People are moving to the United States all the time and for different reasons. Some may want to further their education; others may have found a business opportunity too good to pass by, while others want to experience the American Dream. Whatever the case may be, and in whatever category you may find yourself in, you will need to obtain a US bank account. 

But regardless of how relevant and useful a bank account is in the United States, new arrivals may be faced with a series of extra challenges and hurdles that makes it that much more difficult for you to meet the usual strict requirement of a bank, particularly concerning necessary documentation that will prove your creditworthiness.  

Online banking is also an option many take into consideration. It has a higher rate of success if you are already settled in the United States for some time. If you’ve only just arrived, however, the chances are that your online application will be rejected. One of the main reasons for this is that US banks will not be able to conduct a credit check on you. Also, many laws and regulations are in place to prevent money laundering and other such illicit behavior. You will stand a better chance of opening an account by talking directly with a representative in a brick and mortar branch of a bank. 

What Documents Do You Need?

It’s important to keep in mind that the specific documents and requirements for opening a bank account vary depending on the bank as well as the state you have relocated to. That said, there are some general qualifying documents that most banks will require. 

These general requirements include the following:

  • Identification Papers – Non-American applicants will have to present a photo ID that consists of identification from their native country. You will also have to provide a valid passport and other identity card issued by your government. In some cases, this can be supplemented by the ID number found on your work visa, green card, or student ID. If you are a student, an I-20 form may also be required. 
  • Your Social Security Number (SSN) – Another important and more complicated document to acquire is a Social Security Number. It is issued for every US citizen, as well as permanent or temporary residents who are authorized to live and work in the United States. An SSN is used to report your wage as well as to determine your eligibility for Social Security benefits. If you don’t already have an SSN, you will need to apply for a Social Security Card by filling out and sending in an SS-5 Form to the Social Security Administration. For this, you will have to provide:
    • Evidence of Age – which for a foreigner usually means the passport
    • Evidence of Identity – For non-US citizens, these include US immigration documents as well as your passport with biographical information (date of birth, age, parents names, etc.) and photograph. 
    • Evidence of Immigration Status – You will need to provide an unexpired document provided to you by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) showing your current immigration status. These usually include documents such as Form I-551, I-94, or I-766
  • Optional – Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) – In some cases, you can use your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, if for whatever reason you are unable to get an SSN. You can apply for one at the IRS. Keep in mind, however, that this is not always an option. 
  • Proof of Current Address – A local address will also be required for you to open a bank account in the US. It typically involves some form of utility bill under your name which can attest that you are living there. If you are living with someone else, they will have to provide proof of residence to that address. 
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN) – If you have a business in the United States, you will be issued an Employer Identification Number by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You can also use this EIN to open a bank account in the US.
  • Immigration Papers – It includes some of the forms and documentation we’ve mentioned up to this point, as well as any other immigration documents you have in your possession.  

In most cases, all of these documents will need to be original or otherwise an authorized copy. It’s best that you contact customer support at the bank you are looking to open an account and ask them about what accurate documentation you need as a non-US-citizen before meeting with the branch representative.  

Is There a Required Deposit When Opening an Account? 

The short answer is yes. You will need to put a minimum deposit, and sometimes even a fee to open an account. Luckily, however, these deposits are usually relatively low, somewhere in between $100 and $1,500, depending on the bank and type of account you are looking to open. 

When talking with the bank about these deposits and possible fees, also make sure to ask about any annual fees, minimum balances, or any other such requirements so that you know you’re making the right choice and are selecting an account that will best suit your needs. Once you open your account, also make a money transfer from your home bank account to your new one so that you can start using it. 

Special Requirements for Students

International students can also open a banking account in the United States. They will also provide standard documentation such as their full name, home address, local address, phone number, part of their personal information. Furthermore, they too, have to show their government-issued passport and a secondary ID (student ID, a birth certificate, driver’s license, or a letter from your university’s international students and scholars office.)

Aside from these, students will have to provide their school enrollment verification, their I-94 form, as well as their I-20, DS-2019 forms, and their I-797 approval notice

Takeaway There are a lot of documents needed, and in some cases, acquired before a non-US citizen can apply for a USA bank account. And while this information presented here show, in large part, what documents you need, keep in mind that different banks and different states may have additional requirements for you to fulfill.