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I know undocumented immigrants can open a US bank account legally and that would come with some benefits for them such as having a credit score (useful for buying properties, for instance) and a history of their presence in the US.

Both are signs of good moral character if the immigrants get to immigration court and that could mean they don't get deported.

The question is: will opening a US bank account be a tangible risk for the undocumented immigrant? Will the person be caught just because of the bank account? (supposedly, the immigrant hasn't committed any crime)

  • Dont us banks require an SSN to open an account? – Shazamo Morebucks Jul 21 '17 at 14:00
  • Not necessarily. Some banks allow foreign citizens to open an account if they present themselves physically at the bank and provide a valid ID. In some cases they ask for an ITIN, too. – Yox60 Jul 21 '17 at 14:15
  • I see, thanks. I wonder where I could find more information on Know Your Customer laws – Shazamo Morebucks Jul 21 '17 at 14:38
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    How would the bank know the customer's immigration status? – phoog Jul 21 '17 at 15:37
  • I'm not sufficiently informed about that. I didn't open an account myself but I suppose that if you open it in a manner different than how an American citizen would do it (by providing an SSN), that would make you a foreign citizen opening the bank account. Therefore if you are in the US for a long period and use that account, it might raise suspicion. Anyway, good point! Thinking about it, it seems like knowing the actual immigration status would be hard for the bank. – Yox60 Jul 21 '17 at 19:35
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You need some kind of number to open a bank account, but it need not be a Social Security number. You can use an ITIN, which requires filling out form W-7. Item 6c requires providing visa information including USCIS classification and expiration date (assuming you require a visa). Item 6d requires you to provide certain information, pertaining to identity and foreign status: a passport is a satisfactory document, as is a foreign military ID card. If the ITIN is granted, the number issued begins with 9, from which you can learn something about immigration status (not legality). Whether or not a bank will accept / require an ITIN is mainly up the the bank.

The theory is that the IRS does not disclose immigration data to USCIS, but the IRS identifies some exceptions, which apart from court orders are limited to tax purposes, and do not (currently) include immigration purposes.

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