Can I Open a Local Bank Account While Living in Another Country?

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Even if you've decided to live la dolce vita in Italy, work as a journalist in Thailand or teach English in Mexico, you can still have a local bank account when you are overseas.

Although you can keep your current bank and checking account, every time you use your credit card or debit card abroad, your bank charges international fees. Also, when you withdraw cash, the bank will charge foreign ATM fees.

If you’ll be working and earning wages abroad, opening a foreign bank account to deposit checks directly at your local bank makes sense. You can also use that bank to deal with checks, withdrawals or deposits.

Here’s what to consider when opening a foreign bank account:

Documentation. Most countries require an initial deposit, your passport and proof of residence to open a bank account. Some countries could also require a certified copy of your birth certificate or a second form of identification. In some cases, you will also have to provide a statement about your reason for opening the account. The U.S. Embassy or consulate can help provide details about required documents.

IRS regulations. U.S. citizens are required to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts with the IRS if the total value of the foreign bank account is over $10,000. The FBAR is an informational form, so you don’t have to worry about taxes. But if, for example, you have a savings account in another country, then any interest earned is taxable.

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Choosing a bank. When picking a bank, look for relationships your U.S. bank may have with foreign banks. One option is a correspondent bank, a financial institution that provides services on behalf of another — equal or unequal — financial institution. If the country doesn’t have a relationship with your bank, then after researching different banks, look at fee schedules, requirements for transfers, amount of time for a deposit to be credited to your account and online accessibility. An online bank is a good option, since they are easy to use and accessible. Also, ask around. Your colleagues, or even the local grocer, can direct you to a trusted bank.

Credit Unions. Some countries also have credit unions you could join. The difference between a bank and a credit union is the way the organization is run. A credit union is a not-for-profit financial cooperative that can offer the same kinds of banking products and services that you would find at other financial institutions. Credit unions are local, and you must meet certain eligibility requirements to become a member, fortunately there are credit unions all over the world — more than 50,000 in over 100 countries. Credit unions often cooperate with other credit unions and share their resources, which is convenient for members. When doing your research, remember that a credit union is a good alternative to a bank, so ask the same questions.

Once you’ve done your research and found a bank or credit union, you’re ready to open your foreign account. Look online or call the bank to ask about the requirements and documents needed to open an account. In some cases, you may have to set up an appointment to open your account.

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