Requirements for Recent Arrivals
- How do you open a bank account if you're a recent immigrant in Melbourne, Australia?
- Can a dependent open a bank account in Boston, USA?
- Can my spouse on dependent pass open a bank account in Singapore in his / her own name?
Those were the questions I asked when I moved countries. I touched on this briefly in my earlier post and figured there are probably people out asking the same questions based on what I've read in the expat forums.
Instead of doing a country-by-country post, I'll do a comparison of each major activity. Note that these are based on my experiences and may not be similar to what others went through or are going through.
Opening a Bank Account
Regardless of whether you're moving countries for work, study, or life, access to a local bank account is beneficial. Have your foreign credit or debit cards but use them for emergency purposes.
Instead, apply for a bank account as soon as you can.
You won't have to pay foreign transaction fees.
You'll lessen the risk of having your foreign cards rejected by local merchants (especially if you're using AMEX) due to merchant fees or unsupported card technology (more on this later)
You'll lessen the risk of your bank flagging the transaction as suspicious and having to call your bank while using international data roaming
When I moved to Melbourne over a decade ago, some small banks couldn't process recent arrivals, for whatever reason. Online forums recommended to go to the big 4 banks: NAB, ANZ, Commonwealth, and Westpac.
Usually, the banks required 100 points to enable a person to open a bank account but waived them for 3 months upon arrival for recent immigrants.
All I needed to do was to visit the bank in person and show the following:
- My Passport
- Visa Page
- Billing Address (I showed my Virgin Mobile Phone bill)
You will need to open two bank accounts, one for everyday banking and the other for your savings. Some people prefer one but having a savings account will help you in saving up. H opened an expense account for himself then converted that to a joint account when I arrived.
Now, as more and more immigrants are arriving in Australia, banks became savvy. The big banks have dedicated "migrant banking" services to assist immigrants in opening their bank accounts. You don't even need to be in Australia before applying and you can pick up your card at your preferred branch upon arrival in the country (for some banks).
When applying online, all the banks in Australia require that you arrive within 12 months of the application. Here are samples of the requirements and links to the application forms.
All the banks require:
- Entering Australia to migrate, study or work
- Valid passport
- Valid Visa
- Arrival within 12 months of online application
- Planned arrival date and city
- Current address (overseas), email address or phone number to contact you
- Personal appearance once you enter Australia
National Australia Bank (NAB)
- Are 18 years of age or older
- Are not travelling on a Working Holiday Visa
Important note from the bank: Read the terms and conditions and only deposit the funds to your new account once your Australian Visa has been granted.
Here's the link to the NAB application form: https://www.nationalaustraliabank.com/australian-account
Has two Everyday banking accounts for those going to Australia to live and work and those who are going there to study
Comm Bank is a bit more intrusive in its application process online though people who hate manually filling in long forms would probably find it easier.
Additional requirement for CommBank applicants:
- Type of work
- Expected salary
*Upon arrival, you'll need to be identified at the bank branch. For joint account holders, both will need to be verified at the same time
Also allows for Individual and Joint Bank Account application. The minimum age to open a bank account with them is 12 so kids can have their bank accounts, too.
ANZ also asks about your tax residency, important for American citizens since foreign banks require disclosure of their American citizen clients to the US government.
Link here: http://movingtoaustralia.anz.com/global/en/?sourcecode_1=BTH000&cid=ps:mtauk:1&gclid=Cj0KCQiAus_QBRDgARIsAIRGNGiNWtIyQYTOrtGyouZRqahXaWChWmP-z9W7HMUarzNwmSwzzOsRk2IaAhqSEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds&dclid=CL29nse20dcCFZKJaAode2MBow
Single Applicants - can apply from overseas
Joint Applicants - must have an Australian residential address and are currently in Australia
Deposit - must be made within 6 months
Must want Online Banking and receiving electronic statements
Learn more here: https://banking.westpac.com.au/cao/#/?migrant=true
United States of America
H and I scoured the internet for advice regarding opening a bank account in Boston, Massachusetts. Most said go for the big banks like Bank of America, Chase or Wells Fargo.
After reading so many negative reviews about the customer service of the big banks, we opted for a smaller one. There are credit unions everywhere and the reviews were generally favorable. Even then, it was harder for me as a dependent, even though I was on an E3-D visa, to get my own bank account.
There are generally two types of account in the US: Checking and Savings. Checking is the equivalent of the Expense Account in Australia. In contrast to Australia where you can opt-out of receiving and using checks for personal use, in the US, you must have a checking account. Checks are still widely used in the US. The phrase, "The check is in the mail." is still used.
Online banking isn't as robust and advanced as Australia. In Australia, you have BPAY. You can pay online using the business' BPAY number without having to remember the company's bank accounts. You only need to put in the BPAY number and your reference number. Of course, you can still type in their account details but you don't have to for the most part.
In the US, there is paranoia about identity theft and giving your bank account details is taboo, which I found strange because checks can get stolen or misplaced and takes awhile to be processed.
At any rate, these are the General Banking Requirements:
- Personal appearance
- Verifiable address (work addresses are accepted by some banks)
- Social Security Number
Our bank didn't allow me to open my own bank account without a social security number. As a compromise, they allowed me to have a joint account with my husband.
In the US, credit history matters. It drove me nuts since as recent arrivals, we had zero credit rating in the US. No, your foreign credit rating doesn't hold weight.
The thing about credit rating is that you need to use credit cards or get a loan in order for the credit score bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian to give you a credit score. I'll cover this in another post.
Getting a Social Security Number
The tricky bit is getting the Social Security Number. If you're there on a work visa, all you need to do is to go to the nearest Social Security Office, show your passport, Visa page, work address if you still don't have a permanent address, and print out of I-94. No, you cannot ask the staff to print out your I-94. For that you need to go to Homeland Security website, plug in your data, and print the filled out form. Here's the link: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home
It takes roughly 2 weeks to have the card issued.
If you're a dependent and your visa allows you to work, you'll need an EAD, acronym for Employment Authorization Document, also known as work permit. To apply for an EAD, you'll need to fill out Form I-765, your most recent I-94, copy of your visa page, copy of the visa page of the principal visa holder, and a copy of the marriage certificate for married couples.
Here's more information for the I-765: https://www.uscis.gov/i-765
It takes 90 business days to process the EAD and cost US$410. If you lose your EAD, it will take another 90 days for the replacement card to be sent.
Once you have your EAD, you can then go to the Social Security Office, and apply for your SSN.
I got mine after 5 business days.
With SSN in my hand, I finally opened my own bank account.
Others had it easier. They went to the smaller credit unions, showed their passports, proof of address, and opened their bank accounts. I'm not sure if that is still doable but you can try.
Singapore was slightly similar to the US in requirements.
There are 3 major banks, DBS, UOB, and OCBC. Each bank will have their own eligibility criteria and minimum deposits. Some require a certain annual income.
I was told by a bank staff that only DBS can accommodate US citizens.
Like the USA, the checking account also comes with a check. We hardly use the checks except when issuing a deposit check for our furniture deliveries to our condo.
- Employment Pass or Entrepreneur Pass or Dependent Pass
- Tenancy Agreement (their version of proof of address)
- Initial deposit amount
Again, I couldn't open my own bank account until I had the physical Dependent Pass. The approval letter from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) was not enough. However, they did allow me to have a joint account with my husband.
Among the three countries, Singapore was the only country we've been where we got our debit cards (everyday cards or ATM cards) issued within the day complete with our embossed names. Unfortunately, we couldn't use our cards until after 5 days. Then our tokens arrived separately, too. To log on, we have to keep entering a token number, which is a bit annoying but I suppose adds another layer of security.