Long story short - after the long and painful check operations, originally sent from the U.S., and redemption in Georgia (or probably in any country except USA), which takes at least some 40 working days and huge bank fees for check procedures - I decided enough is enough, I'm going to the United States and I will open a bank account there, in order to receive direct payments to my bank account instead of checks.
Yes, there are companies in U.S. which sends checks instead of direct payments for international partners, Amazon Associates, for example
If you are looking for a way how to open a bank account in the USA without actually visiting USA, this guide is not for you, as to make it work, I actually visited a Wells Fargo branch in Manhattan, New York City.
Now, the U.S. has been on my radar since 2012, when I first headed there to scout my options on how to incorporate a LLC there. I didn't incorporate after all, though made another trip in 2013. As it might happen when you explore the World around you, and if you look around and listen, you will start notice some things. And so, during last 4 or 5 years I have heard many times that non U.S. citizens are opening bank accounts at Citibank. And when I planned my latest trip to the U.S. I thought - OK, I will try Citibank.
Now, being in the States at the end of the year (December 28), in the second morning we decided to head to the Manhattan and look for a branch of Citibank, though my better part suggested me - hey, maybe you should try to enter each bank which will cross our route, and try there (as we had no idea where some branch of Citibank might be located), and so we did, we visited some 7-8 different banks in Manhattan, most of them told either it's not possible to open a bank account for a non citizen, while others asked for some more of proof of identity, which basically means an actual address in the U.S. (not a postal box).
Then Citibank appeared, I walked in and get it straight to the bulls eye - what are my options to open a bank account at Citibank, being a non resident, non citizen, without an address in the U.S.? The bank's clerk replied, basically it's not a problem to open a bank account at Citibank without permanent address in the U.S. but they would need some additional proof of address from my country, like some bill with my name on it and the address. It sounded easy, so I told, OK I will return then tomorrow with some utility payments from my base country. Sounded like a deal.
Now, we continued our route exploring Manhattan, when Wells Fargo bank popped out, as I'm receiving checks sent via Wells Fargo bank, I decided to enter and just ask my options. And then the surprise come - sure, buddy we can open a bank account for you, no matter which country's citizen you are, and we don't need a proof of your home country's address, as long as you can provide us with a debt card info issued at your home country.
Luckily I had a Visa card issued by Bank of Georgia, and that's it - the process took less than 15 minutes, I had an active bank account with my name and my address in Georgia, the bank's clerk issued an temporary bank card, and told that after some 5-7 days I will receive my permanent card in Georgia by mail. Now since this is an international mail, it could take longer than 5-7 days, and in case of me, I actually didn't receive any mail at all here in Georgia after all, though it's just technical details. Continue reading to learn more.
Now, while at Wells Fargo branch I deposited USD 500 to my bank account, and then we went shopping using my new, though, temporary bank card - bought some nice Aldo shoes, ha ha.
Once back at the hotel, I checked my mail, and there were information from Wells Fargo on how to activate online banking and so on, I did setup online bank account and now I was ready to start accept direct payments, by providing account and routing numbers to my customers in the U.S. As most of the money comes from Amazon Associates, I edited my banking info there, and at the end of the next month I actually received first payment from Amazon Associates. Awesome.
Now, I told above, that I didn't actually get my card shipped to me in Georgia, yes at start that sounded as a big issue, but then I just phoned Wells Fargo Support and asked could they change my address (to address where mail is not lost usually) and in less than 15 minute conversation I was done. Wells Fargo promised to ship a new card in the morning (again 5-7 days), and right now I'm actually still waiting my new, replaced card to arrive.
Now, you have probably heard, and you should be aware of thing called - paying taxes. A non resident, non citizens cannot apply for Social Security Number, but instead they can apply for ITIN (which is kind of SSN for foreigners). I didn't applied for ITIN yet, as I'm planing to return one more time, this Summer to the U.S. and in my next visit I'm planing to deal with ITIN thing. I will keep updated. Wells Fargo didn't asked for ITIN when opening a bank account, but I'm aware that I should submit it at some stage.
Now, a little bit about Wells Fargo bank account
Make sure you inform bank's clerk that you would like to setup an international payments from online banking (of course if you want to make international payments), as later it turned out, I cannot make any international payments (just payments inside U.S.) as such option is not enabled for my bank account. When applying for a bank account I didn't even know that online bank might come with option excluding international payments. International payments must be enabled in person at branch. This is another thing I will need to handle, next time I will visit U.S.
Opening a bank account at Wells Fargo is free, there is no monthly fee, if on your account is $1,500 or more, otherwise it's some $10 per month. Lear more about Wells Fargo Consumer and Business Account Fees