The most obvious countries that allow foreign citizens to open bank accounts also have strong economies and financial stability. Still, if you plan to open a bank account in a foreign country, you should know which ones allow – under strict rules and regulations – foreigners to apply for a bank account. Or, depending on your needs, you can opt for an online banking solution that enables you to open a payment account and make local and international money transfers among other services.
The most important thing is that you do your homework. Consider the pros and cons of online banking vs. offline banking, and generally, ask around before opening an account in a developed foreign country. To make your life easier, we’ve gathered a few examples of European countries that allow foreigners to open bank accounts and what you should know about them.
Opening a Bank Account in Germany
Opening a bank account in Germany is a straightforward process once you are familiar with all the steps and paperwork necessary before entering the bank. The most important thing to remember is that you must have a residence permit, called Aufenthaltserlaubnis. The rule does not apply to the European Union (EU) citizens, who enjoy unrestricted freedom of movement in Germany. But even EU citizens must announce their residence in the country if their stay duration is longer than two months: this is called an Anmeldung.
The Anmeldung is necessary for all residents of Germany, either foreign or nationals. Depending on the German Bundesland where you reside, the Anmeldung is done at the Bürgeramt, Rathaus, or Kreisverwaltung (sometimes Kreisverwaltungsreferat). The legal body will give you a paper with your name, address, and date of registration.
German banks will also require your passport or other forms of identification, proof of employment with payslips, and sometimes a letter from your employer justifying your need to open a bank account.
Before opening your account, most banks will either request your SCHUFA credit rating or perform a SCHUFA credit check upon agreement when you sign your bank account application form. The application form will include your name, date of birth, place of birth, nationality, address in your home country, and so on. Some German banks may require an initial deposit too.
If you plan to move to Germany and you want to be prepared to receive payments, pay bills, or buy insurance, you can open an online-only account and make the transition to a standard account later – if needed.
Opening a Bank Account in Italy
Foreign nationals residing in the country can open a bank account in Italy, just like the local citizens. Even foreigners not living in Italy can open bank accounts called conto non residenti or conto estero.
If you want to open a bank account in Italy and are a resident, you need an identity document (identity card or passport), proof of residence, proof of employment or self-employment with documents like employment contract and proof of income, and your tax code (codice fiscale).
Opening a Bank Account in Ireland
Opening a bank account in Ireland can be a bit more challenging than in other countries because of their strict banking regulations. As a foreigner, you should consider different forms of accessing your cash – eventually with your credit card from your home country – because the process of opening an account in Ireland can be somewhat time-consuming.
As always, you will need a form of identification: a passport is the only one accepted for foreigners without an Irish driver’s license.
You will need an address with two forms of your residing there – like utility bills, household insurance, health insurance, car insurance, rental agreement, or bank statements sent to your Irish address. Having an Irish phone number is mandatory too.
Some banks may ask for your Personal Public Service (PPS) Number – the Irish equivalent to a social security number, which gives you access to your social welfare benefits and public services. The bank may require it if you are currently employed in Ireland and will receive your salary in your Irish bank account.
Opening a Bank Account in the UK
You can open a bank account in the UK regardless of your country of citizenship or former country of residence. Every bank in the UK may ask for more or less documentation to allow a foreigner to open a bank account, and most of them require an initial deposit.
The first thing you need is a valid proof of ID – usually, your passport, sometimes accompanied by a biometric residence permit.
Then, collect some of the following original documents that will act as proof of address: utility bills, credit or bank statements sent to your current address, documents showing your UK National Insurance number, or the latest HM Revenue and Customs bill. All these documents should have been issued in the past three months and sent to your current UK address.
Be sure to make an appointment and be fully prepared before you attend it. In busy cities such as London, Edinburgh, and Manchester you can expect waiting times of up to two weeks to open a bank account.
Most European countries allow foreigners to open bank accounts. However, some banks tend to subject their international customers to all kinds of demands, especially for citizens coming from third-world countries. If you fall into this category, you should arm yourself with patience and the mindset to face them. Listing double proof of identity, notarized or certified documents, mandatory local employment, exorbitant account startup funds, and crippling tax regulations are only some of the requirements.
Whether you live in a European country or are planning to migrate to one, know that you can open a domestic bank account, or opt for the online alternative. The important part is that you’re always covered.