Part 2. Opening an account with a visit to the usa and an account for llc

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In the first part of the article, we discussed the features of the U.S. banking system, its pros and cons, as well as the issues of opening an account in the U.S. online with the help of payment systems. Although it is probably more correct to say not “opening an account”, but “obtaining U.S. bank details”.

Today we are going to look at opening an account (this time a full bank account) in the United States with a visit to the country. Let’s talk about which banks are the most loyal to non-residents, and let’s look at the issue of opening an account for an LLC that is managed by a non-resident.

We have recently published a large material on visas to the U.S., so we will not dwell separately on visas, we will go straight to the main subject of the article.

Opening a personal account with a visit to the usa

If you are able to travel to the U.S. under ESTA (no visa to the U.S.) or under one of the visas, you should not have much difficulty opening a personal account. But it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

Bank requirements are often not as clearly defined as you’d like them to be. You may get different requirements from different people at the same bank. Finally, the final decision to open an account for you is always at the discretion of the bank or individual account manager.

Another difficulty with the U.S. banking system is that not all bank employees are well trained and may not be familiar with their bank’s policy on non-residents. 

Also keep in mind that if you intend to open a bank account without an SSN or ITIN, the minimum deposit may be much higher than usual, sometimes it can exceed $10,000.

Now we will talk about which banks you should pay attention to.

Online banks are usually not suitable for non-residents. Their high-interest account options are usually only for U.S. citizens. They may not even be very friendly to U.S. citizens living abroad, not to mention non-residents.

Credit unions are also excluded. They are usually small and local, and they are not particularly open to non-residents wishing to open accounts in foreign banks.

But larger banks have less risk exposure than smaller local banks or credit unions, which makes them more loyal to risky customers, including non-residents. Problems with a dozen or a hundred accounts? It is not a matter of life and death for a big bank, they have thousands of other accounts, and they can continue working quite easily.

Local banks may close your account simply because they think your connections with the state (where they are located) to be insufficient. That’s reason enough for them. Larger banks are not as paranoid about compliance as smaller banks, and usually have more functionality.

As of 2021 we know that the following banks can open an account for non-residents without SSN (but with ITIN):

  • Bank of America
  • Chase Bank
  • Wells Fargo

Sometimes there is information on the web that TD Bank is also quite loyal to non-residents, but our experience confirms the opposite. We have managed to open accounts at TD Bank branches in Florida and Massachusetts, but soon the banks closed them. You could try your luck at TD Bank branches in other states, but there is a good chance that history will repeat itself.

U.S. banks often change their policies, and if they were loyal to non-residents a few years ago, it does not mean that the situation has not changed. In any case, when opening an account in the U.S., you should focus on the major banks.

What documents do you need to open an account?

Before you visit the bank, be sure to call the branch and find out what documents you need to have with you. Usually you will need the following set of documents:

  • 2 documents proving your identity (international passport or international driver’s license)
  • Proof of address
  • US phone number
  • ITIN (optional, but very desirable)
  • Social Security Number (if you are eligible to work in the USA)
  • Alien Identification Card
  • IRS Form W-8BEN (a tax form for non-US citizens who do not reside in the USA to claim a tax credit for income received from companies incorporated in the US)
  • Letter of good standing from your foreign bank

Do not forget that any legal documents sent from abroad must be certified with an apostille stamp.

In some cases, the bank may accept foreign proof of address. In other cases, they will not do it and will ask for a U.S. utility bill.

You must also have access to a phone number in the United States.

Having an ITIN can greatly simplify the process (as we promised earlier, in one of the future articles we will tell you how to do it).

Firstly, the address on your ITIN document can serve as your proof of address. Secondly, if you have an ITIN, the bank will generally no longer consider you as a non-resident.

Bank of America

is considered one of the most foreigner-friendly banks on our list. They usually allow you to open an account as a non-resident for both personal and commercial use if you visit the U.S. frequently for work or study. But an in-personal meeting at one of the bank’s U.S. branches will be required.

The peculiarities of the bank include the fact that to access online banking, you will need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

Fees and terms also vary depending on the state in which you apply to Bank of America, but the monthly service fee and minimum initial deposits are very low for all of their options.

The foreign transactions fee is 3%, but they have many international partner ATMs to help you avoid additional withdrawal fees when withdrawing cash abroad.

Bank of America – tops all non-residents loyalty ratings

Wells Fargo

 is the third largest U.S. bank by assets. Wells Fargo had total assets of $1,955.163 billion for the quarter ended December 31, 2020. As a financial institution, it offers a full range of banking, insurance, investment, mortgage, consumer and commercial financial services.

80% of the bank’s foreign clients were in Latin America until recently, because the bank did not need proof of address in the United States, it even opened accounts with the Matricula card (identification card issued by the governments of Mexico, Argentina or Guatemala). 

Wells Fargo was founded in 1852. The bank has recently focused on branch consolidation and liquidation, but it still has the largest number of conventional branches among other banks in the country.

In addition to decreasing branches in the U.S., Wells Fargo began winding down its activities outside the U.S., including accounts for non-residents. It is not yet clear how it will end, we will follow the news. The process began in January 2021 and will take (according to company management) 9 months. The reason: the desire to simplify business and focus on serving customers who mostly reside in the United States.  

Depending on the branch in Wells Fargo you may not be required to have an ITIN to open an account, but this information may be requested later, so it is better to get it.

Another feature of the bank: be sure to tell the bank employee that you want to set up international payments from online banking (if you really need them). By default, you will only be able to make payments within the United States; you can only open the international payments option in online banking if you personally visit a branch.

You can contact the bank from abroad by using the phone number listed on this page.

We will talk about Chase Bank below, when we analyze the LLC accounts.

Opening a business account (for llc)

Opening an account for an American LLC is much easier than a personal one, but there are peculiarities and favorite banks.

  1. Before you open a US LLC bank account, make sure your LLC is approved and has an EIN 
  2. In most cases, you will need to visit the United States to open an account for your LLC. When choosing a bank, focus on those that allow you to use your LLC registration address as the address when opening an account. 
  3. Since all banks have different policies, the most important thing is to call ahead and ask to speak to a branch manager.
  4. Tell them that you have an LLC in the USA, you are not a US resident, and you do not have an SSN or ITIN.
  5. Ask them for a list of documents required to open an account and make detailed notes.
  6. Ask the branch manager if you can send them your documents by email, so they can review them before you visit their bank branch.
  7. If everything is okay, ask the branch manager if you can make an appointment to open an account with him. This is much better than just coming to the bank.
  8. Consider staying in the U.S. for at least 1-2 weeks in case there are any delays or additional bank requirements that you need to handle in order to open your bank account.

Wells Fargo is one of the three largest banks in the United States. It has recently launched internal reforms to improve service within the U.S. It is not yet clear how this will affect the bank’s loyalty to non-residents.

Documents required to open a us llc bank account

List of requirements of different banks may vary, so (again we remind you) call and clarify BEFORE visiting the bank.

  • LLC approval (depending on the state of incorporation, this may be: Articles of Organization, Certificate of Organization, or Certificate of Formation)
  • EIN Confirmation Letter (CP575) or EIN Verification Letter (147C) from Internal Revenue Service
  • LLC Operating Agreement
  • 2 forms of identification (foreign passport and driver’s license)

Additional requirements may include:

1. Proof of address

At some banks, you can use the address of your LLC indicated in your government documents and the EIN letter from the IRS. However, other banks may require a lease, utility bill or telephone bill.

2. US Phone Number

Having a phone number in the U.S. will allow the bank to do business with you more comfortably.

You can buy an American SIM card when you visit the country or get a digital phone number that forwards calls to your cell phone.

3. Beneficial Ownership

In 2018, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Rule (FinCEN) on Customer Due Diligence Requirements went into effect.

This rule (also called the Beneficial Ownership Rule) is required for all banks that open commercial bank accounts. They must identify the true owners of the business before they can open a bank account.

The bank will give you a Declaration of Beneficial Ownership form to fill out before they open your account.

4. LLC Banking Resolution

Banking Resolution is a document that describes which LLC members are allowed to open a bank account. The bank will give you its own resolution form, so you do not need to prepare it in advance.

We figured out the nuances, now here are some examples of banks convenient for non-residents, LLC owners with registration in the United States.

Mercury

Mercury is an American product created as a banking solution for tech startups. The good news is that you do not need to be physically located in the United States to open a business account with them, as you can do it remotely from any country (except for a few sanctioned countries).

Mercury also allows you to use your registered agent’s (your office) address as your LLC address to open an account.

Pros of Mercury service:

  • no monthly fee
  • no minimum balance
  • no transaction fees
  • no hidden fees
  • you can earn interest on your deposits
  • you can send and receive checks
  • FDIC account insurance up to $250,000

To open an account at Mercury, you will need the following information:

1. Documents proving the existence of an LLC

Depending on the state of incorporation you will need Articles of Organization, Certificate of Organization or Certificate of Formation

Certified copies of documents can be downloaded online.

2. Identification Information

US non-resident passport, telephone and other contact information

3. LLC Address

You can use the address of the LLC office or the address of your registered agent

4. Employer Identification Number (EIN)

This item includes the following forms:

  • An approved SS-4 form with your EIN. When you apply for an EIN by fax, the IRS will fax you an SS-4 with your EIN number on it.
  • EIN Verification Letter (CP 575). Also received from the IRS.
  • The EIN Confirmation Letter (147C) is another official letter from the IRS that you can use as proof (ordering this letter is free).

5. A completed Mercury application form and confirmation of your email address.

After submitting your application, you will need to confirm your address by clicking on the link in the Mercury email.

Additionally, you will need to turn on two-factor authentication for the security of your account, add any members of your team (if necessary), and select an address to mail your debit card. 

Term of consideration of the application is 1-2 weeks. After opening an account, you will receive the necessary confirmations and instructions by email.

Important point when applying: It is best to state that you will do business with U.S. companies if asked, otherwise Mercury may not approve your account.

Chase Bank is another major U.S. bank that is loyal to non-residents and is also one of the best choices for opening a business account for an LLC.

Chase Bank

Chase for Business is a great choice for large and small businesses from one of the most famous banks in the United States – Chase Bank.

Unfortunately, here you can no longer fully open an account remotely (exceptions may be made during a pandemic depending on the size of your business and whether you have an ITIN or SSN). But it is possible to start registration online.

A special feature of the bank: to avoid account maintenance fees, you need a minimum of $2,000 on your balance.

Chase has quite a selection of business credit cards with all sorts of travel rewards. Also, with their business account, you can open a personal account for a non-resident and link them together.

In conclusion

Opening an account in the U.S. for a non-resident is becoming more difficult every year. Some banks close their services to non-citizens of the United States, others make it harder to open accounts and increase minimum deposit requirements. Just one example: as of recently, Chase Bank and Wells Fargo Bank have stopped accepting rental agreements as proof of address in the USA.

But today everything is real, although it is complicated. The situation is changing quite rapidly, so we recommend monitoring the policies of major U.S. banks with non-residents. Here is a list of banks to watch out for in the future:

  • Bank of America
  • Wells Fargo
  • Citibank
  • JPMorgan Chase Bank
  • TD Bank
  • PNC Bank
  • Capital One
  • HSBC

At the moment, only a few of them do business with non-residents, but things can change. In addition, there is hope for the development of fintech services like Wise, Payoneer, the launch of Zenus Bank and other services, which will be a great substitute for traditional banks.

And we also want to dispel one persistent myth that when you open an account in the United States, you can get a credit card right away. That is not true, even for a $300 credit card you have to have a credit history. Until you have one, you will only get a debit card. 

4B team will monitor the issue of US accounts for non-residents and we plan to update and supplement this material, so it makes sense to add it to bookmarks and subscribe to updates of our blog.

If you need a consultation on registering a company in the United States and opening a business account in the U.S. – fill out the form below and our experts will advise you and find the best option based on the needs of your e-commerce business.

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