • Foreign military identification card;
  • National identification card (must contain name, photograph, address, date of birth, and expiration date);
  • Foreign voter’s registration card;
  • Foreign civil birth certificate.

Factors to Consider Before Opening a Bank Account

Having a bank account of your own in the United States offers very clear benefits. You'll be able to pay bills online, send domestic ACH transfers to people, get a debit card to spend USD, get your paycheck by direct deposit, and enjoy deposit insurance from the FDIC. There's also the potential to earn interest on deposits if you have a savings account.

However, we'll list a few caveats that you should be aware of before opening:

  • Opening Deposits: Some banks require you to deposit around $25 at the start
  • Minimum Balances: Some banks require you to not dip below $25 to $100
  • Monthly Maintenance Fees: Most banks charge monthly fees for basic accounts
  • Open In-Person: Non-US citizens cannot open a bank account online
  • Limited Credit: You may have limited or no access to credit or loans

Majority: Mobile Banking Designed For Immigrants

We highly recommend Majority as an all-in-one checking account for new arrivals and immigrants in the United States. You’ll get access to:

  • cheap international money transfers;
  • airtime top-ups;
  • deals at participating merchants;
  • free international calling to 20+ countries.

It comes with a debit card that charges zero foreign transaction fees and multi-lingual customer support too. 

You don’t need an SSN or ITIN to open an account either. Instead, you will need to show proof of US residential address and a government-issued ID (can be and ID issued in your home country). Overall, its a perfect option for newcomers to the US and those with family living abroad.

Just take note that “Know Your Customer” (KYC) laws require Majority to verify your identity. If you use fraudulent ID cards or social security numbers associated with multiple dates of birth, your application will be rejected. Also refrain from using Voice over IP (VoIP) phone numbers, which are assigned to a user but not to a physical location.

Account name: Majority

Monthly fee: $5.99

Foreign transaction fee: 0%

US residence required: Yes

SSN/ITIN required: No

More info: See our full Majority review.

Revolut Account: No SSN or ITIN Required

We highly recommend Revolut as the best option to get a US checking account if you have a valid US visa and proof of residency.

Revolut is a convenient option because you won't need a social security number or ITIN at sign up. Plus, the sign up process occurs online on your smartphone — this means there's no need to visit a physical branch.

Furthermore, Revolut does not charge monthly maintenance fees, requires no opening deposit, and imposes no minimum balance requirements. It offers a virtual or physical debit card that charges no international transaction fees, making spending your balances effortless and cost-effective both in the US and abroad.

Revolut's platform also offers competitive international money transfer rates. This feature, along with its multi-currency account, makes it highly suitable for foreigners residing in the US. You can hold USD and dozens of other foreign currencies in your account.

Revolut is not a bank. Instead, it operates as an electronic money institution, partnering with Member FDIC banks to ensure the safety of your deposits in the US.

Monthly fee: $0

Free ATM withdrawal allowance: $1,000 per month

Outgoing int'l wire cost: No fee for first $1,000 per month

Int'l card payment cost: 0% - 1%

US residence required: Yes

Valid US visa required: Yes

SSN/ITIN required: No

More info: See our full Revolut review.

Wise Multi-Currency Account: No Proof of Residency Required

The Wise Multi-Currency Account provides foreign nationals in eligible countries access to US checking account details, even while residing abroad. You don't need an SSN or ITIN, and you don't necessarily need proof of address or residency in the United States either.

With the Wise account, you can still receive direct deposits in USD and access those funds with a virtual or physical Wise debit card. Additionally, the account offers the feature of holding and exchanging in around 40 different foreign currencies, which you can easily manage from the Wise mobile app.

To be eligible for a Wise Multi-Currency Account, you will need to show proof of residence in the EU/EEA, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK, or the US.

A point to note is that Wise, like Revolut, is not a bank. It operates as an electronic money institution that partners with Member FDIC banks. Its innovative services and user-friendly operations make it a top choice for non-residents needing to handle US transactions.

Monthly fee: $0

Free ATM withdrawal allowance: $200 per month

Outgoing int'l wire cost: 0.35% - 2.85%

Int'l card payment cost: 0.35% - 2.85%

US residence required: No

Valid US visa required: No

SSN/ITIN required: No

More info: See our full Wise review.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bank Accounts For Non-US Citizens

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The article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a source of law. The editors of the website make every effort to ensure that all published information is reliable and up-to-date, however, they do not constitute a binding interpretation of the applicable legal provisions.

References Used In This Guide

Revolut Now Offers Accounts to Non Citizens in the US. IBS Intelligence. Accessed 22 November 2023.
Form W-7 Instructions. IRS. Accessed 22 November 2023.
What Do You Need to Open or Close a Bank Account? Wells Fargo. Accessed 22 November 2023.
International Banking. Bank of America. Accessed 22 November 2023.
US Bank Account for Non Residents. Chase Bank. Accessed 22 November 2023.

Non-Resident Bank Accounts in the US vs Other Countries

Many countries allow non-residents to open a bank account within their legal jurisdictions, but exactly what kind of requirements non-residents face can differ drastically from country to country and even bank to bank. See the list below to get a better idea of this:

Country

Which non-residents can open an account?

🇬🇧 United Kingdom

Parties with close ties, expats, immigrants, investors, students

🇮🇪 Ireland

Any interested party

🇩🇪 Germany

Parties with close ties

🇫🇷 France

Parties with close ties, investors, students

🇮🇹 Italy

Parties with close ties, Investors

🇨🇭 Switzerland

Investors only

🇪🇸 Spain

Parties with close ties, investors, students

🇵🇹 Portugal

Parties with close ties, investors, expats, students

🇳🇱 Netherlands

Parties with close ties, investors

🇩🇰 Denmark

Parties with close ties, investors

🇳🇴 Norway

Parties with close ties, investors

🇸🇪 Sweden

Parties with close ties, investors

🇦🇹 Austria

Parties with close ties, investors

🇬🇷 Greece

Parties with close ties, investors

🇭🇺 Hungary

Any interested party

🇱🇺 Luxembourg

Parties with close ties, investors

🇱🇮 Liechtenstein

Investors only

🇬🇮 Gibraltar

Investors only

🇮🇲 Isle of Man

Parties with close ties, investors, expats

🇯🇪 Jersey

Parties with close ties, investors, expats

Last updated: 23/2/2022

Other Guides Guides About Bank Accounts for Non US Citizens and Non Residents

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