One of the most popular questions that we get asked is “how can I open a bank account as a foreigner?”
The answer to this depends on a few key factors, such as the country where you want to open the bank account, what “ties” you have to that country, where you’re from, and what you plan on doing with the bank account.
Generally speaking, as long as you have all the requirements, have a local address, and know which banks accept non-resident applications, you can open a foreign bank account online or in person.
Obviously, there can be extra challenges if you are from a high-risk country, work in a high-risk industry, or if you have ever been blacklisted.
In 2018, rules for onboarding new customers tightened in banks around the world. As a result, opening a bank account as a foreign non-resident is often a far more complicated process than it was several years ago.
- To open bank accounts as a foreign individual requires meeting specific requirements and submitting certain types of documents
- The best international bank to open with will depend on your client profile, the type of bank account you need, and the services you are after
- Deposit requirements will vary from bank to bank, country to country, and also on the type of bank account you open
- Foreign non-residents often get rejected bank accounts due to being not prepared for account opening or for choosing the wrong bank
Feel free to use the table of contents to jump ahead to the sections most relevant to you.
Table of Contents
- Documents Needed to Open a Bank Account as a Foreigner
- How to Demonstrate a Valid Reason To Open a Foreign Bank Account
- Which Banks Cater to Foreign Non-Resident Applications?
- Requirements for Opening a Bank Account as a Foreigner
- Do You Have Any “Ties” or “Connections” to the Country?
- Common Reasons Foreigners Are Rejected Bank Accounts
- Ready to Open a Bank Account?
Documents Needed to Open a Bank Account as a Foreigner
Domestic authorities, international regulators, and the bank itself will determine what types of documents a foreign non-resident must provide in order to open a bank account. But there are some documents that are generally expected in almost all countries, which we list below. We will also share the documents that vary from country to country.
Obviously, you should check these with your desired bank before showing up to open an account.
Documents Commonly Used By Foreigners to Open a Bank Account
- Passport or photo ID
- Proof of address & residence (e.g. utility bill)
- Local phone number
- Bank reference letter
- Bank account statements
Requirements That Often Vary From Bank to Bank
- Residency: Proof of residency (a.k.a: where are you a tax resident and do you have proof?)
- Visa: Proof of a local visa or permit
- Connection: Proof of a local “tie” or “connection” to the country
- Income: Proof of income (tax returns, pay stubs, etc)
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How to Demonstrate a Valid Reason to Open a Foreign Bank Account
In all situations, banks will want to know why you want to open a bank account in their country. They may even ask why you specifically want to open an account at their bank. These are standard questions that you should be prepared to answer. This is especially true since you are a foreigner with no residency or citizenship ties to the country.
The fact that you are reading this article suggests that you already have the desire to start a bank account. So you probably already know your reasons why. But just because you know your reasons, doesn’t mean that the bank has to accept them.
Here are some of the common reasons that banks will accept as justifying your desire for opening a bank account as a foreigner:
- You spend a lot of time in the country and it makes sense to have access to a local bank account
- You’re planning on moving to the country in the future and want to establish a bank account now
- You are interested in purchasing real estate in the country, and the first step is to open a bank account so you have money available
- You are interested in investing in the country’s local stock market, but before you can open a brokerage account you want to open a bank account
These are just a few reasons why banks have agreed to open bank accounts for foreign non-residents in the past. But remember, in order for these reasons to work, you need to be able to back up the claim.
If you suggest that you are getting ready to buy a home for cash, but you only make US $1,500 per month, the bank probably won’t believe you. Remember, banks will always cross-check the information you are giving them, so tell the truth and be forthright with your reasons.
Which Banks Cater to Foreign Non-Resident Applications?
Not all banks are going to be friendly towards foreign non-residents. So before wasting your time applying at various banks, you’re better off trying to identify the banks that are most friendly to foreign non-residents.
This one step will help you save time and money. Not to mention a lot of headaches so long as you know how to find them. Of course, you can take the time to research the internet and find the right bank for yourself in any of the countries you’re considering. But alternatively, you can use the GlobalBanks Database to quickly search all the banks that we track around the world.
Now, if you do want to search for yourself. Make sure you identify the banks that non-resident individuals have successfully opened bank accounts with in the past. Again, we list the most popular banks for non-residents in each country in the GlobalBanks Database, which can be accessed with GlobalBanks IQ by clicking here.
Requirements for Opening a Bank Account as a Foreigner
After identifying the best banking option for you, ask the bank to confirm their requirements for account opening. You will need to get in contact with a representative of the bank. This will typically be a personal account representative.
If the bank will open a bank account for a non-resident, they will then send you a list of all of the bank documents they require. Be sure to ask for all the information that foreign non-residents need to provide in order to apply for a bank account.
Here’s an important step that a lot of people skip over…
Analyze all the bank’s account opening documents and the bank account application. This includes the required authentication procedures and any other supportive documentation materials the bank provided.
As you analyze the account opening requirements, note the specific documents that you will need to compile. You should also research the process that you will need to go through to authenticate each one (if necessary).
Determine if you have all of the documents that the bank requires. For example, if you are a tourist, you probably don’t have a utility bill or proof of a local address. This could be a problem. You’ll need to either go to another bank or figure out an alternative document that the bank will accept. GlobalBanks IQ Members can learn about several alternative document solutions and hacks by reading our Banking Intelligence Reports.
Next, determine if the authentication procedures that the bank requires for certain documents are feasible and realistic for you. For example, if you’re trying to open a bank account in a foreign country with a different language, the bank may require you to translate all of your documents into the local language via a certified local translator.
In addition to translation, it’s common for a bank to demand that you get your documents notarized, authenticated, or apostilled. These fees can add up fast and just authenticating opening documents can get expensive. For instance, translation and authentication of a single document can cost up to $300-$400 in some countries.
Do You Have Any “Ties” or “Connections” to the Country?
A common stumbling block for foreigners trying to open a bank account in a foreign country is their lack of “ties” to that jurisdiction.
In fact, most banks today consider foreign non-residents who don’t have any “ties” to the country high-risk.
For instance, it’s difficult for a bank to authenticate foreign identification documents. Likewise, it’s difficult to prove an international source of funds. And the same is true for a foreign source of wealth in another country. And that’s a problem.
As part of their due-diligence process, banks have to verify these items in order to satisfy bank-wide anti-money laundering (AML) requirements. If a bank fails to satisfy its AML requirements, it can face heavy penalties. It can also attract scrutiny from regulators. All of this can contribute to them losing their correspondent banking relationships which are vital to their business.
For example, many Singaporean banks won’t even let tourists or non-resident individuals apply for a bank account if they don’t have residency or a valid work permit. But, as GlobalBanks IQ Members know, there are still ways to open bank accounts if you know which banks will open for foreign non-resident individuals.
GlobalBanks IQ Members can read the Singapore Banking Report in the Intelligence Reports section to discover the best banks, branches, and strategies that will help foreign non-residents open bank accounts without ties to Singapore.
Common Reasons Foreigners Are Rejected Bank Accounts
The reasons why foreign non-residents are typically rejected account opening will vary by country, bank, branch, and sometimes even the individual banker.
If you know the reasons why foreign non-residents in your desired country are most commonly rejected, you will understand what the banks are most sensitive to, where you should be careful, and what you should NOT do.
Different countries have different sensitivities.
Here are a few examples to consider before applying for a bank account offshore:
Bank Account Opening in the UAE
To open a bank account with a UAE bank you often will need to provide proof of an immigration visa or permit that confirms you are allowed to stay in the country.
Opening Accounts With a Bank in Singapore
If you give a bad, illogical, or odd reason for wanting to start a bank account in Singapore, the bank can reject you on the spot. Many Singaporean banks will also require proof of a visa, work pass, or permit.
Banking in the United States
Some US banks will require foreign non-residents to provide proof of a local US residential address when applying to open a bank account. They also may be required to provide an individual tax identification number (ITIN) or a social security number (SSN) in order to open an account. This will vary from bank to bank. In fact, there are some banks in the US that will accept foreign applicants to open an account without a social security number.
Opening a Bank Account in Georgia
Banks in Georiga typically require you to have a local phone number that they can send text/SMS messages to. If you don’t have one, you may not be able to open a bank account at certain banks. And, if you fail to maintain that number after you leave Georgia, you may have difficulty accessing your bank account.
In all of the examples above, there are always exceptions. Continue reading on how to get started opening international bank accounts as a foreign individual.
Ready to Open a Bank Account?
If you’re ready to take action and want to open an international bank account today as a foreign non-resident individual, you can get started with GlobalBanks IQ, our dedicated international banking intelligence platform.
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