How to Open Bank Accounts in Foreign Countries

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Don't go round in circles with your money: Open a bank account in a foreign country.
Don't go round in circles with your money: Open a bank account in a foreign country. (Image: Pink Piggy Bank with dollars isolated on white background image by Veniamin Kraskov from Fotolia.com)

There are no restrictions stopping U.S. citizens from opening foreign bank accounts, although assets of more than $10,000 in a foreign account must be declared to the Internal Revenue Service on an annual income tax return. Income received, such as dividends and interest, should also be declared. There are several reasons to open bank accounts in foreign countries. If you travel and stay regularly in other countries, you benefit from paying for items in local currency, saving exchange-conversion charges. You may be able to obtain better interest rates on savings, or perhaps you are buying a home overseas.

Select the country where you want to open the account and research its banking rules. They can vary considerably from those in the U.S. Check the country's banking regulator's website, which should list the rules and regulations. See which banks are in the location you want. A list of banks is available on most regulators' websites. Once you have chosen a bank, check its website for charges that may apply for setting up and operating the account. Check the services that are available to you, such as Internet banking and debit and credit cards. Apply to open a bank account in a foreign country by mail, in person or online.

Apply by mail by contacting the branch of the bank where you want to open your account and requesting an application pack. Complete the application. Enclose all details requested by the bank with the application form and mail the documents to the bank. You need to enclose a deposit. Wait for the bank to mail your account details to you. Applications by mail can take two to three weeks to complete, depending on mail services in the country to which you have applied.

Go to the bank of your choice. This is faster than mail if you are in the country where you want to open your bank account. Appointments are not necessary in most countries. Ensure you have a passport, proof of address and income details (pay slip or other means of proving your financial position). Complete the application form and make a deposit. Wait for the bank to open your account within one to three days.

Apply online to your chosen bank as an alternative to mail or visiting a bank personally. Complete the online application form and any other details requested. Submit the form to the bank, which provides a provisional decision and asks you to make a deposit by debit or credit card. You are given the address for mailing your original identification details. This process is slightly shorter than applying by mail and offers the benefit of not having to wait for an application pack to arrive. The bank should return your documents and provide you with account details in less than two weeks.

Tips & Warnings

  • Not all foreign banks offer the facility to open an account online due to proof of identity regulations. Even if you are able to complete the application form it is likely that you will have to mail your passport and other proof of identity.
  • Be patient. It can take some time to process your application.
  • If opening an account in person, you can nominate a person in the country to complete the application process or deal with issues on your behalf. You will need to provide written notice to the bank.
  • Don't open an account in countries where there is little or no official banking supervision. Your money may not be protected.

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