It’s important to understand that the US has recently passed laws that place strict controls on how — and if — US banks can establish accounts for non-residents and for businesses located outside the country. This is designed to prevent money laundering and other international criminal activity.
In addition, individual states often have their own banking regulations that may affect the requirements for opening business accounts for foreign companies. And these regulations can vary widely from State to State.
Further, most commercial banks will have internal policies that govern how they handle accounts from overseas customers — both to comply with law, and to protect the bank against potential fraud or other possible losses. These policies may also be different in each bank.
The best approach is to directly contact the bank in the State where you will be opening the account and ask about their policies and procedures. But here are the general requirements:
- You must open the account in person
With few exceptions, you will need to visit the bank in the US where you wish to open the account. This is required to verify your identity, and to allow the bank to validate the documents and information needed to open your account. You will need an official photo ID, proof of home address, bank statements from your home country bank, and perhaps other verification. Ask the bank for details.
- Your business must be registered in the United States
To open a business account, you will need to register as a business in one of the 50 States, preferably where you will be doing most of your business. This applies whether you are a single person or a small company. The required documents will vary depending on whether you register as a sole proprietorship, an LLC, a corporation or other business structure recognized in the US. Ask the bank for their actual requirements. You may need to arrange with a US attorney in advance to legally establish a US-based business entity.
- You will need a physical US business address
You will not necessarily need a warehouse, factory, or office in the US, but you must still provide an actual address (not a Post Office Box) for your US-registered business, preferably near the bank where you are opening the account. Some businesses use the offices of an attorney, a Registered Agent, or other specified representative of the company. You will need to set up these arrangements before opening the account, and verify that the bank will accept them.
- You will need a US tax identification number
For most businesses, this will be an Employer Identification Number — an EIN — which is required by the bank, and your business, for reporting information to the US federal tax authority, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You can obtain this number directly from the website irs.gov, along with written confirmation of your EIN, which you must provide to the bank when opening the account.
- When opening the account, you must usually complete a W-8Ben form for the IRS, which is needed for non-residents who don’t have US Social Security numbers.