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A non-U.S. citizen can open a checking or savings account in the United States, but financial institutions reserve the right to deny his or her application to do so.

Business Contract with Non-U.S. Citizen

Private businesses in the U.S. have the right to contract with foreign individuals or groups; this right is explicitly stated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, have made it much more difficult for foreign persons to open accounts or engage in monetary transactions in the U.S. or through American financial institutions.

Due to regulations set forth in the USA Patriot Act, banks and credit unions must now follow strict guidelines to verify an individual's identity when establishing a new savings account. A foreign individual must have a U.S.-based local address to tie to the account.

It is easier to guarantee acceptance with a U.S.-based multinational bank with foreign branches. This provides international applicants with the opportunity to build up a business relationship with the bank before applying to the bank stateside.

Documentation and Identification

Any would-be account-holder must provide a current photo identification card, such as a passport or a state-issued driver's license; in most instances, photocopies are not accepted. In addition to a photo ID, individuals opening a savings account are required to provide their Social Security number, birth date, current and past addresses, and employment information. For non-U.S. citizens, an American Social Security number is not necessary for checking or savings accounts, though the absence of one may require the applicant to jump through extra hoops.

Foreign applicants do need two forms of personal ID; one of these must be a passport, which the bank will make a copy of for its records. Acceptable forms of secondary identification include a driver's license, a debit card, a work visa or a student ID. Depending on the work or study status of the applying party, the bank may require a copy of other documentation as well.

If the foreign applicant is opening an account with a wire transfer, he needs proof of funds. This also applies to large cash deposits. If the applicant has a job or residence, he needs documentation to verify each of those as well.

The majority of banks have a brief application that gathers all identifying information. After submitting an application for a savings account, applicants may be asked by the institution to review the terms and conditions of the account, which may list privacy policies, fees assessed on the account and minimum funding levels.

The applicant is likely to be required to appear in-person at the branch. Heightened security after 2001 led to the near-elimination of online applications for foreign accounts, due to fear of terrorism-related money laundering.

Minimum Funding

Banks and credit unions differ in how much they require an individual to deposit to establish a savings account, but minimum funding ranges from $5 up to $50 for basic accounts. Savings account deposits can be made in cash or check, either in person at a branch location or via the mail. Once the minimum is fulfilled, a savings account is considered open and in good standing.

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