Know Your Rights: Banking

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded
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Information about why you would want to open a bank account, what identification is needed and what happens if you leave the country. #0112EN


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Should I open a bank account?

  • You can cash checks and pay bills for free.

  • Carrying lots of cash can be dangerous. With a bank or credit union account, you can deposit your money and carry only the cash you need.

  • If someone takes money from your account without your permission, you are protected by federal law and can get it back.

  • A bank account provides important records of how much money you spend and receive. This info can help when you file taxes, or in other situations.

  • Money you put in a bank or credit union account is insured by the U.S. government, up to $250,000. No matter what happens to the bank or credit union, you will not lose a penny.

  • Some banks offer safe, low-cost ways to send money home.

I do not have a Social Security number. Can I open an account?


Can I open an account no matter my immigration status?


I am going to the bank to open an account. What should I bring?

  • Photo ID (example: your passport)

  • Proof of your home address (example: a phone bill)

  • An ID number, such as a Social Security number, Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), or the number from your passport, consular ID, or other government-issued photo ID

*A consular ID is a photo ID card some foreign consulates issue to their citizens living in the U.S.

Do I show the bank my immigration papers?

No. You can legally open a bank account no matter your immigration status. Banks and credit unions should not ask you to prove your immigration status.

Will I lose the money in my account if I am detained or deported?

No. Your account still belongs to you. Ask the bank or credit union how you can close your account or continue to use it from your home country.


This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities. It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice. This information is current as of September 2018.

© 2018 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014
(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for
non-commercial purposes only.)


Last Review and Update: Sep 28, 2018