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Opening a bank account in France as an expat
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Paying your rent, subscribing to a mobile phone contract, paying your energy bills, paying local taxes… When moving to France, you’re almost certainly going to have to open a local bank account. Although certain transactions can be managed from your foreign account, this isn’t an affordable (or practical) long-term solution.

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Opening a bank account in France: resident vs non-resident

Regardless of your nationality, you’ll need to provide the following information when opening a bank account in France:

  • Proof of identity: passport, visa or residence permit;

  • Proof of residence: a rent receipt, an electricity or water bill, or other proof of address;

  • An example signature.

The process is reasonably simple, but becomes more complicated if you don’t yet have an address in France.

For your bank account application to be accepted without any problems, it’s often easier to apply once you’re resident in France. This means:

  • being physically resident in French territory for more than half the year;

  • and/or in receipt of income from ‘French economic activity’. This usually means a business or company that’s registered and/or generates income in France.

Banks can be a little more cautious when dealing with foreigners, since French law requires them to know both the identity and the principal banking activities of their clients. This is because existing legislation means that they can be held liable in the event of money-laundering or activities linked to terrorism.

If you’re not yet a regular resident in France, we’d recommend applying to banks which offer bank accounts specifically for non-residents.

Choosing between online banking and traditional banking

Once again, this will depend on your residential status. Although online banks are generally very competitive, you’ll need to meet certain conditions if you’re looking to sign up with one:

  • You must be domiciled in France and be resident in France for tax purposes;

  • You must have sufficient income (i.e. above a certain threshold);

  • You must already be in possession of a French Bank Identity Statement (RIB, ‘relevé d’identité bancaire’), or one from a bank in the EU.

NB: many online banks do not accept American or Franco-American nationals. This is due to the ‘loi FATCA’ (FATCA law).

If you don’t meet these requirements, it’s simpler to apply to a traditional bank.

But what happens if your application is turned down? No need to panic: all foreign residents in France have the right to open an account by applying to the Banque de France, who will assign you a bank.

Transferring funds to France from abroad: legal restrictions

There are no official regulations determining the maximum limit of a single bank transfer. Each bank sets its own rules regarding the maximum transfer amount per day, per month or even per transfer.

However, fund transfers are closely supervised, with each transaction is checked by TRACFIN. Created by the French Ministry for the Economy and Finance, TRACFIN investigates fraud, money-laundering, and financing of terrorist activities.

Finally, if you wish to transfer funds in cash, you’ll need to make a declaration to French customs for any amount exceeding €10,000.

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