Are you looking to open a US bank account? If so, the process is relatively straightforward if you’re a US resident and can supply a form of government-issued ID and a proof of address. However, what do you do if you want to get a US bank account as a non-resident? The short answer is that the process is extremely difficult.
At the forefront of this is a requirement to supply a social security number – which, as a non-resident of the US, you won’t have. Apart from exploring the possibility of setting up a US company structure, your options are going to be limited.
However, the good news for you is that you can easily obtain a TransferWise Borderless Account, which comes with a fully-fledged US bank account number. As such, by having the ability to send and receive payments – and even spend and withraw funds via a MasterCard debit card, TransferWise offers a non-resident US bank account in all but name.
If this sounds like something you’d like to explore further, be sure to read our in-depth guide on How to Get a US Bank Account as a Non-Resident. Within it, we’ll cover the ins and outs of what you need to do to get an account, and what banking facilities you’ll have access to as a non-resident.
Reasons why you Might Need a Non-Resident US Bank Account
Before we unravel the process of obtaining a non-resident US bank account, let’s look at some of the main reasons why you might need one. Depending on your circumstances, you might need a US bank account because:
- You operate in the digital economy and have a requirement to accept payments in US dollars. Similarly, your clients are based in the US and only have the capacity to transfer funds domestically.
- You have a requirement to purchase goods and services from the US. As it stands, you pay your suppliers via SWIFT – which is not only expensive, but extremely slow. As such, you want to be able to send funds to a local US bank account to keep costs down.
- You’re planning to travel through the US on a tourist visa. Ordinarily, you use the everyday debit card that was issued in your respective country of residence, meaning that ATM withdrawal fees are huge. Instead, you want the option of withdrawing cash with a card linked to your US bank account to keep fees to a minimum.
- You have access to a large amount of US dollars and wish to keep them stored in a US bank account. This might be useful if you are based in a country with a volatile currency.
As you can see from the above examples, there are a plethora of reasons why you might want access to a US bank account. As such, in the next section we are going to explore what the standard account opening process is for non-residents of the US.
Opening a US Bank Account – Current State of Play
The US is home to one of the strictest banking systems in the world. Not only do traditional US banks require you to open an account in person, but you’ll be required to submit heaps of documents. This includes a government-issued ID and a proof of address. Crucially, all bank account applications must be made by a US resident that is in possession of a social security number.
As such, this makes it extremely difficult to open an account as a non-resident. In terms of your options, a small number of US institutions offer accounts to non-residents, although eligibility varies on a state-by-state basis. You’ll need to open the account in person, so this option might be a logistical nightmare if you weren’t planning to visit the state in question.
Moreover, even if the branch does accept applications from non-residents, you will still need to supply a proof of address. This is to ensure that the bank remains compliant with US anti-money laundering laws. Once again, this is something that you likely won’t have as a non-resident of the US.
An additional option available to you is to go the corporate route. By this, we mean creating a US entity and then opening a bank account in the name of your company. In doing so, your US corporation will come with an Employer Identification Number (EIN), which is just as useful as a social security number in the context of opening a US bank account.
However, incorporating a company in the US is no easy feat. Not only is the process time-consuming, but it can also cost you thousands of dollars in fees.
Ultimately, if none of the above options suffices, then you will need to consider opening a TransferWise Borderless account.
Using Wise ( Formerly TransferWise ) to get a Non-Resident Bank Account
For those unaware, Wise is one of the largest money transfer companies operating in the online space. The platform allows you to send money to dozens of countries worldwide – both cheaply and quickly.
However, Wise has since expanded into the challenger banking arena – with its Multi-Currency Borderless account at the forefront of this.
By opening a Borderless account with Wise, you will have access to a number of local bank accounts – including that of the US. Moreover, the account can be linked to a Wise debit card – meaning that you can purchase goods and services in US dollars – as well as withdraw cash from a US ATM. As such, the Wise option offers you a non-resident US bank account in all but name.
With that being said, you still need to ensure that the Wise Borderless account offers you the US banking facilities that you require, so it’s best that we go through its main features.
If you’d like to read more about Transferwise, Check out our full review here.
The most important feature offered by Wise is the ability to receive payments. When you first open an account, you will be given all of the required account numbers to accept payments via ACH. This is the main transfer network used in the US to facilitate domestic payments. As such, your non-resident US bank account will come with the following unique details:
- Account Name
- Account Number
- ACH Routing Number
- Wire Number
As you will see from the above, you will also get a wire number. This is for US transfers that fall outside of the ACH network, and it’s typically used by those that seek a same-day payment. Ultimately, by handing your ACH or wire details to the sender, you’ll be able to receive payments directly into your US Wise Borderless account.
Your non-resident US bank account at Wise will also allow you to send US dollars both domestically and internationally. If it’s the former, you can do this via the ACH network. Most transfers take 1-2 days, and the funds can be sent to any US checking or savings account.
If you need to use your non-resident bank account to send US dollars overseas, this will need to go through the SWIFT network. The transfer usually takes 2-5 working days to process, and you’ll need to pay a fee.
Although the Wise Borderless account doesn’t come with a debit card by default, you can apply for one in a matter of minutes. Backed by MasterCard, you can link the debit card to your non-resident US bank account.
As a result, this allows you to purchase goods and services in US dollars. Moreover, you will also be able to withdraw cash from a US ATM. This is ideal if you are planning to spend time travelling through the US and you want to avoid unnecessary ATM and foreign exchange fees.
The good news is that you will not need to pay a monthly fee to use the debit card, so you can keep it linked to your US bank account for as long as you like. Moreover, you will be able to make up to $250 worth of ATM withdrawals per month without being charged. Anything after this and you’ll pay a flat fee.
Limits to Consider
As we noted earlier in our guide, the US banking industry is heavily regulated and fraught with red-tape. As such, you need to make some considerations regarding account limits.
With that said, the limits imposed by Wise are actually quite high. For example, you can spend up to $2,000 per day on your debit card, or $8,000 per week. You can also send up to $15,000 per day when transferring US dollars through ACH.
Using Your Account
The non-resident US bank account offered by Wise can be accessed through the main desktop website, or via the Wise app. If opting for the latter, you’ll be offered a number of innovative account features.
For example – on top of being able to send money from the app, you can also freeze your debit card if it’s lost or stolen. If the card then turns up, you can simply unfreeze it from within the app.
Using the TransferWise app also gives you instant transaction notifications when you use your card. The transaction will pop-up on your phone in real-time, which is great for keeping tabs on your spending.
How to get a Non-Resident US Bank Account With Wise
If you think that the banking facilities offered by TransferWise are sufficient for what you need, we are now going to outline the process that you need to follow to get an account open today.
Step 1: Open an Account with Wise
To get the ball rolling, you will first need to head over to the Wise website and open a Borderless Multi-Currency account. The account opening process works largely the same as any other challenger banking platform in the market, meaning you’ll need to provide some personal information.
This will include the following:
- First and Last Name
- Country of Residence
- Home Address
- Date of Birth
- Telephone Number
- Email Address
Step 2: Complete KYC Process
You will now need to complete a KYC (Know Your Customer) process. This is to ensure that Wise remains compliant with anti-money laundering laws. All you need to do is upload a clear copy of your passport, alongside a picture of you holding the passport next to your face.
Depending on your country of residence, you might be asked to upload a document that proves your address. If so, this will need to be a bank statement, tax bill, or utility bill.
Step 3: Apply for a Wise Debit Card
Once Wise has validated your ID documents, you will now have access to a fully-fledged non-resident US bank account. Before you start using the account, it’s wise to apply for a Wise MasterCard debit card. In doing so, you’ll be able to use your non-resident US bank account to purchase goods online and in-person, as well as withdraw dollars from an ATM.
Once the card is posted to your home address (which can take anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks), you will then need to link the card to your US account. The instructions on how to do this will be included in the letter that comes with the debit card.
And that’s it – you now have a non-resident US bank account!
Opening a US bank account as a non-resident if no easy feat when going through the conventional channels. This is because you will need to have access to a social security number – which you won’t have as a non-resident.
Alternatively, you can also incorporate a business in the US, and open a local bank account with the EIN that comes with the company – albeit, this is both expensive and highly time-consuming.
As such, your best option might be to open a non-resident US bank account with Wise. Through its Borderless account, you’ll be given a fully-fledged US account that comes with both ACH and wire numbers.
This not only allows you to receive dollars into a local US bank account, but you can also transfer money – both domestically and internationally.
The final icing on the cake is that you can link the Wise MasterCard debit card to your non-resident US bank account. This allows you to purchase goods and services online and in-person, as well as withdraw cash from an ATM while in the US.
Ultimately, the Wise non-resident option should offer you all of the facilities that you would otherwise expect from a traditional US bank account – apart from credit.