I am a US citizen who was born in the UK and has lived there for 18 years. I am about to move to attend college in the US and I have some questions about addresses etc. When applying for bank accounts, I've been asked for a legal/residential address (US only). Since I've never lived here, I'm not sure what to put. I have a SSN but I'm not sure what address could be connected to it.

I've also been dealing with credit cards and am wondering what the address associated with my credit score would be.

Lastly, now that I will have a permanent address (my university), can I start putting that as my legal address?

Hope this is not the wrong place to post this but wasn't sure where else to go.

1 Answer 1


"Legal address" is used often but it does not have any special meaning when it refers to a person's address. It simply denotes a place where you can receive mail and where the police can possibly find you if they happen to be looking for you. You should specify a place where you know you can receive some mail in the US. Perhaps, the university office responsible for your orientation and settling in? And then update your address as soon as you find a place to live.

A SSN relates only to a person and is not "connected" to any address. So there is no wrong answer there. (When you get close to retirement age, the Social Security administration will start to send you money to the address they have on file -- but you can worry about setting this address long in the future).

As for credit cards: Credit Card transactions as a part of the payment card industry's anti-fraud measures, links a "transaction billing address" to the cardholder's payment address. These must match up in order for the transaction to go through. So for the credit card address the most important detail is consistency.

You will not have any US credit history until you begin to make transactions in the US (or more specifically, establish a billing address and start to make repayments on loans). Your US credit history is a very important record for living a normal life in the USA. The record consists of name variants, addresses, accounts and payments associated with you over time - and the "Credit score" is just a simplified way of summarizing how good or bad your history is. If you pay your bills on time, you will have an excellent credit score. If you open credit accounts with numerous pseudonyms, move around a lot and pay bills more than 30 days late, you will have a bad looking credit history and a corresponding low score.

The "permanent address" universities refer to is intended to be your parents' address. This is the address the university will write to whenever they want to communicate with you after you have graduated. Although it is called "permanent," you can update this address any time you want so it does not need to be different from your ordinary mailing address.

  • Thanks for the very informative response. To clarify, I have a mailbox address at university but the bank form said that a "legal address" could not be a mailbox. Could I use the general address of the university? I asked about SSN because I thought that some services use your SSN to verify the address you put in. As for credit, I applied for a credit card and they emailed saying "We have been unable to verify the address listed on your credit application. As a security precaution, your new credit card has been mailed to the verified address obtained from your credit file."
    – Amja
    Aug 23, 2016 at 21:08
  • @Amja the question there is what is the verified address obtained from your credit file? Are you able to get the card company to clarify that?
    – cr0
    Aug 24, 2016 at 14:31
  • @cr0 I assume it'd be whatever address is on my credit file (which I don't know). I'll email them.
    – Amja
    Aug 24, 2016 at 14:41
  • For clarity: the Social Security Administration does not send money to an address on file. Recipients have to actively trigger social security benefits disbursement. At that time, an address can be updated and, as many do, a bank account provided into which monies are transmitted directly.
    – Giorgio
    Aug 24, 2016 at 21:24
  • To manage the issue of your uni address, try using the physical address of the building to which the mail is delivered and place the box number at the end; e.g, 123 University Ave Box 45, City, ST. And check to see if your usual address have four digits added after the 5-digit zip code. If the form allows, include all nine digits, to ensure delivery. Not allowing the use of a post office box relates to fraud prevention.
    – Giorgio
    Aug 24, 2016 at 21:38

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