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Mar 18, 2021 | Roberto Bolaños and Rommel H. Ojeda

How to Open a Bank Account for Undocumented Immigrants in the United States

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The process for opening a bank account and getting a debit card can be daunting for individuals without a Social Security Number, but there is alternative documentation that could help them join the more than 94% of U.S. households that already have an account. Here we explain how to open a bank account with just a passport or with an ITIN number.

Documented has received multiple comments from members from our WhatsApp community in Spanish who have shown interest in the process of opening a bank account, and also had questions regarding the documentation needed if they do not have a lawful status. We listed the requirements, the benefits, and how to open it.

No SSN is required to open a bank account

Financial institutions in the United States opted for more rigorous measures to opening accounts after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. These measures not only required the collection and verification of an applicant’s information by revising documentation such as Driver’s license or passports, to name a few, but it also requested banks to check the names of customers against the lists of known or suspected terrorists.    

However, these changes did not bar undocumented immigrants, and people who do not have a SSN, from opening a checking and savings account, so long as you meet the requirements listed below.

Opening a bank account can provide many benefits, such as getting a debit card, statements for proof of address, access to funds at numerous ATMs, keeping record of purchases and payments, and protection for your money. 

For immigration purposes it could serve as proof that you have participated in the financial system of the U.S. The account can show a record of the dates that you have resided in the country, and the amount of Taxes that you have paid– which is essential in case you need proof of financial independence.

Also read: ITIN Number: A Way To Pay Taxes As An Immigrant

Bank Accounts Can Help With Financial Stability

While some immigrants choose to do transactions and save their money in cash, the most important part of having a bank account is that it gives your hard-earned-money flexibility. 

For starters, if you lose physical cash  (whether it is because you dropped it or lost it due to a fire) you won’t be able to get back that money because there are no records to show that you had that money to begin with. A bank statement will track all the transactions and deposits and serve as proof that your money existed. Additionally. FDIC insured banks insure a standard amount of $250,000.  

A big part of living in the states is also acquiring a record of paying for utilities and other obligations. Using an account will allow you to automatically schedule payments so that you don’t end up paying late fees, and also maintain track of all the expenses and subscriptions that you have. It will help you to budget better. 

As more businesses are moving towards direct deposits, an account will help you get your money faster without the need of going to the bank teller.

What documents do you need to open a bank account? 

Financial institutions like Chase, Bank of America, and Credit Unions require the following documents to open an account:

  1. Name and Date of Birth: birth certificate, valid passport, consular ID, government issued driver’s license and learner’s permit. You need at least two forms of Government issued documents. 
  2. Proof of Address: utility bills such as telephone, gas and electricity. Lease contract, municipal identification (such as IDNYC). These documents must be in your name, and have the current address.  
  3. Identification: you can provide a SSN or a Tax Identification Number (ITIN)

For context, an ITIN number is necessary to file your taxes if you work and are not eligible for a SSN.

List of Banks that open accounts with an ITIN

Most financial institutions allow you to open a checking account and savings account if you have the requirements listed in the previous sections. Here are a few that confirm the opening of accounts with an ITIN.  

Note: You won’t be able to open an account with an ITIN online, and must schedule or visit a branch in person to have your identity verified.  

Chase Bank: Their monthly fee is $12 for their basic checking account, which can be waived in three ways

PNC Bank: Their monthly fee is $7, but it can be waived by maintaining a balance of more than $500

Bank of America: There are different types of accounts that range from $4.95 to $12 monthly fee, that can be waived by meeting certain requirements (like direct deposit, etc)

Citibank: No minimum deposit needed. Fee can be waived if monthly average balance is $500 or more.

TD Bank: Has a 4.95 monthly maintenance fee that can’t be waived, but no overdraft fees. 

To find additional banks and credit unions in NYC, visit this link

How to open a bank account with just a passport?

Alliant Credit Union, Citibank, PNC and Wells Fargo let customers open debit accounts with official IDs that contain photos, like passports. We have evidence of immigrants that have been able to open accounts with just their passports in these banks.

Also read: IDNYC card: What Is, How to Apply and Its Benefits

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