Do Banks Have to Know Your Citizenship Status?

A Kansas couple says Bank of America blocked access to their bank account after they ignored a form demanding proof of citizenship from the husband, who was born and raised in Kansas. The couple thought the letter was spam. The account was unfrozen after he supplied a driver’s license at a branch.

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Dan Hernandez, a television writer of Cuban heritage who owns a company called “Cuban Missile,” said the bank suspended his business account in December 2016 over suspicion he was doing business with Cuba. The issue was resolved after he sent a tweet to the bank’s social media account.

A spokeswoman for the California Bankers Association told the Star that federal law only requires that banks verify account holders’ name, date of birth, residential address and Social Security number. However, there isn’t a law that prohibits banks from asking about citizenship status.

BofA told the Kansas City Star it’s “required by law to maintain complete and accurate records for all of our customers and may periodically request information, such as country of citizenship and proof of U.S. residency”. The bank also told the Star it is the company’s standard practice to inquire about citizen status when opening a new account or updating customer information on an existing one. And all customers will eventually receive update notices asking about their citizenship and dual citizenship status.

On the BofA application for a checking account, it asks about citizenship. Questions about citizenship also appear on checking account applications with Chase, Citi and Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo’s application says it asks customers questions about their citizenship because the bank needs the information “to determine the eligibility and suitability of our products, and to comply with the USA PATRIOT Act,” which Congress passed in 2001 to strengthen security controls.

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Many bank compliance officers feel obligated to ask customers about their country of citizenship, particularly in order to collect federally mandated information aimed at assessing potential risks associated with so-called “nonresident alien accounts.”

A Bank of America spokesman said that “Customers provide information banks need to meet a variety of requirements,” Feeney said, “including anti-money laundering, economic sanctions restrictions and other programs administered by the U.S. Treasury and other government agencies.”

The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 requires American financial institutions to help the government detect and prevent money laundering. Federal regulators routinely examine banks for compliance. For example, if a customer regularly sends wires to the UK, a bank may want to know if that customer is a dual citizen of the United States and the UK.

What do you think? Should banks be clearer about their policies of asking customers for citizenship information?

6 comments on “Do Banks Have to Know Your Citizenship Status?

  1. Avatar for Derek Pakiz
    Paul Ternes on

    Bank of America keeps asking me if I have dual citizenship. I don’t know how to answer this. I was born in USA to USA parents. I’m a USA citizen. I have a USA passport. My Mother was born in Canada before 1957 and for this reason, Canada sees me as a Canadian citizen. If I request citizenship papers from Ottawa, they will send them to me. An I a dual citizen?

    • Avatar for Derek Pakiz
      Jimmy Stuar on

      Does a dollar bill have multiple citizenship? In el salvador per example is what they used to exploit the uneducated people. All this corporation want data to know more about you and used against you to sale it and make money. They used your money to make profit for them self. Why not just save that money on you own and stop using the corrupted system we have on place. all that information will be used again all their customer soon or later. personal information should be confidential. all of this started when Mr. trump was elected to office he was against a lot of immigrants even though he was hiring a immigrant nanny to baby seat his spoil kit. It don’t matter where people come from if you are here legal or ilegal you pay taxes one way or the other, right. so it contribute the economy son how but this is just another way to discriminate again people that migrated here whis is everyone this include whites cause they came from europe, killing and raping innocent people on their path and now that they stole everything they are looking for way to destroy the other immigrant legal or not..
      wellthy white people is ivel..

    • Avatar for Derek Pakiz
      Jennifer on

      I would say that you don’t have to report dual citizenship from the information that you’ve provided “Canada sees you as a Canadian citizen “ I don’t know how that works but let me explain I was born in Canada but my mother is American and I was eligible for USA citizenship but I had to go through all the channels with immigration, the fees, the tests etc once I had successfully completed all that and taken the test I was naturalized as a US citizen and I received my naturalization certificate I have a ssn , I was born in Canada I have a Canadian birth certificate and a SIN so I have proof of dual citizenship from what I understood is that you don’t have anything to prove dual citizenship so I wouldn’t even mention it to the banks

  2. Avatar for Derek Pakiz
    A different thought on

    The bank is asking me every time with a popup when logging in if I am a dual (US) citizen. I am a dual citizen but I don’t think it is of BoA business to know what my other citizenship is. I am a US citizen and that’s all they have to know. They are not the government and I don’t trust any bank with more information than I deem necessary. My other citizenship has nothing to do with my creditworthiness. I have a credit card from BoA. If they want to cancel my credit card because of me refusing to reveal my other citizenship, I will go elsewhere.

  3. Avatar for Derek Pakiz
    Howard Bartlett on

    They have a long way to go to fight money laundering before they worry about an individual’s checking account of ordinary size. In short, it’s none of their damned business, and the corrupt Marxists at the World Economic Forum who flock to Davos in private planes each year to gripe about CO2 (and the Biden Administration which wants to track EVERY transaction by ANYONE of $600 or more) just do this spying to foster their totalitarian plan to take over the world economy by force, making everyone slaves to them. Other than that, I have no opinion. (My American bank asks incessantly, as if it were any of their business, and they “fail” you on compliance with the demand if you ignore the dual citizenship question. Gosh, they already know more about me that I do, track my income and expenditures, and demand that I annually (or more frequently) CONFIRM my Social Security number that they already had decades ago. This, from people who have changed THEIR BUSINESS NAME 4 times since I opened the account! I’ll just keep racking up the demerits until they quit or cancel my account.)


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