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How to open a US bank account for non-residents to solve paypal problems
Thread poster: Mariebzh

Mariebzh  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:52
English to French
+ ...
Dec 12, 2009

Hello,

I would like to know if it's possible to open a US bank account even if you're not a US citizen nor US resident.
I live in a country where I can't receive money from paypal.
I'm loosing a lot of business because most people don't want to pay international wire transfer fees or Western Union fees...It seems that paypal is THE most convenient way to deal with international payments.
To be able to withdraw money from paypal you need a US based bank account.
Is it possible to open one without being a US resident ?
I've searched on the web and found lots of info, but I'm lost... I don't know which one are reliable.
Has anyone ever done that ?
Can a US citizen tell me if it's possible and give me a name and contact of such a Bank ?
Thank you so much for your help;


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Cristina Heraud-van Tol  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 23:52
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Hello Dec 12, 2009

You need to be in the US to open a bank account, but you don't need to be a citizen or resident. You can do it just as a tourist (my case). The only thing is that you need to give them a US address. In my case, my cousin lives there so we wrote down her address and my bank account is from Bank of America. I can manage it through the Internet, and withdraw money in my country, without any problems.

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Mariebzh  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:52
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
re : Dec 12, 2009

Thank you for your comment Cristina,
So it's not possible to do it online ?
Or have the documents sent by airmail ?


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Maria Karra  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:52
Member (2000)
Greek to English
+ ...
you have to travel to the US to do it Dec 12, 2009

Marienc wrote:

Thank you for your comment Cristina,
So it's not possible to do it online ?
Or have the documents sent by airmail ?


I don't think so. At least not with Bank of America. You have to go to the bank in person with identification, and you have to be accompanied by someone who has a physical US address.
I recently asked this question at Bank of America on behalf of a friend who lives overseas and was interested in opening a US bank account.


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MagdalenaJanik  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:52
English to Polish
+ ...
you can try this to see if it is possible Dec 12, 2009

Hi,
it looks that there is a possibility to open an account online: http://www.bankofamerica.com/promos/jump/onlineapplications2/

I chatted with one of the agents and got this response:
---------
You: I have a question - is it possible to open an account online sending additional documents by mail?
You: or is it necessary to come to one of your offices?
Jocelyn : Actually...
Jocelyn : Applying online is easy, secure and quick. The online application usually takes only minutes to complete and you normally won’t need to step foot inside a banking center to get your account set up and funded.
Jocelyn : You will receive your Welcome Pack within 7-10 business days of the account opening. This will include the account disclosures, signature card with account number, and information about the account. Your Check Card or ATM card will be sent to the account address separately usually within 7 to 10 business days.
--------

You can try if it works this way before booking a ticket
Good luck!


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Maria Karra  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:52
Member (2000)
Greek to English
+ ...
not possible with BofA Dec 12, 2009

Magdalena Janik-Hernández wrote:

I chatted with one of the agents and got this response:
---------
You: I have a question - is it possible to open an account online sending additional documents by mail?
You: or is it necessary to come to one of your offices?



Magdalena, the question isn't whether it's possible to open an account online; it is possible and, I believe, quite common, particularly with savings accounts. The question is whether an account can be opened from abroad by a non-US resident. I'm reading on that page that the applicant needs a Social Security Number and a home address, which I can only assume is a US-based address.
When I try to fill out the application form, and select "I do not have a Social Security Number", this error pops up: "We're sorry for any inconvenience, but at this time, only applicants with a valid Social Security number can apply online. You can apply for an account in person at any Bank of America banking center by presenting valid forms of identification." And in the "Name & Address information" section, there is a menu for selecting your State, no menu for the country, which I suppose means that only US addresses are accepted.
But Bank of America is just one of many banks. Maybe others allow it.


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Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:52
German to English
+ ...
You must appear in person Dec 12, 2009

Hello, Marienc,

Sorry to disappoint you, but everything changed after 9/11 because of the funds the terrorists received from abroad. The laws have become so restrictive, that even I as an American citizen (I live in Europe, though), had a hell of a time opening a bank account in the US a few years ago. I suppose the laws are subject to some interpretation and the procedures could very well vary from bank to bank, but I tried several banks, and without proof of residence, such as driver's license, utility bill, etc., it was next to impossible, especially since my closest relative didn't want me to use her home address. Perhaps the laws have been relaxed a bit since then, but you absolutely need a US address, at least 2 ID's and usually a Social Security number. I did finally manage to do it, but the path was fraught with obstacles.

It's a mystery to me how Cristina (above) was able to do it as a tourist. Normally - as I understand post 9/11 US bank policy, it should not have been possible.

In fact, there is at least one organization for Americans living abroad which is trying to get this policy of US-based banks discriminating against expats changed. So I assume it's a general issue, and not an isolated one.

If I were you, I'd look for an alternative solution.


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Michael Kazakov  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 07:52
Partial member (2007)
English to Russian
+ ...
E*Trade + Wells Fargo Dec 12, 2009

Marienc wrote:
I would like to know if it's possible to open a US bank account even if you're not a US citizen nor US resident.


When I was in the same situation according to my research there were really only two viable alternatives: E*Trade + Wells Fargo.

There were also Bank of America mentioned earlier and Chase Manhattan (this one request a long term deposit of US $25,000 for non-US residents who want to open an account).

Here are the links for your research:
E*Trade: https://us.etrade.com/e/t/welcome/openanaccount
Wells Fargo: https://www.wellsfargo.com/inatl/consumer_services/personal_banking

At the time of my research (about a year ago) there were advantages and disadvantages for both:
E*Trade was quicker and much simpler to open but more expense in the long-term, since E*Trade is essentially a trading platform, so if you do not trade then your account maintenance fees are higher (something like US $100 a year);
Wells Fargo was cheaper to maintain but had a more complicated procedure (you have to provide various forms, bills and other information).

Still, both institutions let non-US residents open bank accounts without actually visiting the bank offices.

Good luck!


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Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:52
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Open a USD account at home and get paid by check Dec 12, 2009

Marienc wrote:


To be able to withdraw money from paypal you need a US based bank account.


I have to agree with most of what has been said here, unfortunately after 9/11 it is no longer possible to open an account unless you are US citizen or have a US address and even then you have to go to the bank in person to open the account.

However what I don't understand is you saying you need a US bank account to take money out of Paypal, that is not true, you can have an account in any (well at least most) country. The problem with Paypal is that you can then only remove funds in the currency of that country, not the account, the country. I mention this because I thought I could set up a USD account and have my USD sent from Paypal to my USD account, however Paypal policy prohibits this and as I live in Europe, regardless of the currency of my account I am only allowed to remove money in Euros.

I would not object to this except for the fact that Paypal does not apply official exchange rates, they apply there own rate which predictably is lower than the actual rate, so you always lose money when removing funds in other currencies.

Sick of this which I consider is completely unfair (and probably were Paypal make most of their money so I doubt they are likely to change it) I swapped my payment method for US clients to cheque, I now get paid with a check (none of them have objected as it doesnt cost them anything as opposed to a wire transfer) and put that USD cheque in my USD account, then I just change the USD as I need them.

It is true that it takes a little longer to actually get paid, because once you receive the check and put it in the bank it can take up to a month for the funds to be confirmed (something to do with US banking policies makes the process quite slow) but I don't lose anything to exchange rates, I obviously pay a commission to the bank because of it being a foreign check but this is a lot less than any Paypal charge for removing money (without even counting the loss for the exchange rate).


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Annie Beaudette  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:52
French to English
+ ...
It is possible Dec 12, 2009

Hello,

I'm a Canadien resident and did open a US account for travel purpose about a year ago. I had to print their application form from their website, filled it out, and sent it along with a $50 check to be deposit into my account. After receiving my application form, they did call me however asking me why I wanted to open an account with them. I told them my husband and I were going down there very often, and that it would be easier for me to have a US account then going at my Canadian bank to get US money.

No other questions ask. I received my debit card a week after. I can go online, transfer money from my Paypal account, etc.

Here's the link if you want to take a look.

https://www.chittenden.com/portal/site/chittenden/menuitem.138b6ef95cd6d5b5dd4f28c953468a0c/?vgnextoid=a5f884ca0279d110VgnVCM100000800510acRCRD&Vgnextfmt=default



Annie


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Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:52
German to English
+ ...
I'm still a bit skeptical about it. Dec 12, 2009

And I imagine a Canadian citizen, who lives essentially next door, would have different standards applied than someone who lives in New Caledonia, which is halfway around the world.

Michael, you don't say whether you actually got an account or not. You did the research, but what was the result? The Wells Fargo site you link to, for example, clearly says

Individual Services

"U.S. citizens moving overseas -- Find the same services you depend on at home, in the currencies you need, wherever you relocate.
Foreign nationals moving to the U.S. -- Simplify your move with easy banking solutions that help you adjust to a new way of life."

I'm sure you have to show proof of either of these 2 situations. The laws are just not that simple. The Patriot Act, passed after 9/11, requires US banks to "know your customer", which is the basis for having to show up in person. And as stated, I had a very hard time doing it even in person because I hadn't lived in the US for a long time at that point, but this was a few years ago, so I concede that some things may have changed.



[Edited at 2009-12-12 14:42 GMT]


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xxxLatin_Hellas
United States
Local time: 06:52
Italian to English
+ ...
Another Possibility Dec 12, 2009

Based on my experience, when it comes to serving small international business, the US banking system is retarded and it is better to avoid it to the extent that you can. For example, banks in most countries allow even relatively small deposits in a variety of major currencies, except of course the US where, with very few exceptions, only USD accounts are allowed.

As a variant of Alex's response, then, it is very possible that a decent bank in Australia, New Zealand or New Caledonia itself will allow you to have an account in USD. Of course the only problem with that would be receiving USD from ... where ? ... the US of course because the back-office wire transfer people would be absolutely flabbergasted over a wire payment in USD outside the US (unless perhaps you have an account with a big international money center bank like Citibank or you have a direct connection to the bank president and gently hold his hand). Maybe Alex's suggestion of executing deposits using USD cheques could also work.

In short, perhaps check with your local, Australia and New Zealand banks before embarking on a trip to the US.

Finally, in all cases the situation improves a lot if you have big numbers in your accounts.

Good Luck!

[Edited at 2009-12-12 12:25 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-12-12 12:26 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-12-12 12:27 GMT]


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Balazs Oroszlany
Japan
Japanese to Hungarian
+ ...
No need for US account. Dec 12, 2009

"In short, perhaps check with your local, Australia and New Zealand banks before embarking on a trip to the US."

Especially since with a local bank account in Australia or New Zealand, you could easily withdraw money from Paypal.

There is an exchange fee (almost minimal), and the rates might not be perfect, but at least it is a working method, and much more easier than opening an US account.


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:52
Flemish to English
+ ...
Ing USA Dec 12, 2009

The Ing USA offers the possibility to open an US-account without going to the States if you have an account at ING in your country.

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Michael Kazakov  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 07:52
Partial member (2007)
English to Russian
+ ...
accounts Dec 12, 2009

Woodstock wrote:
Michael, you don't say whether you actually got an account or not. You did the research, but what was the result?


No, I didn't open the accounts in the end, since Paypal made it possible to withdraw the funds to Visa, so I felt the hassle was not worth it.



The Wells Fargo site you link to, for example, clearly says

Foreign nationals moving to the U.S. -- Simplify your move with easy banking solutions that help you adjust to a new way of life."


I was actually going to open the account with Wells Fargo. I filled out and printed the forms, sent them by post to Wells Fargo office in San-Francisco. I then received their reply where they asked me to provide a copy of my international passport (or driving license), residential bill (electricity or water) and bank statements for the last three months. The interesting thing is that they said I didn't have to translate the bills or bank statements, just send them a copy.

The only limitation I can see is that foreign nationals cannot apply online whereas US citizens can do that. Before the Patriot Act I believe you could open an account without the identity proof with driving license copy, residential bills etc.

I am surprised you say you had problems, could it be just regulation of a certain bank? Or even a certain regional office?

Anyway, I believe the answer to the original poster's question is yes, it is possible to open a US bank account for a non-US resident, although it does take time and effort.

[Edited at 2009-12-12 13:53 GMT]


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