A guy opening a personal US bank account for a Foreign Investor.

How to Open a Private US Bank Account as a Nonresident

Mar 13, 2023

Having an offshore bank account gives modern-day entrepreneurs financial stability and a backup plan if the worst comes to worst. That is why millions of nonresidents open US bank account with foreign passport.

However, the US has various requirements that nonresidents need to fulfill before being able to open one. For instance, opening a private bank account will be pretty straightforward if you already have a US-based LLC as a foreigner. But if that’s not the case, you must take an alternative route.

In this article, we will guide you through the various ways to open a private US bank account, go through the necessary documentation (and how to get it), and evaluate the different banking options at your disposal.

But first, let’s start with why you may want to open US bank account with foreign passport…

Why Open US Bank Account with Foreign Passport?

America is famous for being a “tax haven” for foreigners. And that is one of the primary reasons so many nonresidents want access to its financial market. The only way to do that is to open US bank account with foreign passport.

While most nonresidents achieve that by opening a business bank account, many also want the flexibility of having a private account. That allows them to manage funds more freely and not keep all their eggs in one basket.

Regardless of whether you have only one of the above or both, the idea to open US bank account with foreign passport comes with various benefits for nonresidents:

  • Access to the American financial system;
  • The ability to build your credit score;
  • Ensuring financial stability with a backup account offshore;
  • Making doing business on American soil easier (e.g., real estate investing, IT services);
  • Getting a US credit card you can use anywhere.

Although non-citizen have a harder time to open US bank account with foreign passport than US citizens, here’s a guide on how to do it…

US dollars, a US credit card and a keyboard in US bank.

Can Foreigners Open US Bank Account with Foreign Passport?

Foreigners can open US bank account with foreign passport but must meet specific conditions that US citizens don’t. Overall, there are two primary ways to open US bank account with foreign passport as a nonresident, and each comes with its upsides and drawbacks:

  • Opening an account through an online bank;
  • Opening an account through a brick-and-mortar bank.

The requirements for these methods differ significantly, so we’ll cover both scenarios individually.

How to Open US Bank Account With Foreign Passport To Get an Online Banking

The easiest way to open US bank account with foreign passport is to open it with an online bank. These services have very few requirements (just the proof of ID), and you can complete the entire procedure within minutes, regardless of where you are. Some of the most famous online banks are:

These services give their clients access to a joint US bank account, which they can use under their names. Although all users share the same account number, you can use this account like any regular US bank account completely legitimately. Most of these services also provide you with a special credit card you can use to pay on US soil or online.

Although opening this type of account is the easiest, it has a few drawbacks. The biggest one is that you don’t actually own the account (it’s virtual). Another potential downside is that these banks don’t hand out loans, so your options are limited.

But if the above doesn’t bother you, this option is suitable for both companies and individuals.

A US Bank.

How to Open US Bank Account With Foreign Passport With a Brick-And-Mortar Bank

The second way nonresidents can open US bank account with foreign passport is with a brick-and-mortar bank. However, this option is harder to pull off since you need to meet more conditions, provide more documentation, and open the account in person (on-site).

Besides having to travel to the States to do that, you will also need to provide a justifiable reason for opening an account (e.g., starting a business, being a US citizen, investing in real estate). You prove that by having either a Social Security Number (SSN) or an ITIN. If you have neither, you won’t be able to open an account as a foreigner.

Once you get your hands on one of the above, you’ll need to visit your bank of choice and provide the following to open your account:

  • Two forms of ID (e.g., passport, driver’s license);
  • Application form with personal information (e.g., name, address, phone number);
  • Utility bill with current address;
  • A small deposit ($25–$100).

After submitting all the necessary paperwork, it usually takes a day or two for you to get your account set up.

What’s a Social Security Number (SSN) and How to Get It

A social security number (SSN) is a unique identifier handed out to all US citizens that you need to be able to work and access social and government benefits in the USA. In other words, this number is the US version of a government-issued ID.

An SSN is issued for free to all US citizens, but even nonresidents can get it in certain scenarios. The easiest way to get an SSN as a foreigner is to acquire one of several non-immigrant visas (mostly work and student visas). Here’s a short list of the most common cases and types of visas where a nonresident may be eligible to receive a US Social Security Number:

  • Exchange students;
  • Cultural exchange visitors;
  • Foreign investors;
  • Being employed by an American company;
  • Being married to a US citizen;
  • Receiving asylum;
  • And more…

When applying for any of these visas, you’ll also have the option to request an SSN in the same application form.

NOTE: For a complete list of non-immigrant visas that make you eligible for an SSN, visit this link or find it on the official United States Department of State’s website.

Related: What Is the Difference Between ITIN and SSN?

A man trying to open a private US bank account as a nonresident.

What’s ITIN and How to Get It

ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) is a unique tax processing number given to nonresident aliens who need to file taxes in the US but aren’t eligible to obtain an SSN. Unlike the SSN, having an ITIN doesn’t authorize you to work in the States or access their social security and governmental benefits.

Foreigners can get an ITIN when opening a business in the States so they can file federal taxes. So if you’re opening an LLC in the US, you can also request an ITIN with it.

However, an ITIN is also tied to your status as a nonresident. If you lose it, you will also lose your ITIN.

That means you must file the 1040 NR form at least every three years and ensure you meet all the criteria to maintain your nonresident status.

Is It Better to Have an SSN or ITIN?

If you can choose between getting an SSN or an ITIN, the better option is always the former. There are several reasons:

  • An SSN is permanent, and once you get it, you will never lose it (even if you leave America);
  • With an SSN, you can get access to various governmental and social services that you cannot with an ITIN;
  • It’s easier to build your credit score with an SSN.

Considering that the biggest downside of an ITIN is that it’s tied to your status as a nonresident and has to be renewed every three years, it’s always better to try and get an SSN if you can. However, if you don’t meet the criteria for any non-resident visas we mentioned in one of our previous sections, ITIN can still meet your need to open US bank account with foreign passport.

A woman trying to open US bank account with foreign passport without an SSN or ITIN.

Can You Open US Bank Account With Foreign Passport Without an SSN or ITIN?

Some banks allow foreigners and illegal immigrants to open US bank account with foreign passport even without an SSN or ITIN. Technically, you can go to them to get your account opened, but we would advise against that.

Doing so is against the law, and you may face legal repercussions if the government finds out that your account was opened illegally.

Need Help to Open US Bank Account With Foreign Passport as a Nonresident?

Opening a US bank account is pretty simple once you get all the necessary documentation. However, collecting everything you need may feel daunting if you know little about American laws and regulations. That’s where we can lend a helping hand.

Here at NRI, we can guide you through the entire process of getting your ITIN and to open US bank account with foreign passport. So far, we have helped dozens of foreign entrepreneurs open US LLCs, as well as business and personal bank accounts. Whether you need a US bank account for personal use or want to start a business on American soil, our team of professionals can help you achieve your goals with minimal hassle. 

Why not jump on a short discovery call and tell us what you need to achieve your goals?

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