If you recently came to the U.S. and want to open a bank account, you may be wondering how you can do that without a social security card. Luckily, undocumented immigrants can set up a bank accounts even without a social security number.
There are various reasons why you may need or want a bank account in your name in the U.S. This guide will show you how to open a bank account without a social security card.
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What’s Needed to Open a Bank Account?
There are certain things you typically need in order to open a bank account in the U.S. This is because the U.S. Patriot Act requires banks to verify information for those who get a bank account to ensure there is no criminal activity being done.
Banks and credit unions need to be able to verify your name, date of birth, and address for you to open a bank account. A simple way to get this information is through a government-issued identification number such as a social security number (SSN) or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).
For instance, when you go to open an account, you may be asked to provide one or more of the following to verify your identity:
- An up-to-date passport
- Government-issued ID from your home country
- Birth certificate
- Alien identification card
- Consular ID
- Foreign driver’s license
- Recent utility bill, tax return or another bill showing your name and current address
- A copy of your lease or rental agreement showing your name and current address
Those who are a U.S. resident might use their state-issued driver’s license and social security number to verify their identity. If you’re entering the U.S. to work with a legal visa, you can apply for a social security number through the Social Security Administration.
On the contrary, undocumented immigrants can’t apply for social security numbers, but this does not mean there are no options for immigrants to open a bank account.
Open a Bank Account With an ITIN Instead
An individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) is a tax-processing number used by the Internal Revenue Service. It is a nine-digit number that can be issued to people who are working and living in the U.S., but aren’t to apply for a social security number.
The IRS uses the ITIN number to track income and taxes owed for undocumented immigrants. An ITIN does not mean that:
- You’re authorized to work in the U.S.
- You’re eligible for social security benefits
- You qualify for the Earned Income Tax credit
It mainly helps you set up a checking or savings account. To do so, the first step is applying using your taxpayer ID.
This can be done by filling out the Form W-7, which is an application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. On this form, you will need to include:
- Your residency status
- Mailing address
- Foreign address
- Date, country, and city of birth
- Countries in which you have citizenship
- Foreign tax ID number
- Government-issued ID number such as a passport or driver’s license
- Name of the college you’re attending or your employer, if applicable
Then you sign and date the form and submit it to the IRS, along with proof of identity. The types of documentation that you can use for proof of identity include:
- Current passport
- National ID card from your home country
- U.S. driver’s license
- Civil birth certificate
- Foreign military ID card
- U.S. military ID card
- Foreign voter registration card
Any documents you submit must include your name, photo, and something that verifies your foreign status. This also applies to any dependents you may be applying on behalf of for an ITIN. You may use medical and school records from your home country to verify a dependent’s identity.
Once you have everything needed, you can mail your Form W-7 with your supporting documents to the IRS. You can mail your paperwork to this address:
Internal Revenue Service
Austin Service Center
P.O. Box 149342
Austin, TX 78714-9342
Or you can drop it off at an IRS acceptance agent office near you. Additionally, if it is your first time filing a tax return in the U.S., you can include the ITIN paperwork with your tax return when you file it.
What Else Do You Need to Open a Bank Account?
Besides needing proof of your identity with an ITIN, there are also other requirements that must be met depending on your bank or credit union.
There are things like the minimum-deposit requirement. Online, you may be able to open an account with just $1, but when you go to a traditional bank the minimum deposit may be $100 or more.
You could meet your minimum deposit by:
- Funding your account with a personal check
- Getting a certified or cashier’s check from your current bank
- Scheduling a bank-to-bank transfer
- Depositing cash
It is important to meet the minimum-deposit and minimum-balance requirements, because fees can be charged if you do not meet that requirement. Some banks may even pay you a lower interest on your savings account than when you have a higher balance.
With online banks, they offer a better combination of minimal fees and higher interest rates versus traditional banks and credit unions. Despite this, it may be easier to open an account at a branch with an ITIN.
Benefits of Opening a Bank Account for Undocumented Immigrants
There are several reasons why you may want a bank account while living and working in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant. These include:
- A checking account that allows you to write checks or make purchases with a debit card makes it easier to shop or pay bills. It minimizes check-cashing service fees and allows you to keep track of large amounts of cash.
- Placing your money with a bank is safer than having cash laying around. Especially if your bank is FDIC-insured, your money is protected. Some banks even protect against fraud if someone else hacks and uses your account to make unauthorized purchases. This is something that you would not be able to do with cash.
- Having a savings account with money you are just saving, can help you earn money. You can earn interest and make money on your money.
- Establishing credit
- Lastly, when you have a checking or savings account, it helps you build credit. Credit is important because it shows that you are responsible when it comes to credit, allowing banks to trust you and give you a loan if necessary.
Compare Bank Account Options Carefully
Now that you know how to open a bank account without a social security card, you must consider the banks that works best for you. When considering banks and credit unions, consider:
- Whether they allow undocumented immigrants to open a bank account with an ITIN
- What types of documentation or proof of ID you’ll need to open your account
- The types of account you can open (i.e. checking, savings, money market, CDs, loans, etc.)
- The interest rate you can earn on savings and whether rates are tiered
- Minimum-deposit requirements and minimum-balance requirements, if any
- Fees associated with checking or savings accounts
If you’re mainly only looking at traditional banks, you may also want to look at online banks. They are a more convenient way to manage your money and may even have a better interest rate.
Once you do open a bank account, make sure you use it wisely. Make use of the banking alerts to keep track of your transactions and know when your balance is getting a little low to avoid overdraft fees. You can also choose to opt-in to overdraft protection.
Not sure how to open up your own bank account in the U.S. without a social security number? Here we will outline ways to be able to open up your own account and other things you may need to know.
For more information like this, check out more of our bank guides!