A lot of French administrative tasks are tricky or time-consuming for foreigners, but opening a bank account is frequently very difficult – especially for Americans.
The US law known as FATCA obliges all banks that have accounts for US nationals to share information. It was intended to stop money-laundering but for Americans living abroad it has meant that many banks simply don’t want the hassle and refuse accounts to US citizens.
Numerous readers of The Local have reported being repeatedly turned down by French banks, making daily living very difficult.
But a new law that comes into effect on June 13th will make things a little bit easier.
It’s not a perfect solution, however.
The changes to the Droit au compte bancaire (right to a bank account) state that if a person has requested an account from a French bank and not received a reply within 15 days, they can appeal directly to Banque de France.
Banque de France will then designate a bank near to the person’s home address and request them to open an account for the person.
The bank is not obliged to open the account – but it does have to explain why to Banque de France if the account is refused.
The designated bank will be expected to provide the following basic services:
- opening, maintaining and closing an account;
- issue of bank identity documents on request;
- a monthly statement of transactions made to the account;
- cashing of cheques and bank transfers;
- deposits and withdrawals of cash at the bank’s counter or at its cash machines;
- direct debit, interbank payment or bank transfer;
- means of remote viewing of the account balance;
- a credit card
The new process does not cover people who do receive a reply within the designated 15 days – but the reply is a refusal.
Previously those refused a bank account did have the right to appeal to Banque de France, but the process was more complicated and required an attestation de refus d’ouverture de compte (certificate of refusal). Now just evidence of your request is enough.
The law states: “This procedure is open to all persons residing in France or in a Member State of the European Union, to all French citizens resident abroad and also to applicants who are banned from banking.”
Article 58 of the Banking Law of January 24th 1984 states that all French citizens and French residents are entitled to a French bank account.
However, French banks are not obliged to open an account for you, meaning that many people whose situations are ‘non typical’ such as foreigners in France find themselves repeatedly turned down for an account.
In addition to the Banque de France route, other advice for foreigners is simply to shop around – different banks have different policies on foreigners – or opt for an international account or internet banking account.