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Ask HN: How can Non-US founders open a bank account in the US?
75 points by sathishmanohar 1929 days ago | hide | past | web | 64 comments | favorite
I've researched about incorporating in the US, and found Bank account is mandatory. It seems creating a bank account needs physical presence, but, I'd also read there are ways we can open a bank account without need for physical presence.

Fellow HNers who have actually done that, please share your experience about opening an account with US Bank, preferably startup friendly bank.

Can we please have some stories from people who have

1) Opened a MERCHANT account without setting foot in the US

2) Successfully used said merchant account to bill customers online?

There are a few ways. 1) (Both Corporate/Personal) : Open a bank account locally with a bank that also has branches in the USA - then use their international banking center to facilitate the process of necessary documents at your local bank (I.e. HSBC, Citibank offer this service) - http://www.citibank.com/ipb-global/homepage/newsite/content/... , http://www.expat.hsbc.com/1/2/

2) Just personal: Open an "High Net Worth" account. Also can be done from anywhere in the world, but you must usually keep at least $30K USD in the account liquid in order not to be charged hefty fees. Citibank offers these accounts as well (see link above)

I am in the process of trying this and it has become much less simple. Certainly for HSBC a remote account opening is considered "next to impossible" - it requires above branch level sponsorship from the bank which in practise means turnover 1m+. I am told US anti terror laws have made a big impact on opening non resident accounts in past few months

I am hoping I can workaround the problems but my bank managers expectations are low - I may be visitin the states sooner than planned.

What trouble are you having with HSBC? I've just spent about an hour on the phone with them to open an account in Australia and all I'm required to do now is go to a Local Branch near me with my ID / documents - the account will be ready in a week, two weeks max.

So far the trouble has been - a flat out "no way." need to work around that, but I doubt it is going to be quick or cheap. Them's the breaks.

Hint: Australia is not US

mark_up, that link (http://blog.freshdesk.com/how-to-incorporate-a-us-corporatio...) is quite helpful, but as your account has been banned since you wrote something slightly unflattering about Steve Jobs 190 days ago, we can't see it.

My situation is somewhat similar: I'm a Canadian citizen but was in the US for several years on an H1B work visa, which got me a SSN and a personal bank account w/ Chase.

However, I've since relocated to Australia. I'm developing a web based business but would like the business to have a legal presence in the US so that I can take advantage of e.g. stripe.com for payments.

At this point I'm not considering taking VC money as I prefer to be bootstrapped. So I'm fine w/ simpler business structure of e.g. LLC vs. full blown Corp.

Can anyone recommend the process and/or lawyers for setting up a legal business presence in US for someone in my situation? I'm happy to pay the going rate for incorporation.

If you're a lawyer please feel free to contact me. Details in my profile. Thanks.

Hello I came across your post because I am dealing with similar issues like you as well. I just started my own consulting firm business in the US. If you haven't resolved your issue yet I can advise you a couple of ideas that may help. Feel free to contact me here or n02idz@hush.com

If you can get to the US, opening a bank account becomes a whole lot easier. Last time I was in the US I opened a bank at Chase. I was surprised at how easy it was. All you need is your passport and local country national id (in my case a drivers license).

Were you able to get a merchant account as well using which you can bill customers online?

Sorry I haven't done this. And I don't intend to.

Though stripe.com only requires a US bank account I think.

Its, official, Stripe currently requires SSN https://answers.stripe.com/questions/do-i-need-a-social-secu...

I can confirm this. I opened an account at Citibank with only my passport.

They require a local address though, right?

Opened one at Wells Fargo the other day, no local address. They were happy to mail everything to Greece.

Does this mean even people who visit US on tourist visa can open accounts ?

Yes, that's what I did. And no local address required.

I also was on ESTA, and had no local address.

Yep, I was on ESTA. Not even a visa.

You need SSN to operate that a/c

Not really. You can use an ITIN. IRS gives them and they are for tax tracking only. http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=222209,00.html

With that and a passport you can easily walk into a bank and open a checking account.

> Not really. You can use an ITIN. IRS gives them and they are for tax tracking only.

I just went though trying to get an ITIN for my spouse so we could file a joint tax return. After waiting for 5 weeks, they rejected the application because we didn't attach a copy of a previous tax return--which we don't have, so it's a catch 22 if I ever saw one. I'm certain that requirement is bogus on their part, but it meant we had to file for an extension on the tax return until we could get it sorted out. If it's that much trouble when you are a legal resident, I can't imagine the process for a non-resident.

It should be easier if you are a corporation. Did you file with a CPA?

No. My naive thinking was that since we're not claiming any complex deductions (we don't have any relevant assets in the US), I could easily do everything by myself. I'll probably regret that.

Yes, in our case we preferred to go with a CPA at least this first time that we don't know how things work.

I've had several banks hassle me about my TIN, and was outright told that I couldn't use it to open an account because their system simply wouldn't let them enter the number because it was expecting SSN format. YMMV

What do you mean by operate? That's very vague.

The same to us with Bank of America

I've previously held a US bank account with HSBC without having US residence. If you have another HSBC account, you should also be able to link your accounts for a global view. Avoid making transfers through them though, because the rates are horrendous.

I did it for Pen.io and did it with Chase, I can give an introduction to the VP of Business Banking there who'll be able to help you out if you need it. It was a straight forward process. Getting an EIN (which you'll also need) is slightly more difficult but again I can help you out - just shoot me an email

Getting an EIN is easy. You just need to incorporate and then you can obtain the EIN by phone. We did it for our company.

A couple of years ago, prior to moving completely to the US I opened an international personal account with Chase - basically regular checking, but without the need to be in the US.

I didn't have an SSN at the time, or even an ITIN.

I was in the country, but temporarily, on a 90 day visa waiver from the UK. I just showed my ID etc, and they opened it up. I was using the branch opposite the UN, so I assume they deal frequently with this sort of thing.

So, yes, I was physically present, but you could do it as part of a one day trip. I wan't resident in the US in any meaningful way - i.e., no legal residency, etc.

I'm in Canada and incorporated in Canada and was able to open a bank and merchant account in the US, as well as take Amex cards in USD. The setup:

1) Bank account with Harris bank. They are excellent for setting a bank account remotely. 2) USD merchant account with Moneris. They are ok but today I would probably just go with Stripe. 3) Amex is the tricky one. They require a physical us address so I used my friend's who lives I'm the US.

HSBC Bank lets you open a bank account with just the documents of incorporation of US company.Also, with the HSBC network, you need not travel to US for the account opening, this can be handled from India. Contact india.cmb.ibc[at]hsbc.co.in for more info about the process this is corporate banking support email.

I was wondering the same thing. What about someone who doesn't want to incorporate a company but just create a bank account for billing? (I'm thinking Stripe).

[edit] I'm an individual web developer and even Paypal doesn't work in my country so it sucks. It'd be great if there were a way around it.

Stripe requires a social security number and an EIN (if registering as a company).

Getting the EIN is easy (online in 10 minutes), getting the social is a lot harder.

If you are a foreigner the EIN is done by phone for a corporation. But still like 20 mins

I did mine online (as a foreigner)

the ssn type requirements are just for the irs to track income. since you don't have the requirements for an SSN get an ITIN (see below) ================================== corp: get a physical mailing address. sign up your corp at that address (preferably delaware), or using a corporate agent to maintain that address and forward mail. register your corp, get an ein number from irs.gov (don't have someone do this on your behalf, its literally a 2 minute online form), and then open your account.

personal: as for a personal account i think you just need to get a taxpayer id... ( http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=96287,00.html )

Try Silicon Valley Bank. Particularly if you're funded. They can also hold foreign currency.

I'm presently encountering this issue. I would like to charge credit cards directly on the site without going through PayPal, but US gateways want me to have a US presence, European gateways want me to have a European presence (checked by seeing that I have a company address in Europe and utility bills coming in with my name to that address). Why it matters where I physically reside is a bit of a mystery to me.

This should be something you discuss with your lawyer, don't cheap out and miss dotting a T or crossing an I with corporate stuff.

Bank account is not required to incorporate in the US. Whoever is telling you this hasn't done their homework.

Sorry, Its a mistake on my part. I'm going to launch a SaaS product, Bank account is mandatory for billing, not incorporating.

Why use the US and not a jurisdiction like the UK?

probably because in UK (and EU) the online billing solutions are a nightmare. I would do the same - just to be able to use Stripe.

Based on a chat with Stripe around last Startup School, you can not use Stripe by just incorporating in the US without being physically present in US.

Use Earth Class Mail to get a street address, or use the address of your corporate agent.

How do they evaluate physical presence? exactly.

Not sure how Stripe does it, but could be based on utility bills or a social security number.

Why do you want to incorporate in the US?

Access to better payment gateways.

aussie in this exact situation checking in .... after looking into the local options for charging in US dollars (NAB is the only player in town who will handle foreign currency transactions, but it's messy and expsensive), I'm now looking at either flying to the US or using a third party to incorporate an LCC and set up a US bank account for me (I won't link directly to any sites, but you should be able to google for them). This isn't me, but this fellow summarises the issues facing aussies startups who want to charge in US dollars - http://www.geoffmcqueen.com/2010/07/02/going-to-america-onli...

Hi, new to this board, but founded Paymate in Oz, so have some insights. Besides NAB, CBA also processes credit card payments in foreign currencies (and settles in that currency). Neither bank is keen to sign up small merchants, which may be the hurdle faced by startups. Happy to help out with the banks if you have a reasonable volume to process.

If you are setting up a US business and that is where the customers are, then it may be worthwhile to set up a US company and get US merchant facilities. I did this with Wells Fargo and Chase so have some idea of process.


If you open a US bank account while incorporating in your home country, how would the tax paying work? Would you have to pay anything to the US Gov?

I opened a personal checking with my passport + proof of address (just made a quick rental contract with a friend).

I think that you need a SSN for a personal bank account nowadays..

Didn't a couple of months ago. I opened a personal account at Vhasr whilst I was in SF. needed my drivers license and passport (both Australian issued). Didn't need anything else.

*At Chase (bloody auto correct)

You don't - there are a large number of people legally resident in the US who are not eligible for social security numbers (ie, they don't have work authorisation), and who still require bank accounts. I am in the fortunate position of retaining an account at my alma matter's credit union, which has definitely proved useful for services that require US accounts.

You can open it as a tourist. There are lots of wealthy foreigners (and many of the corrupt) that have their money in us accounts


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