Having an American bank account is important: it provides an easy way to pay bills and build savings, but also for your own safety. Because many immigrants do not hold bank accounts, they can become targets of thieves who know there's a chance they could be carrying large amounts of cash. 

Opening an Account

To open a checking or savings account, the bank or credit union is required by law to obtain the following information: 

  • Your name and date of birth. To verify this you can use:
    • current passport
    • driver's license (American or foreign)
    • Consular ID
    • birth certificate
  • Your address: a current utility bill or lease agreement
  • An Identification number. 
    • An ID number can be a social security number or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). To get an ITIN, you will need to fill out a form with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
    • If you don’t have a U.S. government-issued SSN or ITIN, some banks and credit unions will accept a passport number and country of issuance, an alien identification card number, or other government-issued ID number. (source: Banks in Fayetteville that will accept this form of ID include Arvest, Bank of America, and Bank of Fayetteville

Visit different banks and credit unions to find out what types of accounts they offer, and what types of ID numbers they accept.

What is an ITIN?

If you don't have a Social Security Number (SSN), you can get an Individual Tax Payer Identification Number (ITIN), which is used by the US Internal Revenue Service to process your taxes. It is available only to non-US citizens who are working in the US, but are not eligible for a Social Security Number. Their spouses and children are also eligible. In most cases, you must apply for your ITIN at the time you turn in your annual income tax return (due between January 1 and April 15). 

  1. Fill out the required W-7 form, available in English and Spanish
  2. Submit proof of identity, such as a passport or driver’s license, along with a completed federal tax return. See a complete list of documents that you can use.
  3. Mail in your application, take it to an IRS walk-in office or have it processed by an “acceptance agent.” These agents typically include colleges, accounting firms and banks or credit unions. Locate one near you on the IRS website.

Source: Nerdwallet