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Reader question: Can I open a Swiss bank account from abroad?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Reader question: Can I open a Swiss bank account from abroad?

A number of misconceptions surround Switzerland’s banks, including how easy / difficult it is to open an account. Here’s the information you can… bank on.


There are many reasons why people who live abroad may want to open a bank account here — for instance, they are relocating to Switzerland, or travel here often, or want the stability of the country’s financial sector, or maybe they just like to brag at parties about having money in a Swiss bank.

Gold, secrecy and wealth: Six Swiss bank myths that need to be busted

But can foreigners actually open an account here and if so, how do they go about it?

Depending on your circumstances, the process can be either quite complex or relatively easy.

What you need to know

Despite what you may have heard, you don’t have to be a millionaire to open an account in Switzerland — though banks would certainly prefer you were.

OVERVIEW: How to open a bank account in Switzerland

And also contrary to any pre-conceived ideas you may have, you can’t open an “anonymous”  account where you can park your undeclared money to evade taxes.


In fact, if you want to place your money in Switzerland, you will have to go through a rigorous vetting process, especially if you live abroad.

That’s because in order to shed its long-held image as safekeepers of illicit  or hidden assets, the banks have cleaned up their act over the past decades, choosing transparency over opaqueness.

This is what you need to email to the bank to set up an account in Switzerland from abroad.

  • Authenticated (notorised) proof of your identity, such as a valid passport, along with your address abroad.
  • Document(s) showing the legal source of your funds. A typical proof that your money comes from legitimate sources could be a statement from a bank in your country showing salary payments or documents from the sale of property.

But even if you provide all the required documents, banks have the right to turn you away.

For example, according to Swiss Banking Association, an umbrella organisation for Switzerland’s financial sector, “a bank might refuse to enter into a business relationship with a politically exposed person. It may also reject a prospective customer if it has doubts about the origins of that person’s funds”.  

READ MORE: Which bank is best for Americans in Switzerland?

There are also other factors to consider before you decide to place your money in Switzerland.

Though you may have heard about the legendary Swiss bank secrecy, there are specific instances when this confidentiality can be broken.

Switzerland has signed agreements with a number of countries to cooperate in exchange of financial information of their respective citizens.

EXPLAINED: Which banks are best for foreigners in Switzerland?

So, if you are a foreign resident (or even a foreign national living in Switzerland),  under the terms of the agreement the government of your country can request Switzerland to release your account(s) information and Switzerland must comply.

Also, additional hurdles are in place for people living in the United States.


To prevent its residents from stashing their money in offshore accounts in order to evade taxes, US regulations require foreign banks to report to US tax authorities (IRS) all the assets that belong to US citizens – whether living in America or abroad.

Swiss banks are reluctantly complying with the rules because failure to do so can seriously impact their ability to do business in America.




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