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US Citizen opening a Canadian bank account
January 11, 2012
4:14 pm
zero
Seattle, WA, USA
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January 11, 2012
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As a US Citizen trying to diversify away from having all of my assets in USD (other than mutual funds and ETFs with international investments), I'd like to open a CAD bank account in Canada.

There seem to be many requirements for opening such an account online, including SIN and a CA street address. I'm willing to take a trip to open the account in person, but would like to be sure I can do so once I get there.

1. Does any CA bank allow a US citizen to open an account online or through postal mail and not require a visit in person?

2. Do I need to get a Social Insurance Number? If so, how do I do so as a foreigner?

3. If I do have to visit a bank in person (probably to Vancouver), what do I need to bring to open an account (presumably a passport and a second form of photo identification, such as a state driver's license, plus the money to deposit)? Anything else?

4. What banks with great rates (such as the ones in the comparison chart http://www.highinterestsavings.ca/chart/) allow accounts for US citizens?

5. Any specific banks with whom a US citizen has done this without a SIN or CA address?

Thank you in advance for your advice!

January 12, 2012
10:38 am
guest
Guest

Unless you have a Canadian work visa or you are a "permanent resident" (kind of like the American "Green Card"), you can't get an SIN which means you can't open a Canadian bank account. A SIN entitles people to things like health care and welfare payments, and I don't see our government doling those things out to our friendly neighbors to the south anytime soon.

January 12, 2012
5:00 pm
paj
Guest

Need a SIN number? Really? I open dozens of accounts in the US with just my Canadian passport (no SSN) in the 90's and a few years after 2001 for their higher interest and only closed my last one in around 2005 as there 5 year CD's are not competitive with our GICs anymore. Can't they do the same here?

January 13, 2012
6:43 am
Doug
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December 12, 2009
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I work with a Canadian financial institution and we have opened quite a few accounts for non-residents. Typically, if they aren't Canadian citizens/permanent residents (similar to U.S. green card holders), they do have some sort of temporary residency/work permit/Citizenship & Immigration permit of some kind. That being said, I know that it can be done but would need your two pieces of ID, one with a photo and preferrably a passport to a driver's license, a second could be a major credit card and, as a non-resident, you would be required to produce your Social Security Number card and fill out a W9 form that the Canadian financial institution would keep on file and share with the U.S. IRS.

As for needing a SIN to open a Canadian bank account, while the SIN can be used as either a type "A" or "B" form of ID and is a CRA requirement when you have an interest-bearing deposit account, it is not actually a requirement, even for Canadian citizens/permanent residents. Even in the case of an interest-bearing deposit account or GIC, a SIN can still be declined; however, financial institutions are required to attempt to obtain the SIN annually (usually through a mass-mail campaign) advising that the person may be subject to a CRA fine/levy for not disclosing one's SIN.

Hope that helps,
Doug

January 13, 2012
12:45 pm
Jason
Guest

Doug,

Thanks for the info. Do you happen to know if the same applies to an investment account at a brokerage? Can a U.S. citizen/resident open up a brokerage account at a Canadian institution?

January 13, 2012
11:00 pm
msl
Guest

haha. thanks for the tip about SIN from the "inside" Doug.

January 14, 2012
11:16 pm
Jim
Guest

Just keep in mind that anytime anything "bad" happens in the financial world, investors retreat to 10 year US treasury bonds, driving up the value of the US dollar. That includes bad financial stuff happening in the US itself, including to the US government. Weird but true.

January 15, 2012
9:53 am
woofn
Guest

A US "person" is required to file a FBAR with the US Treasury, for foreign accounts.
http://www.irs.gov/businesses/…../article/0,,id=210244,00.html
US requirements for Canadian banks is going to become increasingly burdensome.

January 15, 2012
11:55 am
zero
Seattle, WA, USA
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Forum Posts: 3
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January 11, 2012
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Thanks for the answers, suggestions, and advice so far.

1. Can US citizen open Canadian bank account online? (no answer)
or through postal mail? (no answer)

2. Social Insurance Number needed? No. (Thanks Doug!)

3. What identification needed? Two: (a) photo ID = passport or driver's license, and (b) second ID, such as major credit card. (Again, thanks Doug!)

4 & 5. Specific high interest banks recommended? (no answer)

January 16, 2012
3:15 pm
Doug
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Forum Posts: 795
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December 12, 2009
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zero said:

Thanks for the answers, suggestions, and advice so far.

1. Can US citizen open Canadian bank account online? (no answer)
or through postal mail? (no answer)

2. Social Insurance Number needed? No. (Thanks Doug!)

3. What identification needed? Two: (a) photo ID = passport or driver's license, and (b) second ID, such as major credit card. (Again, thanks Doug!)

4 & 5. Specific high interest banks recommended? (no answer)

Hi zero,

I haven't heard of non-residents being able to open bank accounts online in Canada but I would generally say no. The reason is because online account openings require different "Know Your Customer" procedures to be adhered to in order to ensure the federal Proceeds of Crime and Terrorism Financing legislation is followed. You could probably past the first requirement, to have a credit bureau pulled, but your credit bureau would be non-existent as you wouldn't have a credit history or credit score in Canada which may escalate the account opening to a second-level approval of sorts. The second requirement is to deposit a preprinted CAD dollar cheque drawn on a Canadian financial institution and for that cheque to successfully clear. Unfortunately, I don't think you'd pass this requirement and, therefore, would not be able to open the account.

However, you may be able to start your account opening online (i.e., BMO Club Sobeys high-interest savings account or PC Financial high-interest savings account) and then visit a branch or pavilion to complete the account opening.

As for which accounts I'd recommend, I used to recommend Hubert Financial (www.happysavings.ca) but with their choppy rates and apparent amateur hour of recently, I'd have to go with Ally (www.ally.ca), a product of ResMor Trust Company and an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Ally Financial Inc.

Hope that helps,
Doug

January 16, 2012
3:17 pm
Doug
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December 12, 2009
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Jason said:

Doug,

Thanks for the info. Do you happen to know if the same applies to an investment account at a brokerage? Can a U.S. citizen/resident open up a brokerage account at a Canadian institution?

Jason,

Unfortunately, my knowledge in this error is somewhat limited. Again, I doubt you'd be able to open one online but it might be possible to deal with a broker at a branch of a securities trading firm. They do have a number of IRS-related U.S. forms so it could be possible, but unfortunately, I don't know for sure and what sort of requirements are.

This being said, there is less advantage to opening brokerage accounts in multiple countries versus bank accounts or savings accounts for the simple reason many online discount brokers in different global jurisdictions share the same parent company and often allow real-time quotes and trading from each individual country in which they operate. As an example, HSBC InvestDirect offers the ability to trade on various worldwide exchanges such as the TSX, Nasdaq, NYSE, LSE, Hang Seng and I think even ones in Germany and Japan, to name the majors, all from within Canada. Similarly, I would imagine one could trade on all those exchanges from their home country's HSBC InvestDirect platform.

Cheers,
Doug

January 19, 2012
5:21 am
guest
Guest

I opened registered and unregistered self-directed brokerage accounts online at RBC Direct and in both cases I was asked for my SIN which I provided (I'm a Canadian Citizen). From what I remember about the application process, providing a SIN was mandatory.

January 20, 2012
5:21 pm
Doug
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For brokerage accounts, especially registered ones, it may very well be mandatory. For RRSPs or TFSAs through a bank, or for a savings account where you're going to be earning less than $50 in interest per year, it is not.

Cheers,
Doug

January 22, 2012
11:30 am
Josh
Guest
14

Hi There,

A little more inside info from you. I am currently a bank manager in Canada and previously branch managers for both US and CDN investment companies. I'm happy to share some insight on the brokerage accounts.

Most foreign companies will allow their residents to open CDN investment accounts in Canada. However the USA is not one of them. The only exception to this rule is if you were a canadian resident working at one point and were entitled to make RRSP contributions – a plan similar to a US IRA/401K. In this case, you are still limited to only certain investment options, will need to complete a W9 for US IRS reporting, plus 2 pieces of ID.

If you were a Canadian resident with a CDN brokerage account and became a US citizen, you would be required to move these accounts to the US (exception – RRSP Plans).

I hope this helps,

Josh

January 24, 2012
1:16 pm
zero
Seattle, WA, USA
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Forum Posts: 3
Member Since:
January 11, 2012
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Doug: Thanks again for the added information and recommendations.

I found that I can apply for a Canadian Individual Tax Number (ITN) since I don't qualify for SIN (using CRA Form T1261). I've started that process, but would like to know if an ITN is accepted in place of SIN for opening an account?

July 25, 2012
12:00 am
Da
Guest
16

Josh said:

Hi There,

A little more inside info from you. I am currently a bank manager in Canada and previously branch managers for both US and CDN investment companies. I'm happy to share some insight on the brokerage accounts.

Most foreign companies will allow their residents to open CDN investment accounts in Canada. However the USA is not one of them. The only exception to this rule is if you were a canadian resident working at one point and were entitled to make RRSP contributions – a plan similar to a US IRA/401K. In this case, you are still limited to only certain investment options, will need to complete a W9 for US IRS reporting, plus 2 pieces of ID.

If you were a Canadian resident with a CDN brokerage account and became a US citizen, you would be required to move these accounts to the US (exception – RRSP Plans).

I hope this helps,

Josh

Hi Josh
What if I am a Canadian with a green card living in US. can I keep my Canadian bank account and RRSP without moving to USA? Any problem with Revenue Canada?