Open a Business US Bank Account as a Foreigner

When you are setting up a US company, one of the steps of the process is to open a business bank account. This is a trivial step for a US citizen, but as stated in this post, it is by far the most problematic part of setting up a US company as a foreigner. So, let’s get ready for a tough one!

Disclaimer: I'm no legal professional, so nothing of what I write here constitutes legal advice.


The most important prerequisite is to have an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. If you don't know what it is or how to order it, you can take a look at this

Avoiding the Problem

The best strategy to solve a problem is always to avoid the problem in the first place! Delaware let’s you have your business bank account wherever you want, so the first option you should consider is to open it in your homeland. It’s always a good idea to have your bank close to you, so I definitely recommend opening a business bank account in dollars in your home country, if possible, in a bank where they already know you.

You may have to open a bank account in your local currency and then on top of that have an account in dollars; that’s OK. You may have to translate some documents, and even pay for a professional translator; that’s also OK. Still, this is going to be the best solution, if you don’t believe me, keep reading.

If for some reason you can’t or don’t want to open your bank account in your country, then you can think about booking a short trip to the US to open a bank account. For instance, you could travel to the US with a visitor visa, go to your favorite bank and open a bank account right away. You don't necessarily need to travel to the same state in which you are going to set up your company, so talk to the bank before buying the ticket. 

When you travel in person to the US the process won't be nearly as difficult as if you try to do it from your homeland. But, why is it like this?

Understanding the Problem

The Patriot Act is an Act of Congress that was signed into law by President George W. Bush after the attacks of 9/11. This act defines tools for fighting money-laundering. To prevent it, they require banks to know their customer in person before opening a bank account. And this is what it makes it so difficult for a foreigner to open a US bank account without traveling to the US and stepping into the bank in person. 

It also makes it nearly impossible if you are from one of these countries...

Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Western Balkans, Burma, Liberia and Zimbabwe

...or if your name appears on the OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) list of blocked persons or companies.

Solution #1

So, if you can’t or don’t want to travel to the US to open your corporate bank account, then you may have a US bank branch right in your country. If this is the case, then you may do the following:

First, talk to that bank in the US. They’ll tell you that they need to identify you in person to open your bank account. That’s OK. Tell them their local branch in your home country could do that identification on behalf of them, and ask if that would work for them. If this is the case, then ask for their contact information, and ask them to call the local branch you are going to visit.

Then, go to that local branch in your country. Tell them you are opening a bank account in the US and that you just need them to identify you with your passport or driving license, and tell them that they’ll get a phone call from their headquarters in the US asking for your identification.

As you can see, the idea here is to make the US bank branch in your country provide the know your customer in person procedure required by the Patriot Act by meeting them in person with the proper identification. 

Solution #2

There are many companies which help people like you open corporate bank accounts in the US. Here I show you just a few. 

You can tell they are serious when they warn you that they reserve the right to reject you as a customer. Otherwise, they would be going against the Patriot Act itself!

You also have the possibility to use a third-party service to help you open a bank account offshore in a tax haven such as Cayman Islands, Bermuda or Bahamas, but I’ll leave that moral choice up to you.

Solution #3

The Silicon Valley Bank is known for helping foreign entrepreneurs open bank accounts in the US. However, this only happens under certain conditions. SVB is basically making an investment in your startup since as you may have gathered by now, getting through the process of opening a US bank account without being there is not easy. So, SVB wants to be sure that you are worth this investment. Prepare to deliver your company pitch, or business plan to them. Your chances of being accepted will drastically increase if your startup is investor backed and they also depend on your country of origin. 

The Online Course

Due to the large number of people interested about this subject, I have created an online course that teaches you how to easily create (and dissolve) a US business from the comfort of your home, be it in the US or elsewhere, avoiding expensive legal fees.

The course contains 37 lectures with videos, instructions, quizzes and checklists to help you navigate through the process of setting up your US company, avoiding common pitfalls inexperienced entrepreneurs usually fall into. You will also find templates for all the necessary legal documents, which you can freely download and use right away.

As a special thank to my blog readers, I've created 100 coupons to access this course with a 50% discount. Click on the link below to redeem your discount code before I run out of invitations!

For an in-depth understanding of how to form your business in the US I recommend you this book by Constance E. Bagley.

Enjoy creating your US company!

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