09 November 2020

a picture of a skyline with bank skyscrapers

Do you plan on living and working in the US for an extended time? If so, you may find it more convenient to open a US bank account.

To get you started, we've answered some questions you may have about how to open a bank account in the US as a non-resident. We hope that these tips help make your move to the US as pleasant and straightforward as possible.

Can a migrant open a bank account in the US?

Yes, you can open a bank account and get a credit or debit card as a migrant in the US. The most common banks for everyday banking are the traditional (or retail) banks. As well as online services, these banks tend to have physical branches that you can visit and have in-person contact with the bank's representatives.

What are the best traditional banks that offer services for immigrants in the US?

  • JP Morgan Chase: One of the largest banks in the US, JP Morgan Chase serves almost half of the American population.
  • Bank of America is one of the most popular banks to consider for opening an account in the US.
  • Wells Fargo: Wells Fargo is the fourth largest bank in the country, serving one in every three households.

As an alternative to traditional banks, many people also choose to take their accounts online. Online banks do not have physical branches, and so, it's not required for you to visit a branch to open an account.

Online banks offer the same financial products as traditional banks, with the difference that all accounts and transactions are managed through an online portal. The advantages of online banks are higher interest rates on savings accounts, as well as user-friendly online banking management.

Here are some of the online banks in the US:

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What do you need to open a bank account in the US?

What you need to open a bank account in the US varies depending on the bank you choose, as well as the regulations in the state in which you open the account. The requirements vary depending on the bank that you choose. Some of the basic requirements include:

  • A proof of ID issued by a national government, such as a passport, national ID or driver's license
  • A confirmation of your immigration status, such as work permit, green card or student visa.
  • Proof of address, such as copies of utility bills (electricity, water, telephone service), TV bill or signed rental contracts
  • Valid Social Security number, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
  • Additionally, some banks might ask you for a minimum deposit to activate the account

Do you need a Social Security Number (SSN) to open a bank account in the US?

All banks are required to verify the identity of their customers, and the easiest way to do so is with an SSN. But no law prevents a bank from opening an account for someone who doesn't have an SSN.

Banks verify your identity either with Social Security number or ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number). Some banks may also accept your passport or driving license number.

What is an ITIN, and how to get it?

The Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is a nine-digit tax number given by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). ITIN serves as an identification number for tax purposes in the US. The ITIN number is issued regardless of immigration status. This is because both residents and visitors may have tax obligations according to the IRS Tax Code.

Some banks allow you to use the ITIN instead of the Social Security number to open a bank account.

The requirements to get an ITIN are:

  • Complete Form W-7SP
  • A valid federal tax return
  • Original documents or identification certificates (driver's license, unique identification document)
  • Documents to prove identity as a foreigner (passport)

If you meet all the requirements, the process takes approximately seven weeks.

Before choosing the best bank to suit your needs, we recommend you to get up-to-date information either by contacting the bank directly or by checking their website.

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Can you open a bank account in the US from another country?

Yes, it is possible to open a bank account in the US from another country. Several international banks have branches in the US, and some US banks have a presence in other countries. If you already have an account with one of these banks, you can open an account in the US with them.

Your local bank may have a partner bank so that you can contact the local branch for more information.

Another option is to request an international account in dollars with a bank in your home country. These accounts are regulated locally, and so, the best way to apply initially  is to check what requirements you need to comply with when opening such an account. 

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How to transfer money from and to the US?

If you need to send money from and to the United States, using your local bank may be more expensive than you think. Banks often use hidden fees and charge a high processing fee.

Nowadays, more people take advantage of using an online money transfer service, such as WorldRemit. Digital money transfer companies offer lower fees and better exchange rates. It's also a lot more convenient!

You can transfer money securely and quickly from any location with an internet connection and a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Plus, you can track your transfers in real-time while making the most out of near-instant settlement times.

Are you ready to make your transfer with WorldRemit?

Send money with WorldRemit

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This article is for information purposes and is not intended as financial advice. You should do your own research to find the banks and products that best suit your needs.