Credit Card FAQ

How to Get a Credit Card for Non US Residents?

28 November 2010 by CreditCardsCo™

Technically it is possible for a person who is a U.S. non-resident to get a credit card in America. It can involve a lot of paperwork and a lot of phone calls, but it is definitely possible to get a credit card. There are many ways to do this but none of them are as simple as a permanent resident or a citizen of the United States getting a credit card by filling out an application.

There are many legal issues that you will have to address if you want to get a credit card as a non resident alien. The best way is to get a lawyer to guide you legally and be wary of companies who promise to get you a U.S. card easily and for a fee.

The Aftermath of 9-11

After the 9-11 incident, it has become very difficult for banks to issue credit cards to non residents in the United States. The law states that any credit cardholder must have a valid identification number and a physical address within the United States. The identification number that most banks ask for is the Social Security Number (SSN).

There are three types of SSNs issued to the people in the United States:

  • The most common type of the SSN is issued to U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents. The card usually contains the cardholder's name and the number.
  • The other two types are the restricted SSNs.
    • One reads "Not Valid for Employment" very clearly and therefore cannot be used as proof for work authorization within the United States.
    • The other reads "Valid for Work only with DHS Authorization." These cards are usually only issued to people having a temporary work authorization within the United States and carry a work authorization card.

No matter what category you fall under you can easily apply for a Social Security Card at the local Social Security Administration office or online. While this is not necessary it goes a long way to establish trust with banks that are often hesitant to offer credit or debit cards to U.S. non residents.

The Issue with the Banks

Primarily, the majority of the banks within the United States have an issue of trust that needs to be settled. If the non resident is applying to get a credit card from any U.S. Bank, he or she must be able to convince them that any debt will be paid for in full. One way to do that is to apply for a secured credit card. Although banks still require a valid identification numbers, an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or a valid U.S. Driving License number should do.

Most banks simply want to ensure that when non residents in the U.S. get a credit card, they are able to repay the debts. Unpaid and abandoned debts are always a risk. After all, the bank or credit card company will pay your debt on the agreement that you will repay the debt back.

If your credit card balance is unpaid, the bank or the creditor reserves the right to take you to court and most likely will be awarded with a judgment against you. As a non resident with a credit card it makes it very hard for the bank to actually take you to court. It is possible that such a person may disappear from the country to their home country.

Ask Them Straight and Keep it Legal

It is very much possible for a non resident to get a credit card in the U.S. The best way is to do some research, approach the bank or the credit institution (credit unions can be more accommodating) honestly, spell out your residential status, and fill out the necessary paperwork.

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