How to Open a US Business Bank Account as a Non-Resident

Opening a US business bank account as a non-resident is not as difficult as it used to be. However, there are still some basic requirements that must be met to get started. This article guides you through the process step-by-step and reviews the best online banks for international entrepreneurs.

How to open a business bank account in the US as a non-resident

If you’re aspiring to start a business in the United States, you’ll need to open a US business bank account. However, it can be difficult to find a good one if you live abroad. Many international entrepreneurs are unsure where to start and how the whole process works.

You’ll have to go through a few hoops to open a US business account bank as a foreign owner of an LLC. Thankfully, it’s not as complicated as it sounds. This article will go through all the necessary steps and take a look at some of the best US business bank accounts for non-residents.

Can a non-resident open a business bank account in the US?

Yes, non-residents can easily open a bank account for their LLC in the US. The process is relatively simple, and you don’t have to be physically present in the country to do it. You don’t need to use a bank introducer or grant power of attorney to an agent; you can open the bank account yourself.

Big institutions like Citi, Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo will generally require that you visit a branch in-person to apply for an account. It’s not always necessary, but they have become more stringent. They are also more selective with their customers, so there’s a high chance your business may not be interesting for them.

Fortunately, a growing number of online-only banks are happy to serve non-residents and US citizens living abroad. US online business banks for non-resident LLC-owners do not require a visit to a branch and be opened remotely. These are accessible from almost any country in the world. They’re usually free to open, come with debit or credit cards, and offer integrations with popular accounting and bookkeeping software.

US traditional banks and online banks – it’s not like in Europe

European business EMIs and online banks have a mixed reputation. They don’t have the same credibility and reputation as those in the US. For example, European online banks rarely offer deposit protection schemes (like the UK’s FSCS or Germany’s EinSiG). US online banks are almost always FDIC-insured, meaning that your deposits are guaranteed up to $250,000.

European businesses are generally less trusting of EMIs compared to traditional banks. For example, it’s a common scenario to have their account closed without warning for violating obscure rules. One single transaction can often lead to an account being terminated. On the other hand, European online banks offer far better support for multiple currencies, often with minimal fees. In contrast, US banks only deal in US dollars.

How to open a US business bank account as a non-resident

To open a US bank account for your business, you first need an LLC or corporation formed. The bank will want to see the company formation documentation of this legal entity. All banks in the US will also require you to have a federal EIN number (Employer Identification Number).

You will also need a US business address. This can be the address of your registered agent, but it’s often preferable to use a virtual mailing address or the address of a friend or relative (if you have one). This is because thousands of businesses use the same registered agent address, which can get your account flagged.

Scroll down to this section to see an explanation of all the documents needed to open a US LLC bank account.

For every member of the LLC, you need to provide a copy of your passport to verify their identity. Some banks may require you to upload proof of residency in your home country (e.g., utility bill), but this is not always the case. However, all banks will still want to know the home address of the LLC’s owners.

A step-by-step guide to opening a US business bank account online

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how you open a US business bank account for a foreign-owned LLC, including a list of all the necessary documents:

  1. Find a registered agent. A registered agent will form the LLC and take care of all the paperwork for you. Choose a state with low filing fees: Wyoming (better asset protection) and New Mexico (better anonymity, cheaper) are usually the go-to options for foreign entrepreneurs.
  2. Obtain the necessary documents from your agent. This includes the Articles of Organization (also called Certificate of Organization) and Operating Agreement for your LLC.
  3. Get a US business address. Your registered agent will typically let you use their address, but you can also use a virtual mailing address.
  4. Get a real or virtual US phone number (optional)
  5. Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number) from the IRS. You can do this for free by mail or fax. It can be easier and less stressful to have your registered agent do this for you, although it will not be free.
  6. Find a bank that accepts foreign-owned businesses (see recommendations below)
  7. Complete the online application form. You’ll need your business address, phone number, and other details of your business. The bank will also want to know the home address of all LLC owners (even if you are not a US resident).
  8. Upload a copy of your passport, company formation documents, and EIN verification letter from the IRS.
  9. Wait for the bank to process your application. This usually takes about two weeks, although it can take up to a month.

That’s it. The process is different for traditional banks as they may want you to show up in a branch, but this is not always the case. If your application is approved, you can start to use your new US business bank account.

Best US business bank accounts for non-residents

It’s become increasingly more accessible for non-residents to open a business bank account in the United States, despite the increase of compliance, reporting, and KYC requirements. Here are the best US business banks that can be opened from abroad and serve non-residents owners of LLCs.

1. Mercury

Mercury business bank. Credit: Mercury.com

Mercury is an online business bank launched in 2019 with start-ups and global citizens in mind. It includes an FDIC-insured business checking account and a savings account with no monthly fees. In fact, almost everything is free with Mercury. This includes free account opening, free ACH transfers, free national and international wire transfers (they absorb the fee for you), no monthly fees, and no minimum balances.

If you’re a business with a balance of more than $250,000 in your Mercury account, you can upgrade to the Mercury Tea Room. This exclusive platform comes with partner discounts on business products and services, which includes everything from accounting software to web hosting, as well as access to the Mercury Treasury cash management account.

Mercury was founded by software developer Immad Akhund, a UK national who holds a Master’s degree in computer science from Cambridge. Mercury is his latest venture after successfully exiting two previous businesses. Everything Akhund has built so far has turned out successfully, so based on that track record, Mercury is a banking service that could quickly grow to become a leading player in the market.

2. Wise

Wise (Transferwise) Bank

Wise, formerly Transferwise, is an internationally available multi-currency bank account open for business and private use. It’s the golden standard for online banking with tons of stand-out features that just work. Wise’s main selling point is that it allows you to hold, exchange, and transact in multiple currencies. It also provides your unique local bank details in USD and major other currencies. You’ll also get debit cards to spend directly from your currency balances or convert on the go.

Wise not only supports USD accounts but also offers EUR, GBP, and CAD bank account details, plus several other currencies. These unique account details will make incoming and outgoing transfers appear under your company’s name as the recipient or sender. Wise accept nationalities from almost anywhere (aside from a few restricted countries), and you can open a business account for a US LLC even if you’re not a US resident.

Comparing whether Wise or Mercury is better, it’s best to say they are both great options for different purposes. Wise is better if you need to hold a range of currencies and transact in them. In contrast, Mercury would be better if you’re looking for an insured, USD-only business bank account. If you have an international e-commerce store that uses PayPal or Stripe or an affiliate business that receives payments in different currencies, Wise is probably the better option. However, Mercury is better oriented towards start-ups and tech companies that want to expand into the US market.

3. Relay

Relay business bank. Credit: Relayfi.com

Relay is an online business banking platform that accepts US companies with non-resident owners. It has no monthly fees, no minimum balance requirements, free ACH transfers, and comes with a free virtual and physical debit card. Relay’s Standard accounts are free and fully FDIC-insured, and the Mastercard comes with Zero-Liability Protection in case of unauthorized use. Additionally, Relay offers an upgraded Pro-version with free, unlimited national and international wire transfers and better integration with popular accounting software.

Mercury and Relay are quite similar platforms. Relay is the less well-known option, but both platforms rely on Evolve Bank & Trust to provide their financial infrastructure and FDIC insurance. Mercury has a slight edge in that it offers free wires, rewards, and has a lot of institutional investors behind it. However, Relay is the better choice for separating and keeping track of multiple revenue streams as it allows you to create up to 25 sub-accounts. Both Mercury and Relay connect with Quickbooks and Xero for accounting and Wise and Paypal for payments.

4. Brex

Brex is an all-in-one financial technology company founded in 2017 by two Brazilian entrepreneurs. The prominent selling feature of Brex is that it combines bank accounts, cards, and accounting software into a single platform. Brex integrates with QuickBooks and Xero for accounting and synchronizes automatically with Shopify, Stripe, Amazon, Square, and PayPal for instant payouts to your account. This means you’ll save a lot of time by consolidating everything into one dashboard.

You get free ACH and USD wire (including international wire) transfers. There are no monthly or annual fees, minimums, or limits. You also get corporate credit cards with cash back on every purchase, and a rewards program that gives you points to spend on traveling, web hosting, accounting software, and more. Brex is, properly speaking, not a bank but a cash management account. However, it works almost exactly like a real bank and comes with FDIC insurance on uninvested cash deposits up to $250,000.

Brex is available internationally and can be used by business owners living overseas. As a non-US resident without a physical address in the US, you can apply as long as you have a US incorporation, EIN, and US business billing address. The business address can be a PO Box or virtual office. Brex’s founders, two expert coders and business entrepreneurs from Brazil, have made significant efforts to make the service available outside of the US. They’ve gone through the troubles of being a foreign company trying to break into the US market, so they have a lot of empathy for business owners who are looking to expand globally.

Documents you’ll need to open a US business bank account

Each bank has slightly different requirements when it comes to the documents you need to provide. However, there are a few things that all banks ask for from foreign clients:

  • US company
  • Photo of your passport
  • Passport number
  • Personal address of the beneficial owner
  • U.S. business address
  • Personal and business phone numbers 
  • Articles of Organization (formation certificate) 
  • Employer identification number (EIN)
  • EIN verification letter from the IRS (Form CP-575 or 147c)

You will not be asked to provide an operating agreement if you are the only owner of an LLC. Some banks may ask for additional documents, like a selfie of the beneficial owner, proof of residency in your home country, personal tax returns, or a bank statement from your personal account in your home country.

Can a foreigner start a business in the US?

Yes. Non-residents of the US can open a company in the country even if they are not citizens or do not reside there. In fact, around six percent of businesses in the US are owned by foreign individuals and companies.

There are two main ways to open a business as a non-resident: forming an LLC or creating a corporation (C Corp or S Corp). Most people opt for an LLC because it is cheap to set up and maintain, easy to manage, and allows you to take advantage of a US business’s reputation and credibility.

Delaware, New Mexico, and Wyoming are popular states for forming LLCs because they are fiscally transparent, provide excellent privacy and flexibility for non-US owners. Furthermore, it’s is unnecessary to be physically present when forming an LLC in the US.

Setting up a US company as a non-resident

To open a US business bank account, you first need to have a US company. The easiest company to set up and manage is an LLC (limited liability company). Anyone can form an LLC in the US; you don’t need to be a US citizen.

To start an LLC (limited liability company) in the US as a foreign-based person, you must go through a registered agent. A registered agent is a person or company who handles your business’s legal and administrative paperwork. In states like New Mexico and Wyoming, you can’t form an LLC without a registered agent.

A registered agent will receive and process legal documents and other important mail on your behalf. They will also act as the point of contact for state agencies if they need to get in touch with your LLC, notify you of important deadlines, and forward documents to you. A registered agent can also provide anonymity and hide your personal information from the internet. A New Mexico registered agent, for example, will use its own information on public records instead of yours.

There are literally thousands of registered agents to choose from, and the process is straightforward. You can search for a registered agent on Google, YouTube, or forums and go with the one you feel most comfortable with. Once you’ve found a few registered agents you’re interested in, contact them and get written offers to compare pricing before making your final decision.

US business address for a non-resident owned LLC

All US companies are required to have a business address in the US. It doesn’t have to be the address of a physical workplace; it can be a virtual address or PO box. Virtual offices or virtual business addresses allow you to use a professional-looking mailing address as your actual business address. Whenever someone Googles the address of your business, they will see a proper business location, often a modern office building in the downtown area of a large city. You can use this address as your virtual business address on official documents, such as government forms, website pages, and business cards.

Most non-residents use a registered agent’s address as their virtual business address. The benefit of using your agent’s address is that you’ll often get a lower package price, and all your legal formalities are collected in one place. However, banks and payment processors don’t always like these addresses as thousands of businesses use them at the same time.

It’s often better to use a physical street address service like Travelling Mailbox or Anytime Mailbox for your US business address. These services offer a physical street address unique to your business (they are not PO boxes). In other words, only your business will be registered at this particular address and not anyone else. The address provider will scan and let you read your postal mail online on their platform from anywhere with an internet connection. They can also forward packages and letters to wherever you are in the world.

US business phone number for non-residents

Whether you need a dedicated US phone number for your LLC will depend on the bank. Some online banks will let you use your local number from your country, while others require that you have a US phone number. If your bank demands a US phone number, it’s easy and cheap to get one online in the form of a virtual VoIP number. Using a virtual number instead of your actual number will also help protect your privacy in case of a database leak or similar events.

Employer identification number (EIN)

There’s no way around it – all US banks will require you to have an EIN for your LLC. An EIN is essentially the social security number of your business. It is used by the IRS to identify businesses for tax purposes. Make sure your LLC is fully registered before you apply for the EIN.

The application process is not yet digital for non-residents. It can be very confusing if you’re not used to US paperwork. You can get help from a registered agent, who will usually offer this service against a fee of $50 to $150.

However, it’s completely free ($0) to get an EIN directly from the IRS, although the process is not straightforward. The only free way to get an EIN as a non-resident LLC owner is to fax or mail the completed Form SS-4 EIN application to the IRS.

Foreigners cannot apply for an EIN online because they don’t have a valid US taxpayer identification number. But if you know someone living in the US, they may be able to apply on your behalf.

You cannot call the IRS and get an EIN, although it confusingly says so on their website. The IRS does have an International EIN Department, but it’s only for companies registered outside of the US, not foreigners who own a US LLC.

Frequently asked questions

Can I open a US bank account for a local company in my home country?

No, it’s more or less impossible. You’ll need to form a US LLC or S Corp or first and then open the bank account. You can create the US business as a separate entity or a branch of your company in your home country. The latter can be quite complex, and it’s outside the scope of this article. However, it’s still possible to get USD bank details for your local company through a multi-currency business account.

How much does it cost to open a US business bank account?

US online banks usually offer a standard plan that is free to open and maintain. ACH transfers are typically free, but some banks charge a fee for sending and receiving wire transfers. Suppose you use your debit card to purchase something in a non-USD currency. In that case, there are rarely any conversion fees aside from the rates set by the card provider (MasterCard or Visa). It’s rare for online banks to have a minimum balance or deposit requirement of any sort.

How can I open a brick-and-mortar bank account?

If you don’t like online banks or want a more personal relationship with your banker, it’s still possible to open a bank account in the US. However, most traditional banks will require you to visit their branch in person. You’ll need to provide all of the documents mentioned above, plus some form of identification such as a driver’s license. However, most institutions will reject your application, even after going to their office. The best way to save on travel expenses is to arrange meetings with several banks in one trip.

Does my business need a connection to the US market?

It’s not written in law that a US LLC needs to have a business purpose in the US. However, most banks only support foreign-owned LLCs with a clear US connection. For example, to sell products or services to customers in the United States, contract with US clients, or plans to expand into the United States in the near future. If you don’t have a clear connection to the US, your bank account application may be denied.

Should I get the EIN myself or let my agent do it?

It’s completely free to get the EIN from the IRS. If you are a non-US citizen, you can only do this by fax (and not online). Ask yourself if it’s not worth it to pay your registered agent $50 – $150 to take care of this for you. It will take the stress out of the equation, and you will avoid making any mistakes that a professional would not make.

What are the best states for forming a US LLC?

Most non-US residents choose Delaware, Nevada, New Mexico, or Wyoming. These four states are regarded as the most business-friendly in the United States, and they have favorable tax policies for LLCs. New Mexico is the only state that does not require the disclosure of LLC owners to the State. Other advantages in New Mexico include cheap filing fees and no annual reports, fees, or taxes. Wyoming has a slightly better reputation but is more expensive. Both are excellent choices if privacy is a concern.

Bookkeeping and accounting software for LLCs

A few different bookkeeping and accounting software programs are popular among LLCs. QuickBooks and Xero work with the banks mentioned in this article. Both programs are relatively easy to use and have a moderate monthly price tag. You can also find free options, but they are usually not good and probably won’t offer real-time synchronization with your bank account.

Online bookkeeping services are also easy to find. You can also outsource your bookkeeping entirely and have an accountant in the US take care of everything for you. As a foreign LLC owner, you want to find a company or person familiar with your situation’s nuances. This is important because the IRS has specific regulations for foreign-owned LLCs. Make sure your bookkeeper understands these before you start working with them.

What countries are not allowed to open a US business bank account?

If you live in any of the following countries, you’re not allowed to open a bank account in the US:

  • Belarus
  • Burundi
  • Central African Republic
  • Cuba
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Nicaragua
  • North Korea
  • Sint Maarten
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Ukraine
  • Venezuela
  • Yemen
  • Zimbabwe

These countries are on the list because of various sanctions that have been placed on them by the United States government. Other jurisdictions may be prohibited as well, depending on the bank you choose. It’s always best to check with your chosen bank before applying, so you don’t waste time that could be spent applying elsewhere.

Tips for managing your US business bank account from abroad

US banks are generally more supportive of non-residents than the banks in other countries (e.g., the UK or Canada). This is especially true for foreign entrepreneurs looking to open a US business bank account. Still, there’s a wide variation between different banks and financial institutions in terms of what they accept and their requirements.

US banks that serve non-residents generally require that you use the account for transactions with US customers and suppliers. This means you should primarily use your account for building and maintaining a presence in the US.

It’s not like you can’t do any international transactions; it’s just that the bank will want to see that your US business is conducting a significant amount of business in the country. Otherwise, they may question why you need a US bank account in the first place.

US banks are terrible at dealing with foreign currencies

If you’re looking to do a lot of foreign currency transactions, you’ll likely need to find a bank in a different country. Most US banks don’t deal with anything other than the dollar, and they can be pretty inflexible when it comes to working with foreign currencies. Be careful with receiving anything besides US dollars, as the bank may reject the transfer or convert it to US dollars at a horrible exchange rate and charge a fee on top of that.

Most US banks are satisfied with conducting business only within the United States. That, as well as the compliance procedures and paperwork needed to maintain foreign currency accounts, is why most of these banks don’t offer them.

Separate personal and business finances

One of the best ways to make sure your US LLC and business bank account stay safe is by keeping your personal and business finances separate. This will help you avoid any potential problems down the road and make it easier to keep track of your expenses.

To protect themselves from personal liability, LLC owners should always use a separate bank account for the company. This will help avoid any issues with creditors if the LLC is ever sued. A court may interpret the intermingling of personal and business use as an indication that the members are not treating it as a separate legal entity. If a court decides the LLC owner treats their business as an alter ego or the corporate veil has been pierced, the owner’s personal assets may be used to pay off business debts.

Separating your personal and business finances will make it easier for your accountant to file taxes. By having all business transactions go through a dedicated business bank account, expenses and profits can easily be reconciled and synched with accounting software instead of digging through personal and business expenses.

Ask your bank before you do crypto

Like those in Europe and Asia, US banks are generally wary of customers who are conducting fiat transactions with cryptocurrency exchanges. If you’re planning on doing any crypto business, then it’s best to ask your bank know beforehand, so they don’t freeze your account later on. It’s not all banks that oppose it, but it’s best to be on the safe side and ask. If your main business activity is related to crypto, it’s best to check out what business banks your favorite exchanges are using and contact those directly for an account.

Closing thoughts

Hit the ground running and get off to a successful start for your US business by opening a business bank account for your LLC you can control from abroad. Your US business should thrive from the get-go with the right registered agent, business model, and bank account.

It’s never been easier to open a US company and bank account as a foreigner, but there are still some things you need to be aware of before you dive in. Make sure you understand the tax implications in your home country when operating a US business. But with the right preparation, setting up a US bank account for your LLC should be a breeze.