CAN I OPEN A BANK ACCOUNT WITHOUT A SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER?
The short answer is “yes,” you can open a bank account in the US without a Social Security Number. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, anyone who wants to open a checking or savings account needs to provide their bank or credit union with a name, date of birth, address, and “ID number”. An ID number can be a social security number or it can be an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (“ITIN”), or even an Alien Registration Number (“‘A’ Number”).
WHY SHOULD I OPEN A BANK ACCOUNT?
Having a checking or savings account offers several benefits:
SAVE MONEY: Using a checking account to pay your bills or purchase items is cheaper than using money orders, payday lenders, check cashing stores, and pre-paid debit cards, which charge fees for their services.
PERSONAL SAFETY: Many immigrants get paid in cash, making them vulnerable to robbery and theft. Having a bank account provides you with a safe place to store your money. It’s also important to know that there are laws protecting you and your money. Even if your bank is robbed or otherwise fails, individual bank accounts are insured for up to $250,000.
BUILD CREDIT: Having a bank account helps immigrants build a “financial footprint.” In most cases, you need a bank account to open a credit card and start building up your credit score. A good credit score can help you in securing a loan when purchasing a house or car, or starting up a business. It may also be a practical necessity to secure financial aid for colleges.
INTEGRATION INTO THE MARKETPLACE: So many transactions occur online and through apps. Even the Department of State has a strong preference for electronic transactions in order to pay for visa fees. In order to access these online products and services, a bank account is generally required.
CORROBORATE PHYSICAL PRESENCE IN THE U.S.: Having a bank account in the U.S. creates a paper trail that can help you validate how long you’ve resided in the U.S. This is extremely helpful when applying immigration relief such as cancellation of removal or U-visa- / T-visa-based adjustment of status. Continuous physical presence is also being discussed as a requirement for a potential DREAM Act. Having a bank account and filing taxes correctly can also serve as evidence for establishing good moral character.
CAN I FILE TAXES IF I’M UNDOCUMENTED?
YES! Again, ITINs can be used by immigrants without Social Security Numbers to file taxes. USCIS considers taxes a good sign of moral character. Undocumented parents can also submit taxes as proof of income when their U.S. born children apply for financial aid for school and other types of government assistance.
WHAT DOCUMENTS DO I NEED TO BRING TO APPLY FOR A BANK ACCOUNT?
Most banks require proof of name, date of birth, address, and ID number. We’ve listed some examples of documents you can bring to show proof of each of these.
Name and Date of Birth:
- Unexpired passport
- Birth certificate (with certified translation)
- Consular ID card
- Government issued driver’s license
- Employment authorization document
- Utility bill that is in your name
- Residential lease in your name
- Alien Registration Number (“‘A’” Number)
- Passport Number
- Another government-issued ID Number
But remember, not all banks accept alternatives to Social Security Numbers. Contact your local bank to find out.
WHAT IS AN ITIN? HOW DO I APPLY FOR ONE?
An ITIN is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS issues ITINs to individuals who are working in the US, but not eligible to obtain a Social Security Number, so that these individuals can file taxes and comply with U.S. tax laws.
The IRS issues ITINs regardless of immigration status.
Please note that an ITIN does not authorize work in the US or make you eligible for Social Security benefits. Do not use an ITIN number for purposes of applying for employment. An ITIN can only be used for tax filing purposes.
To get an ITIN, you will need to fill out and mail Form W-7 to the IRS. You can also schedule an appointment at your local IRS office for assistance with applying for an ITIN.
The New Orleans IRS office is located at:
1555 Poydras St.
New Orleans, LA 70112
Call 844-545-5640 to schedule an appointment.
DO ALL BANKS ACCEPT ITIN NUMBERS?
No.You should contact different banks and credit unions to find out what types of ID numbers they accept and what types of accounts they offer.
We encourage you to contact your preferred bank’s local branch and inquire about what types of ID numbers they accept. You may find other banks that accept ITINs to open an account and that work better for you.