Can a Foreigner Open a Bank Account in Canada?

As a foreigner, having a Canadian bank account can be a powerful tool. So, it’s not surprising that foreigners and non-residents are interested in opening an account in Canada. In fact, it’s a common question we get asked by entrepreneurs, especially those who own an online business. Bottomline…

Can a Foreigner Open a Bank Account in Canada?

A foreigner can open a bank account in Canada as an individual and for their business. That said, you will need to provide proper documentation, identity requirements, and be prepared for the challenges you may face when opening an account. 

Of course, opening a bank account in Canada as a foreigner can be frustrating and time-consuming without the right information. That’s why our team of banking experts has analyzed all of the Canadian banks that allow foreigners to open accounts. And, we’re happy to report that it’s very much possible to do so. In some special cases, you might even be able to open an account without visiting Canada.

In this article, we provide you with the information you need to know when applying. So, if you’re a foreigner and opening a bank account in Canada is something you’re interested in, keep reading!

But, before diving in, if this is your first time visiting GlobalBanks, don’t forget to download your free Non-Resident Banking Starter Guide. It’s designed to help non-residents open accounts in top banking hubs around the world.

Benefits of Opening a Bank Account in Canada As a Foreigner  

After the 2008 global financial crisis, Canadian banks were (at the time) hailed as some of the safest and best managed in the world. Today, Canada is still seen as a stable banking jurisdiction when compared to other developed countries. But, with so many other options to choose from, why do foreigners and non-residents want to open a bank account in Canada?

Firstly, opening a bank account in Canada as a foreigner has many benefits. These include both personal benefits and business benefits. For instance, a bank account in Canada can form an important part of your international banking and tax strategy as Canada offers a tax-efficient structure, known as the Canadian LP, which offers both tax efficiency and privacy.

Additionally, when opening payment processing relationships in Canada, businesses are able to access both CAD and USD. Meaning, if your business is primarily selling to customers in the US, you will be able to save on foreign currency fees while still using low-cost payment processing outside of the US. 

Here is an overview of just some of the benefits you can expect when opening a bank account in Canada as a foreigner:

  1. Access to CAD and USD payment processing
  2. Saving on foreign currency transactions 
  3. Accounts are easily accessible 
  4. Reduced foreign exchange rates and fees
  5. Stable banks
  6. Strong online banking platforms
  7. English speaking bankers
  8. ATM availability

Now, we don’t recommend opening a bank account with just any Canadian bank. This is especially true because issues can arise when choosing the wrong bank.

Additionally, if you already have an account in Canada, you shouldn’t automatically choose your personal bank for your business bank or vice versa. Not only could you be limiting yourself to a bank that doesn’t fit your business’ needs, but you could also end up paying unnecessary fees. 

What Do You Need to Open a Bank Account in Canada As a Foreigner?

Can a foreigner open bank account in Canada documents
Unfortunately, there can be a lot of confusion over how to actually open a bank account in Canada as a foreigner. 

Canadian banks require specific documentation and have multiple identity requirements when it comes to opening a bank account, especially for non-residents and foreigners.

That said, even if you’re not a Canadian citizen, you still have the option to open a bank account as long as you have the proper documentation and meet the bank’s requirements. Of course, some Canadian banks do require you to show up in person when opening a bank account. However, this isn’t required in all cases.

Whether you’re looking to open a personal bank account or a business bank account, you’re required to provide proof of specific documents. These documents can vary from bank to bank.

What documents do you need to open a personal account in Canada?

Banks may request the following documents when you apply for a personal bank account:

  • Your valid, current/unexpired passport
  • A copy of your driver’s licenses
  • Other identifying documents issued by a governmental agency
  • Verification of your residence or physical address (having a Canadian address makes this process run smoothly, but it’s not always a requirement)
  • Financial reference documents or bank statements

What documents do you need to open a business account in Canada?

Since there’s a lot of misinformation out there, here’s an overview of the most common documents that are needed in order to open a business bank account in Canada as a foreigner.

Firstly, to set the record straight, you do not have to be Canadian, nor physically live in Canada in order to open a Canadian business bank account. In fact, most banks do not have any residency requirements when it comes to opening a business bank account in Canada. Of course, it does require different documents than if you were to open a personal bank account. 

Below is a list of required documents for each type of business that you might want to open a bank account for in Canada:  

Corporations

  • Business Number & License
  • Certificate of Status/ Profile Report / Existence / Compliance
  • Articles of Incorporation/ Association
  • Corporate Annual Government Filing
  • Notice of Assessment for Income Tax
  • 2 pieces of ID of the corporation’s signing authorities 

Partnerships and Limited Partnerships

  • 2 valid forms of ID for the business owner
  • Registered declaration of partnership
  • Copy of partnership agreement
  • Trade name registration

Sole Proprietorships

  • 2 valid forms of ID for the business owner
  • Master business license
  • Trade name registration

Regardless of what type of document you provide to the bank, banks do need to ensure these documents are authentic. So, don’t be surprised if the bank requests further verification of the documents submitted. 

Bottom line: With the right information and knowing which banks are most open to accepting foreigners, along with understanding what their account opening quirks are, foreigners can open a Canadian bank account without too much hassle. That said, there are a few challenges that come with opening a bank account in Canada as a foreigner.

Challenges a Foreigner May Face When Opening a Bank Account in Canada 

Can a foreigner open a bank account in Canada with challenges
To make sure you have all the facts and are well prepared before opening a Canadian bank account, let’s take a look at the most common challenges foreigners face. 

Below is a list of challenges foreigners may be faced with when opening a bank account in Canada. That said, each bank is different. So, make sure you prepare by understanding the specific challenges each bank presents before applying. 

Challenges When Opening Accounts in Canada

  1. Personal visit is sometimes required
  2. Intense identification process
  3. Explaining why you need a Canadian bank account
  4. You do not live or are not planning to live in Canada
  5. Higher fees may be applied depending on the type of account
  6. Social Insurance Number (SIN) is required by some banks
  7. Canadian banks sometimes place holds on large deposits 

Again, not all banks will present these challenges. But, some banks do make it more difficult for a foreigner to open a bank account in Canada than others. Especially when you’re not able to do so in person or are not planning on living in Canada. However, it’s not impossible.

That said, if you’re planning to move to Canada permanently, then it becomes a lot easier for a foreigner to open a bank account in Canada. This is a topic we will be discussing more in other articles. 

Also, it’s worth noting that Canada is a signatory to both CRS and FATCA. This means, if you open an account in Canada, your account information will be shared with your country of tax residency and possibly your country of citizenship as well. Furthermore, the Income Tax Act of Canada does require banks to ask you for your Social Insurance Number (SIN) when you are opening an interest-bearing account. However, if you’re looking to open a non-interest-bearing account as a foreigner, then a Social Insurance Number is not required.

Needless to say, there are challenges to overcome when opening a bank account in Canada as a foreigner and we provide proven strategies on how to overcome these challenges within GlobalBanks IQ & GlobalBanks Insider.

How Do I Know Which Canadian Bank Best Suits My Needs?

Choosing where a foreigner can open a bank account in Canada
Now that we’ve discussed opening requirements and challenges, let’s take a look at how a foreigner can find the best bank in Canada to open accounts with. Depending on your needs and reason for wanting a bank account in Canada, both the bank and types of accounts available to you can vary.

Firstly, when choosing a bank, you need to ensure that they offer the services you need. Likewise, you need to be able to meet the bank’s requirements for deposits and fees. To help you with this, here is a list of questions that you should ask yourself before applying for an account. This will help you decide which Canadian bank will best suit your needs. 

Questions to Ask Before Opening Accounts in Canada

  1. What are the account fees for transactions?
  2. Is there a limited number of transactions per month?
  3. What are the monthly fees for the account? Can you deposit a fixed balance to avoid it?
  4. Do you need to visit the branch in person to access any banking services?
  5. Does the account come with a debit card?
  6. Is mobile banking available?
  7. Do you require a multi-currency account?
  8. Do you require to have a certain amount in your account?
  9. Can you access your account information online?

It’s important to ask yourself these questions as certain banks may have some limitations, hidden fees, and other limiting factors that do not align with your requirements. It’s also important to note that not all banks will accept you.

Not surprisingly, with more than 88 banks and over 6,000 branches in Canada, knowing which bank (and branch) to approach and which strategies to use can be a very daunting task for non-residents. 

In fact, while most people think that one of the “Big 5” Canadian banks is more likely to open for non-residents, the reality is actually the opposite. With so many branches and so few accepting non-residents, trying to open an account with one of these banks can be extremely costly and time-consuming.

Ready to Open a Bank Account in Canada as a Foreigner?

To start opening a bank account in Canada as a foreigner, you can obviously follow the steps outlined in this article.

Or, you can access one of our membership services and get the help you need to find and unlock the best banking option for you and your banking needs.

Each of our premium services helps non-resident individuals, foreigners, and their businesses open international bank accounts around the world.

So, whether you need personal, private, or offshore banking — we have an account opening solution that will work for you.

And, of course, this will include helping you identify what you need to open a bank account in the UK without overpaying or wasting time.

Here’s a quick overview of how to start:

If you’re ready to take action and start opening international accounts now, you can access GlobalBanks IQ, our dedicated international banking intelligence platform.

GlobalBanks IQ gives you everything you need to start finding and opening accounts for you or your business today.

When you join GlobalBanks IQ, you immediately unlock the GlobalBanks Database of international banks — home to 250+ banks in 50+ countries. 

And, you get access to our library of premium (members-only) reports, including proven account opening strategies, country-specific banking options, and lists of banks for specific client types.

Plus, you unlock our account opening checklists, dedicated account opening alerts, and much more. 

To get started, click here to see if GlobalBanks IQ is the right choice for you to start accessing the benefits of international banking today.

You can also view all of the account opening solutions offered by GlobalBanks on our products page.

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