US bank account for non-present, non-US citizen?
July 18, 2012 8:03 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible for a non-US citizen who does not currently reside in the US to open a US bank account? If so, please help since I keep hitting dead ends...

My brother (a Norwegian citizen) used to work as an actor in the US when he was younger (he had the appropriate work visa). He has relocated to Norway, but is still getting occasional residual checks. I live in the US (and am a US citizen, in case it's relevant) and have power of attorney for him. His residual checks currently come to my address. The amounts are small - usually somewhere between $5 and $30 - and intermittent - I'd say maybe 20-40 checks a year.

He used to have a US bank account from when he lived here, which I would deposit his checks into and he would withdraw from in Norway using his ATM card. However, the bank closed the account when it went overdrawn.

I'm trying to figure out the best way to handle this. I've called several US banks, including some which have branches in Norway (Citi) as well as the bank I use, and nobody can open an account for a non-US citizen who is not physically present. (He is unlikely to come to the US any time soon.) He cannot cash checks issued in the US to his Norwegian account, so I can't just mail them to him.

The only thing I can think of is to deposit the checks into my own bank account (is there a special way I should do this besides just depositing them and hoping the bank doesn't object to the different first name?), keep track of the total, and send him a wire transfer once or twice a year. I'm not thrilled about this, both because it could look like income for me (which it obviously isn't) and because wire transfer fees are quite high. Any other options?

This has been stumping me for months now, so would greatly appreciate any help!
posted by widdershins to Work & Money (7 answers total)
I'm a little surprised you're having a problem at all. I've opened up accounts for my clients without any problem whatsoever, but the power of attorney forms I use specifically enumerate that one of the powers that is being given to me is the ability to open up accounts for them. If your power of attorney doesn't state that you may wish to get an updated form from him that enumerates that as one of the powers.

It also may be that the amounts are just too small for the banks to want to bother with under some internal policy. Every time I've tried to do this it's been for amounts north of a million.
posted by bswinburn at 8:15 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can he open the account with a large global bank -- HSBC, eg -- that has operations in the US, so you can deposit into his account from the US, and he can withdraw there?
posted by jeather at 8:24 AM on July 18, 2012

Would it be possible for him to open an account in a Norwegian, or EU, or something, bank, but denominated in US dollars? If Citi has branches in Norway, can he physically go to a branch there and open an account that way?
posted by hattifattener at 8:43 AM on July 18, 2012

Best answer: Could you open a joint account, in both your own and your brother's names? Then you could easily deposit, and he could happily withdraw.
posted by easily confused at 8:55 AM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, I can't believe I didn't consider a joint account! This sounds like the easiest option at this point - will try that first and revert. Thx everyone for the answers so far!
posted by widdershins at 9:12 AM on July 18, 2012

Your "brother" can sign the checks and then you sign it and deposit to your own account.
posted by zeikka at 11:58 AM on July 18, 2012

Who do you sign the check as: Find out what your bank prefers, but in general you can sign checks in your relative's name, include the phrase "power of attorney" or "POA" and then include your own name.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:22 PM on July 18, 2012

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