Having access to a bank is the foundation of financial freedom. It’s the safest place to store your money, let it grow, and access it when you need it. Better yet, it’s the primary avenue to start building your financial footprint and credit history.
If you’re a non-resident looking to open a bank account in the United States, we have good news: simply follow a few key steps and you’ll have your own account in no time.
Here’s a brief guide on How to Open a U.S. Bank Account as a Non-Resident:
Documentation & Minimum Deposits
While federal laws govern American bank accounts, local laws determine their application. Each bank will have different requirements for non-residents opening accounts.
Since you’ll likely be applying for an account in person, be sure to check the local bank branch ahead of time for what documentation you need to bring.
Most banks will ask for some combination of the following criteria:
- Government-issued ID (original passport from your home country, green card, work visa, etc.)
- Proof of source of income
- Proof of personal address (lease, utility bill, etc.)
Because American banks typically mail essential items like debit cards, a mailing address will be needed to open your account.
There is a popular misconception that non-residents must have a Social Security Number (SSN) to open a bank account. This is generally untrue.
Still, if you don’t have an SSN and are still required to present extra identification, you can attain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
Used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to process taxes, the ITIN is exclusively available for non-residents without a Social Security Number.
Here are three quick steps to get one:
- Complete the required W-7 form, available in English and Spanish
- Review the IRS Application Standards for ITINs
- Send in your application (or take it to a local IRS office). You can also have it processed by local “acceptance agents” that can be located here.
With your paperwork and documentation in order, you will then be required to make a minimum deposit to open the account. This essentially ensures that your expected revenues will exceed the bank’s administrative costs associated with servicing your account.
While these figures vary by institution, most minimum deposits will range between $50 – $100. Some full-service brokerage firms ask for larger deposits, but that remains the exception, not the rule.
Types of Accounts
As a non-resident, you will have two types of bank accounts to choose from: personal and corporate. Here is a brief rundown of the differences between each:
There are two primary types of personal accounts: checking and savings.
A checking account is optimized for your everyday money transactions, like buying groceries, filling up your car, or going to the movies. It provides access to services like:
- Bills and other payments
- Account transfers
- Debit cards
- ATM withdrawals
- Recurring payments
Your savings account, however, is focused on the future. It’s designed to keep money in the account to build interest over time.
Because savings accounts have higher interest rates than checking accounts, they are the ideal place to let larger quantities of money sit untouched. Conversely, checking accounts build little interest and are designed for regular, daily use.
With the right paperwork, you will be able to open both checking and savings accounts.
To open a corporate account, you must already have a company based in the United States.
Unless you have an established financial relationship with a prominent bank (and deposit large sums of money), most American banks won’t open accounts for foreign companies.
Fortunately, United States law recognizes multiple forms of corporate entities including:
- Sole proprietorship
- S Corporation
- Limited Liability Company (LLC)
Non-residents can quickly set up local LLCs and capitalize on a range of associated tax benefits.
As with opening a personal account, you will be asked for the following items:
- Government-issued ID
- Proof of personal address
- Proof of business address
- Articles of incorporation (to prove your business is legally registered)
- EIN (Federal Employer Identification Number)
A minimum deposit will also be requested by many banks.
Choosing Your Bank
Larger banks like JP Morgan Chase and TD Ameritrade typically offer the most accessibility for non-resident applicants. Because they offer less financial exposure than local banks, they are also regarded as being the most non-resident friendly.
While national laws have made online-only banking largely unavailable for non-residents, a number of fintech firms have focused on innovating for the underserved.
Their goal? To promote financial inclusion in the banking world. Here are a few startup companies offering exciting services with maximum accessibility:
A financial membership “built by migrants, for migrants,” Majority offers online access, a Visa Debit Card (with no overdraft fees), complementary international calls, and more. Click here to
The largest digital Latino community in the U.S., PODERcard is a bank account with no monthly maintenance or overdraft fees. Plus, the mobile app helps you find any one of the more than 19,000 ATMs near you. Click here to learn more!
A mission-oriented fintech company, Stilt is driven to democratize access to credit. While helping client’s strengthen their financial foundation, Stilt conveniently provides personal loans at the fairest rates in the market. Click here to learn more!
A fee-free credit card, Petal is one of several companies that don’t require an established credit score to apply. With cash back perks and high credit limits, Petal is designed to help you succeed financially. Click here to learn more!
Focused on helping people live debt-free, Jasper approaches clients as their “credit-building partner.” They don’t require a credit history to apply, have no annual fees, and offer a $5,000 credit limit. Click here to learn more!
While uLink is not recommending any one particular product or company, we are committed to shining a light on services that can further your financial freedom.
At uLink, we know how hard it can be for non-residents to get settled in the United States.
That’s why we’re committed to helping you in every way we can.
uLink’s very own uLinkcard Prepaid Mastercard® is an easy way to manage your family’s budget right here in the U.S. You don’t require a checking account to request your card and you can deposit funds into your account at no cost. It even works with Samsung Pay, Apple Pay5, and Android Pay6. Plus, you can use the uLinkcard to send money1 abroad with no fee* using uLink. Click here to learn more!
*UniTeller may earn revenue on currency conversion.