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U.S. brokerage accounts and mail forwarding services


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Has anyone had any problems using a U.S.-based mail forwarding service address in order to satisfy U.S. brokerages that you reside in the U.S.?

I've read that the big brokerages will sometimes terminate brokerage accounts if the account holder indicates he or she is living abroad. So in order to maintain a U.S. brokerage account, it can be expedient to use a U.S. mail forwarding address if you don't have a U.S.-based friend or family member who will let you use his/her address.

Many U.S. mail forwarding services give customers a street address followed by a "unit number," for example, which can suggest that the address may not be a real physical address. Also, it wouldn't be hard for brokerages, if they wanted to do this, to keep a database of mail forwarding service addresses, and then deny you a brokerage account.

Any experience with problems like this, or have you been able to satisfy the big brokerages by using a mail forwarding service address?

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We have used one of our Children's  address as our residence, they sort out the junk and send down any relevant mail via FedEx,., DSL....You can opt for electronic brokerage items,,also can buy and sell securities and have bills paid on-line and funds transferred to and from multiple financial institutions on-line..Never been a problem..Relatives or trusted friends..and on-line answers 95% of all your needs.. 

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Tomas and Tomgates,

Thanks for the suggestions. There's a related discussion going on now at http://www.expatexchange.com/expat/index.cfm?frmid=254&tpcid=3418621.

One of the people there admits that her brokerage account was terminated because her mail-forwarding addresses was detected by two brokerages as not being a real residential address. Here are some quotes from that thread:

  1. Schwab and Etrade both figured out that it [the forwarding address this person was using] was a PMB and not an apartment number. They insisted on a U.S. residence address, and a utility bill to prove it.
  2. An address of a friend or relative in the U.S. will not work if the brokerage requests proof of residence, such as a utility bill or lease agreement.
  3. My other concern with using a U.S. address when I don't live there, is that some states, California in particular, aggressively look for indications of residency and will attempt to tax you as a residence, based just on the fact that you indicate California as your residence on various documents with banks, brokers, credit cards, DMV, etc. Whether they succeed in taxing you as a resident or not, it can still turn into a major headache.

Unfortunately, for me, the only people I know who would personally be willing to forward mail to me live in California! The prospect of having my brokerage account closed due to residing in MX is a big obstacle. And I know from past personal experience that California's tax office can be very aggressive and hard to deal with.

I wonder if anyone has had the same experience as the poster quoted above, but with other large brokerages like Vanguard, Fidelity, Ameritrade, etc.?

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I have friends working with Edward Jones. They dump clients who live abroad. Most of the financial officers and business managers get to know their clients very well, so there is no wiggle room with them. When I still lived in the states, I was aware of many issues the clients faced with Ed Jones when they left the country. Thus, I never worked with them, knowing I would soon be coming back here.

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Ed Jones is a joke...there are many better financial outfits available..as noted above, have family or friends receive your mail and forward as necessary via FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc..If the State asks questions regarding residence/taxes tell them that you live away and your children forward your mail..Keep things easy and simple...Good luck..

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Since it was me and my spouse who decided to emigrate, we feel that any difficulties resulting are our responsibility to solve, rather than asking someone else to pretend we live at their address and take the time to sort and forward our mail to us.  Most of our mail goes to a Texas mail drop which is obviously just that, but uses an apt. number.  Our investment  account in the US has no problem with it. When Banamex USA threw expats' accounts under the bus, we sought out a US banking entity which will serve overseas customers.  We have both debit and credit cards with high limits through them. The SSA insisted on our physical address when we changed from Banamex USA to a Mexican bank for the direct deposits, and that's where their annual "are you really alive?" letter is sent..

It takes some doing and some time, but you CAN conduct your business without using someone else's address.  This is also something that those who plan to move to a foreign country would be advised to research before they cross the border.

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It is really no different than retiring, as we did, with an RV. The motorhome was our only home and we used a mail forwarding service in Florida for several years, before moving to Mexico where we changed to a Texas mail drop. Never a problem & we maintained our banking in the USA. We did not have any investment trades, other than money-market transfers, while in Mexico.

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4 hours ago, Tomas said:

Ed Jones is a joke...there are many better financial outfits available..as noted above, have family or friends receive your mail and forward as necessary via FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc..If the State asks questions regarding residence/taxes tell them that you live away and your children forward your mail..Keep things easy and simple...Good luck..

Have your relatives buy a scanner, scan anything important and send it email.

Anything that I have to send back, I FAX.  I have a US Vonage phone number and for some reason, a FAX is generally accepted rather than an email attachment.  Or, any of the mail services here will take mail to the US and get a US mail stamp when it is mailed.

Windows has a FAX built in.  I've lived in MX for a decade and none of the banks, brokerages etc know where I live.  As far as anyone knows, I live in TX.

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  • 1 year later...
On 1/22/2017 at 12:26 PM, barcelonaman said:

There is a reason why america and most other countries have these requirements you are all trying to dodge.

Money laundering and terrorism.!

Yes.  Let's treat everyone as if guilty.  The American way is what it has become.

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After 9/11 the government updated their data base on mail forwarding services. The USPS has a complete list of all such legit businesses and anyone or company can purchase the list to see if a client is using a legitimate residential address. Most banks, DMV's, etc. use that to one extent or another. If they really want to check up on you it's very easy.

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I told my adviser at Shwab that I am moving to Mexico, and she said pretty much, don't tell and we won't ask.  I was really asking about their international account. But it appears from this that she might be misinformed.  Like others, it's not practical for us to use friends or relatives.  We have accounts with USAA but I find their investment services very limited.  We are in the process of moving now and haven't decided.  But RVGringo rightly pointed out that there are people who RV full time in the US who don't have physical addresses either.  I understand the concerns about money laundering very well, but there still should be a legit solution for people like us.  However, we are not a sizeable group (in political lobbying terms) and really not any elected official's mandate to take care of.  Sigh.

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