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Do you know that there are multiple ways to open a US bank account as a foreigner?

Contrary to the common assumption, you don’t even necessarily need a social security number, nor do you always have to visit the US!

There are a number of options you can avail to open a US bank account. Each option has its own pros and cons, so you can go for whichever option suits you the best.

To help you make this decision, we will discuss two most reliable options in this post, including their advantages, disadvantages and thorough sign-up procedures.

Let’s get started.

Option 1: Transferwise Borderless Account

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The Transferwise Borderless Account is an online account for holding, sending and receiving payments in over 40 currencies.

This multi-currency account is called “borderless” because you can create multiple, real accounts in different currencies at the same time.

Advantages

Here are the main advantages of this option:

  • There is NO need to visit the U.S.

  • You do not need to have an SSN for this option

  • Transferwise has low transaction fees, making it perfect for overseas payments.

  • You can have real local bank accounts for all major currencies like the USD, AUD, and EUR.

  • You will be able to transfer payments to most of the prominent countries around the world

Disadvantages

A few drawbacks to this option are:

  • Transferwise has different limitations for each country. So, depending upon your country of residence and the country you’re transferring your payment, you may need to face some limitations.

  • For example, you cannot use Transferwise to send payments to Columbia, and Panama residents cannot hold USD. Other than these and some other smaller countries, most of the major countries don’t have any limitations on Transferwise.

  • You cannot have a credit card with Transferwise.

  • Debit cards are only available in a few major countries.

  • Transferwise is not a fully featured bank

Sign-up Process

Transferwise registration process is entirely online, and only takes up an hour or so.

First of all, start by going to https://transferwise.com/register#/:

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Specify the type of account you want, provide an email address and password and select “Sign up”.

If you’re signing up for business, just register your business in your home country and then sign up as your business.

After this, you’ll need to verify your identification and your address. It can take 3-5 days to get approved but after that, your USD account will be all set up and ready to use.

You’ll be able to add balance from your bank account, transfer payments to other countries and do much more with this account. As an Amazon seller, you’ll be able to sell in separate marketplaces with this account.

For example, can sell both in the US and in Europe, and set up your USD and EUR accounts on transferwise to easily receive payouts from Amazon.

However, depending upon your choice of usage and your country of residence, this option can prove to be very limited.

Option 2: Payoneer Account

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Payoneer provides online money transfer and digital payment services. A Payoneer account supports over 150 local currencies.

It can be used to send and receive funds from around the world, and transfer them to your local bank account or to your Payoneer e-wallet or even to Payoneer Mastercard.

Advantages
  • Payoneer has following benefits to offer:

  • There is NO need to visit the U.S.

  • You do not need to have an SSN for this option

  • You can have real local bank accounts for all major currencies like the USD, AUD, and EUR and many others.

  • You can have virtual debit and credit cards with Payoneer

  • You can also order a physical, prepaid debit Mastercard

  • Payoneer Mastercard can be used to withdraw funds at any ATM machine that accepts Mastercard

Disadvantages

Payoneer has two disadvantages:

  • Although Payoneer offers debit and credit cards, the availability of this service is limited to a few countries (For example, you cannot have virtual credit card or debit card in India)

  • Overall fees (like fees for incoming payments and withdrawal fees) are higher than other similar options

Sign-up Process

First of all, start the sign-up procedure for your Payoneer account here:

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You can choose whether you want a personal account or a business account to exchange international payments.

The application is fairly simple and has 4 sections. Once you fill out all of the required fields and submit your application, you’ll have to wait for 3-4 business days to get a confirmation email about your approval.

In the meanwhile, you’ll get an email notifying you of the completion of step 1 of your sign up:

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After you get the approval, you will be able to log into your Payoneer account and start receiving payments right away.

Option 3: Open a Real US Bank Account

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If you want to avail full features of a bank account then the best and recommended way to do so is to actually go to a US bank and open an account with them.

This is comparatively a more lengthy process than the aforementioned online options but it comes with additional opportunities that other options don’t offer.

Advantages

The main advantages you’ll have with a real US bank account are:

  • You do not need to have an SSN for this option

  • You would be a US bank account holder, which means that there would be no country-specific limitations in this case.

  • You can get credit cards and debit cards as well.

Disadvantages

However, there are a few disadvantages in this case like:

  • You will have to visit the US yourself in person

  • You will have to go to a bank or several bank branches to decide with which you want an account

Is Social Security Number required to open a US Bank Account?

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No.

There is no legal requirement for a non-US resident to have a social security number to get a checking account with a US bank.

In fact, these requirements vary from bank to bank, and depend upon their local policies. This is why it is important to search and find a bank that does not require SSN to open an account or to give out credit/debit cards.

Sign-up Process

As an owner of a foreign business, you’ll need to go through a few extra initial steps to be able to open a corporate bank account or get credit cards.

First, you need to register a US LLC and secondly, you will need to get an EIN.

But what are LLC and EIN and how to get them?

Let’s go through both these steps individually (if you’re opening a bank account for personal use, just skip to the third step):

Step 1: Register a US LLC

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Since you’re the owner of a foreign business, you need to first register a US entity within the United States and get a US mailing address for that entity. This is what LLC is for.

To register a US LLC, you need to first choose a US state in which you want to register in. Base your choice on these 3 factors:

  • Annual filing requirements
  • Cost
  • Privacy

You can obviously do your own research, but based on our experience, we recommend:

  • New Mexico
  • Wyoming

Both of these states have minimal annual filing requirements. They are both private so your own name would not appear on the documents plus they are also quite cheap.

After choosing a state, you need to get a registered agent who will take care of the filing process for you (this is not optional but a requirement in almost all US states).

It will take about 1-2 days after this for you to finally get your US LLC and a registered address.

Step 2: Get an EIN (Employer Registration Number)

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It is quite easy to get an EIN but the process can be a bit time consuming.

To make sure you don’t get stuck on any step, we’ve broken this down further into 3 sections:

  1. Fill out SS-4 Form First of all, download the SS-4 formand fill it out.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also provides detailed instructions to help you fill out this form correctly.

You’ll see an “EIN” box in the upper right corner of the form:

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Leave this box empty and fill out the rest of the form.

IRS will later write your EIN here after approving your application.

  1. Fax the form to the IRS

Once you’ve filled out the SS-4 form, you need to fax it to the IRS on their number: 1-855-641-6935 (also mentioned in the instruction manual linked above).

You can obviously use any fax number to send this form, but make sure that you are able to receive and return fax.

  1. Wait for 7 Days
    After submitting your form, you will receive it back via fax within the next 7 days.

The form will now have your EIN (a 9-digit number) written at the upper right corner box, in addition to the information you had filled earlier.

You will also receive a confirmation letter from the IRS consisting of your EIN on your registered LLC address after 2-3 business weeks. You don’t have to actually wait for this letter. Just use the EIN from the SS-4 form faxed to you and move on to the next step.

Don’t Forget Your Annual LLC Obligations

Keep in mind that as a foreign owner of US LLC, you do have some annual obligations:

  • Fill out IRS form 5472 and submit it before April 15 every year
  • Pay your annual registered agent fee
  • Make sure to find out and fulfil any other requirements specific to your chosen US state for registry

The whole process of registering US LLC and getting your EIN takes about 10 days. Once you’re done with this, you’re all set to finally go to a bank and open an account for your business.

Step 3: Open Your US Bank Account & Get Credit Cards

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At this point, you would have all the documents required to open a corporate US bank account.

So, take your EIN and all relevant company documents along with your passport, a second form of ID and your proof of address to a bank and get your account opened.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through this process:

  1. Find Issuers that don’t Require SSN Like we said earlier, each bank and even branches may have their own local policy about requiring SSN to open a bank account.

You can find out about this policy by simply going up to various banks and asking them if they require SSN or not. However, since this can be a bit hectic and time taking task, we recommend trying these 3 banks first:

  • Bank of America
  • TD Bank
  • Wells Fargo

We have found these 3 banks to be the most friendly with foreigners. However, feel free to explore other options to find out what works best for you.

Usually all these banks require is a passport and a second form of ID, but this can obviously vary from bank to bank. They may also require some additional details like proof of address etc.

  1. Choose your Credit Card When it comes to getting a credit card, you will face 2 obstacles:
  • SSN or ITIN requirement
  • Credit history requirement

So, your first step would obviously be to locate banks that do not require either of these.

This is actually not that difficult. In order to find banks that do not require an SSN or ITIN, check out this website to get a complete list of banks and their requirements.

However, to make this even easier for you, we went through the list ourselves and found out three best options where you can easily get credit cards with just your passport:

  • Bank of America
  • American Express
  • Citibank
3. Getting a Credit Card without a Credit History

So, once you’ve found a couple of banks that don’t require SSN, you now need to narrow your list down further by finding out which one of these banks do not require a credit history.

Again, you can check out this list of banks to see which ones do or do not require a credit history. We recommend getting Travel Rewards Credit Card from Bank of America since they do not require credit history and the card comes with the following benefits:

  • There’s no annual fee
  • There’s no foreign transaction fee (a major relief for frequent travellers)
  • You get 1.5% back as reward points on purchases

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Remember, even if you do have credit history back in your home country, it will not count here.

Sometimes banks that do require credit history will initially give you another, secured credit card to help you build up a credit history by depositing some amount of money. You can later get a credit card of your choice based on this credit history.

You may get approved on the spot but it can also take up to 7 days to get the approval.

4. Collecting your Credit Cards

Credit cards get mailed to you on your US address. Since you would be a non-US resident, it may be difficult to arrange such an address.

However, we recommend that you simply provide your Airbnb address for this purpose (obviously after checking with you host first). All the bank needs is an address to mail your cards to, regardless of who the resident is.

You can even use the addresses of your US-residing friends or acquaintances.

It usually takes up to 7 days to receive your cards in the mail after you’ve opened your account.

Wrapping it Up

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It is safe to say that whether you need it for personal use or for your business, getting a US bank account is actually not that complicated.

You can choose either one of the discussed options depending upon your preferences. All options are fairly simple to execute. Just let our guides lead you through the process and you will have no trouble in setting up your own US bank account.

Lastly, do not forget to fulfil any follow-up obligations that may be included in your chosen option.

This is all you need to do to open and use a US bank account as a foreigner!


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