People come to live in the U.S. for a myriad of reasons. Many are students whose families back in their home country want to provide not only a better education than they may be able to offer locally, but also the experience of living in such a vibrant and dynamic economy. Others are workers of all types — from laborers to technicians to doctors to engineers to financial experts. Whether foreign visitors in the U.S. are wealthy, poor, or middle class, having access to financial tools can be more challenging than for those with citizenship status and a permanent address.
Opening a bank account for a non-resident can be very easy or impossible, depending on the circumstances. In big cities with large banks and regular influx of foreign workers and business people, opening a checking or savings account can be a breeze with proper identification, especially if the visitor has been issued a Social Security Number through the federal government and has a permanent address in the U.S., not simply a hotel room.
Without proper documentation, or in a small city or town where out-of-country visitors aren’t as common, the local banks may not be set up to provide bank accounts to foreign visitors.
Buying a car
Foreign visitors in the U.S. can certainly purchase a vehicle with cash, but for it to be registered, a permanent address will be required, and most likely a U.S. driver’s license, preferably issued in the same state. Most states require residents (anyone with a permanent address in the state) to obtain a driver’s license in that state after a certain period of time, usually 60 to 90 days.
Obtaining a car loan is likely to be more difficult for a foreign visitor in the U.S. A lending bank may require proof of the ability to pay such as income statements as well as proof of collateral. A co-signer who has proof of collateral may also be helpful in obtaining a car loan.
Non-citizens purchasing a car in the States will also want to to purchase insurance according to the laws within the state in which the vehicle will be registered. Insurance companies may charge higher fees to foreign driers as they would be considered less experienced and charged rates normally reserved for young drivers.
Like bank accounts, whether or not a foreign visitor in the U.S. can obtain an American-issued credit card will vary by the credit card provider. Information will need to be provided so the credit card issuing company can request an international credit report on the applicant, who must also provide proof of income and any pertinent information on assets. Once again, larger banks may be easier to work with, and a permanent address will be required. Secured credit cards may be another option for a non-citizen in the country who has cash, but wishes to establish a credit history within the U.S.
Home loans are available to foreign purchasers provided they have a minimum of 20 percent down, good credit history, and again, proof of the ability to make the monthly mortgage payments. It is a good idea to work with a U.S.-based real estate agent who has experience working with foreign buyers. For more information and useful tips for non-citizens who wish to purchase a home with a mortgage, see this article.
Student loans through the Department of Education federal programs aren’t available to foreign visitors, but individual loans through private banks may be an option, but applicants will need to meet criteria similar to anyone applying for a home loan.