Banking and the Patriot Act
There is NO provision in the Patriot Act which forbids banks from accepting clients who do not live in the US. However, US banks are looking at the increased diligence provisions in the Patriot Act and using these as an excuse to get rid of any clients who are too difficult to assess. Click here for guidelines to follow if you have problems.
ACA has recently learned (December 2011) that the US Treasury Department has offered to help ciitizens who have problems with account closures at US banks. If you are notified of account closure of an existing account by a US national bank (i.e. not a "local" bank), you can file a complaint with the Customer Assistance Group of the Treasury Dept. ( www.occ.treas.gov/customer.htm ).
ACA as well as the Americans Abroad Caucus are very interested in getting feedback from people who use this process.
Also, the State Department has drafted a form letter which explains how US banks should treat accounts linked to a foreign address. The State Department has offered to provide a signed copy (via fax or email if so desired) to a US Citizen who would like to have one. The name of the requesting individual will be indicated as the addressee in the letter. This person can then present this letter from the State Department to the individuals or financial institutions with whom they may be having difficulty opening or maintaining an account.
To request a signed copy of the letter, the US citizen overseas should write to:
Overseas Citizens Services Office of Policy Review and Inter-Agency Liaison U.S. Department of State SA-29, 4th Floor 2201 C Street, NW Washington, DC 20520, USA
The text of the State Department letter is as follows:
Dear [name of citizen concerned], This letter is in response to the concern you expressed regarding the USA PATRIOT Act and your access to banking in the United States. The Department of State has been contacted by numerous individuals alleging that, under the USA PATRIOT Act, their U.S. bank accounts have been closed or that they have been prohibited from opening an account due to foreign citizenship or a foreign address. The USA PATRIOT Act does not prohibit foreign citizens or individuals with foreign residences from opening or maintaining a U.S. bank account. Such activity is done frequently and is necessary in a global economy. Notably, however, the USA PATRIOT Act does require financial institutions to complete enhanced security procedures in certain circumstances. For example, under Section 326 of the Act, financial institutions must implement reasonable procedures for (1) verifying the identity of any person seeking to open an account; (2) maintaining records of the information used to verify the persons identity, and (3) determining whether the person appears on any list of known or suspected terrorists or terrorist organizations. In addition, foreign individuals are generally required to provide a government issued number that is similar to a social security number. Enhanced due diligence is also required under Section 312, which requires financial institutions to take reasonable steps to determine the owner and the source of funds deposited into private banking accounts that financial institutions maintain for non-U.S. persons and conduct enhanced scrutiny of such accounts maintained for senior political figures. In developing their customer identification procedures under Section 326 or in the enhanced due diligence procedure under Section 312, a financial institution may request information of a customer that had not been previously solicited. However, the USA PATRIOT Act does not prohibit foreign persons or those with foreign addresses to open or maintain bank accounts in the United States. Please feel free to present this letter to your bank, should you face any difficulties with interpretation of the USA PATRIOT Act. Sincerely, Office of Policy Review and Interagency Liaison
Last Updated August 8, 2012