RSK.IQ Question of the Week 10/6/14

Opening Account for Foreign National without SSN


An individual from another country here in the U.S. would like to open an account with the Bank.  This person has a student visa and identification from college, but not a Social Security Number.  Can the Bank open this account without a Social Security Number?  Would it just have a W-8BEN completed?

Response Summary

The CIP requirements of the USA PATRIOT Act allow a foreign national to open an account without a taxpayer identification number, provided one of the required alternatives is obtained. A W-8BEN must be obtained only if the account being opened is an interest-bearing account.

Response Detail

The customer from another country will be able to satisfy the requirement to provide an identifying number even though he does not have a Social Security Number. Under the USA PATRIOT Act, a financial institution is required to have a Customer Information Program (“CIP”) which will allow it to form a reasonable belief that it knows the true identity of a customer within a reasonable time of account opening.

For individuals, it must obtain at least the following information:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • A residential or business street address
  • Identifying number

This information must be verified within a reasonable time after the account is opened. The CIP can specify when the financial institution will use documents, non-documentary methods, or some combination of both.

For a U.S. person, the identification number must be a taxpayer identification number. When the customer is a foreign citizen, however, one or more of the following can be used:

  • Taxpayer identification number
  • Passport number and country of issuance
  • Alien identification card number
  • Number and country of issuance of any other government-issued document evidencing nationality or residence and bearing a photograph or similar safeguard. 31 CFR §1020.220(a)(2)(i)(A)

The taxpayer identification number can be an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (“ITIN”). The ITIN is issued by the IRS to individuals who are not eligible to get a SSN but must furnish a taxpayer identification number. In order to obtain it, an individual must provide proof to the IRS of identity and foreign status. This can be done with either an original valid passport or at least two of the following documents, at least one of which must have a photo of the individual:

  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services photo identification
  • Visa issued by U.S. Department of State
  • U.S. driver’s license
  • U.S. military identification card
  • Civil birth certificate
  • National identification card
  • U.S. state identification card
  • Foreign driver’s license
  • Foreign military identification card
  • Foreign voter’s registration card
  • Medical records (valid only for dependents under six years of age)
  • School records (valid only for dependents under 14 years of age)

In this case, the student visa would be one of the alternative methods of providing an identifying number. The passport number should also be obtained.

With regards the W-8BEN, this should be obtained only if the account being opened is an interest-bearing account, though some banks take it even when opening non-interest bearing accounts, for whatever benefit the certification in the form will provide.

This entry was posted on Friday, October 3rd, 2014 at 8:15 pm.

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