Living, working and shopping in the US are all easier with a US bank account. We've put together some tips and advice to help non-citizens open a bank account in the US.
Can a non-citizen open a bank account in the US?
Yes, it's possible to open a bank account in the US as a non-citizen. Some banks only allow US citizens, or those with a permanent address in the US, to open an account. Others are open to non-residents, as long as they have a Social Security Number (SSN), and many will request that you visit them in-branch to complete the process.
How long does it take to open a bank account?
How long it takes to open a bank account in the US can vary, so it's wise to start the application process as early as possible.
Factors that can determine how long the process takes include:
- Whether you have all the necessary documentation.
- The bank that you're applying to.
- The type of account that you're opening.
- Whether you're already in the US or applying from overseas.
- Whether you're applying online or in person.
- How long you've been in the country.
It's often easier to apply once you're already living in the US and can visit a bank in person. If this is not a practical solution, and you need to apply for a bank account before arriving in the country, it will take a little more time to get it sorted.
Do I need a US bank account to work in the US?
Having a bank account is not a legal requirement for employment in the US. But most employers will expect you to have one, as this makes getting paid much simpler and safer.
Different types of US banks
There is a considerable number of banks to choose from in the US. Here are the different types of banks and their approach to applications from non-residents.
1. International banks
International banks are established banks like HSBC, Citibank and Barclays. It may be possible to set up an international bank account in US Dollars from your home country.
2. Online banks
These are banks that operate online and have no physical branches or in-person assistance. Online banks typically only accept applications from US residents.
3. Traditional US banks
These are US banks that predominantly serve US customers. You'll probably need to visit the US to open an account with a traditional US bank.
4. Local banks
Local banks operate within a particular state or region. They're suitable for local people who won't be banking or using their cards outside their local area very often. Local banks are unlikely to open an account from overseas.
5. Correspondent bank
This is a bank in your home country that's partnered with a US bank. A correspondent bank may set up an account in the US overseas, even if they are not an international bank. Get in touch with your home bank to find out if they have such partnerships.
What documentation do I need to open a bank account in the US?
Required documents to open an account will vary from one bank to the next and will depend on whether you're applying online or in person.
Possible requirements include:
- Proof of address
- A valid driver's licence, passport or other official government identity document
- SSN or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN)
- Debit/credit card from your home country
- Deposit payment
- Immigration documents
- Proof of income
- Credit history report
Do you need Social Security Number to open a US bank account?
While many US banks ask for your Social Security Number as part of their application process, it's not a legal requirement.
Some banks will accept an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number in the place of an SSN, and others may only require proof of your identity and address.
Depending on your circumstances, the following banks may consider your application for an account without an SSN.
- Bank of America
- US Bank
- Chase Bank
- TD Bank
- Wells Fargo
Getting required documentation
Here's how to get some of the most frequently requested identity documents.
Social Security Number
Social security numbers are unique nine-digit numbers issued by the US government to track a person's income and determine their eligibility for certain social security benefits.
There are several different ways to apply for an SSN:
- Using the SS-5 form
- When making your visa application
- When making an application for employment authorisation
Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
If you're not eligible for an SNN, you may apply for an ITIN tax processing number instead.
You can download Form W-7 online and then apply either online or in-person. You should receive your ITIN by mail within seven weeks.
Proof of address
Different banks will want to see various documents as proof of your address. Utility bills, bank statements, lease agreements and student enrolment documentation (if you're studying in the US) are usually acceptable.
How much does it cost to open a bank account?
Many US banks charge fees for using their services. The cost will depend on which bank and account option you choose.
These are monthly fees for using the service. Maintenance fees can vary depending on whether you choose a basic or more premium service. Some banks may waive this fee, providing you deposit a minimum amount each month.
You can usually withdraw money for free from your bank's ATMs and other banks in the same network. You may be charged for withdrawing cash from ATMs on different networks.
International transfer fees
If you plan to send money overseas regularly, using your bank might not be the best way to do so. Besides upfront international transfer fees, you may also find yourself charged a 'hidden fee' in the form of a poor exchange rate.
It's usually quicker, more convenient and cost-effective to use a specialist money transfer service to send money abroad, rather than a traditional bank-to-bank transfer.
How to make global payments with WorldRemit
When you sign up with WorldRemit, you can transfer money internationally in just a few simple steps, from any location. All you need is an internet connection and a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
Even once your US bank account is up and running, you'll find that our online money transfer service is a better way of sending money abroad.
- The money will usually arrive with your recipient fast, sometimes even instantly.
- You'll enjoy fair exchange rates.
- There are one low-cost fee and no hidden fees.
- There are various convenient pay-out options, including cash pickup, mobile airtime, and bank transfer.
Find out how WorldRemit works on our Getting Started page.
Ready to make your transfer?