Can a Foreigner Open a Bank Account in the US
Chances are, opening a bank account will be one of the first things you will want to do after arriving in the US. After all, you need a secure place to store your income. As a non-citizen, though, the process can be a little more complicated. Make sure you follow the steps carefully and bring everything you need with you when you go to open the account.
What You'll Need to Open a Bank Account as a Foreigner:
- A government-issued form of identification, such as your passport or other ID from your home country or your US green card if you already have one.
- Proof of address. You will also need to confirm your physical US address, so if you use an ID from your home country, you’ll also need to bring something with your US address on it — a utility bill or your rental contract, for instance.
- A Social Security number (SSN) or taxpayer identification number (TIN). Most banks will accept either of these numbers. If you haven’t yet received your SSN, you can easily apply with the IRS for a TIN using form W-7.
How to Apply for a Bank Account
Most banks require non-citizens to apply in person. Unfortunately, this means that many popular online banks are unavailable to non-citizens. Each bank will have its own requirements for opening an account, so make sure to confirm the required documentation by calling or visiting its website before heading into the branch.
Most banks will also require a minimum deposit to open an account. The amount varies but is generally between $5 and $50 USD.
Types of US Bank Accounts
A checking account is a type you will use day-to-day. You can deposit your paychecks and other income, pay your bills electronically, and withdraw money from any ATM using the debit card that will come with your account.
A savings account designed for just that - saving! Often, large national banks will offer you a savings account at the same time you open your checking account, and the accounts will be linked for easy transfers between the two accounts.
The most important factor to consider when choosing a savings account is the interest rate the financial institution will offer you; this is the amount they will pay you annually to hold your money! A rate above .7% is considered competitive.
Choosing a Bank: Watch the Fees!
There are a number of fees you should watch out for when choosing a bank. First, there may be a monthly service charge to hold the account. These fees are most common at big banks, such as Bank of America or Wells Fargo. Other fees can include:
- Overdraft fee (when you spend more money than you have in the account)
- Wire transfer fees (important if you plan to wire money back home!)
- Currency conversion fee
- Foreign transaction fee
- ATM fee (when you use an ATM owned by another bank)
These fees can really add up, so make sure to compare what each bank charges.
Popular US Banks
The largest banks in the United States are:
Another option is to open an account at your local credit union. Credit unions are smaller and member-owned not-for-profit organizations. They often have lower fees than big national banks but sometimes offer fewer services. You will likely need to go in person to open an account.