How To Open a Bank Account in Switzerland From Abroad?

Do you need a Swiss bank account? There are various reasons why foreign nations are interested in getting a Swiss bank account. Swiss or European banks are helpful in many situations, from doing money transfers in Switzerland or within Europe to withdrawing cash abroad. Access to the European banking system is beneficial and can be achieved by opening an account in one of the Swiss or European banks.

Foreign nationals living abroad can open a bank account in Switzerland both in a physical bank or online. Only a limited number of Swiss banks offer that service, including Credit Suisse. Non-residents can also opt for other European banking alternatives such as Nuri or DKB.

If you are planning to move to Switzerland or just want to have a secure European bank account – Swiss banks are the best choice. For non-residents, the best way to open a Swiss bank account is online. Read this article to learn how to open a Swiss account from abroad and which banking alternatives you have. Check out best Swiss banks for foreigners in this article.

Opening Swiss bank account from abroad

Switzerland has around 150 banks and is considered one of the world’s major wealth holders. Thus, many people from all parts of the world have heard about Swiss banks and would like to have an account at one of them. Foreigners can open a Swiss bank account, but they must meet several requirements.

It’s common practice when persons residing abroad and willing to open a Swiss bank account have to come to Switzerland in person. Some Swiss banks charge higher fees for foreign people assuming higher risks and additional expenses. Others can require a certain minimum amount to be deposited into the account.

You can see a detailed overview of fees for foreign clients (non-residents) in most Swiss banks here.

Whether you need to appear in person at a bank branch depends on the circumstances. Money laundering law plays a role; banks are afraid of fraud and account misuse. Moreover, knowing the customer is a good practice preferred by most traditional organizations.

Nonetheless, due to digitalization, more and more banks offer online alternatives. For example, now it’s also possible to carry out identity verification online as well as to send all necessary documents via email.

Moreover, everyone residing in Switzerland can open a bank account online. At the same time, non-residents will be required by many banks to visit in person. Foreigners with residence permit type B or C in Switzerland mostly have no problems opening an account online or in person.

Keep in mind that Swiss banks are verifying the economic justification for opening an account and the origin of the money. How they will proceed with it depends on the individual case and on the bank. Banks will ask for more detailed documentation from overseas applicants.

Generally, you must prove your identity by providing a passport and residency card (if applicable) and your address. You will also be asked to provide details about your personal and employment history.

Any personal documents will need to be authenticated, either by providing a notarized copy or Apostille stamp or by visiting a bank branch in person.

It’s also possible to open a bank account in Switzerland remotely. Some banks will require you to post the documents via the post office, while others do an identity verification through a video call. If you opt to open a Swiss bank account from abroad, it’s better to have a local representative who can present the documents to the bank on your behalf.

Keep in mind that opening a bank account in Switzerland without a permanent address can be challenging, and many banks will refuse such applicants.

Before choosing your Swiss bank account, you’ll want to consider how you intend to use it. Accounts have features to suit different types of customers, for example:

  • People planning to move to Switzerland, or who visit regularly and are looking for a day to day account in Swiss francs (CHF)
  • Cross-border commuters who live outside of Switzerland and are paid in CHF, but usually spend in EUR
  • People looking to manage CHF and some other currencies
  • High wealth individuals who will trade and invest in CHF funds

See best Swiss bank accounts for foreigners here.

Benefits of having an account at Swiss bank

Switzerland is a country well-known for its banks, not without reason. Having a bank account in Switzerland provides many benefits to everyone residing abroad and in Switzerland. Swiss banks are one of the safest in the world to store your money.

The Swiss banking system is comparable to the European one, where you will have access to the IBAN. IBAN allows low-cost and fast transfers called SEPA, used in all European countries.

With a Swiss bank, you can:

  • Withdraw cash abroad and in Switzerland
  • Make and receive money transfers within IBAN system
  • Have access to the overdraft facilities
  • Make payments with no additional fees

There are nearly 400 banks in Switzerland. UBS and Credit Suisse Group are dominating the market share and possess almost half of all bank branches in the country. Customers can choose between a large bank network, a regional, or a private bank.

Swiss banks have a reputation for providing anonymity, safety, and have gained the reputation of a tax haven. Yet, nowadays, Russian oligarchs don’t hide their money in Swiss banks. Switzerland doesn’t provide those secret accounts anymore.

A new law in Switzerland, called the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), requires the country to provide information about US bank accounts in Switzerland. It makes tax evasion highly improbable.

Ultimately, Swiss banks offer economic security, e.g., low levels of financial risk, stability, confidentiality, and asset protection. They also provide accounts in all major currencies.

These benefits make Swiss banks the most economically stable and secure place where you can store and manage your money. Yet, banks are more cautious and much more regulated for non-residents who want to open Swiss accounts. Consequently, opening a Swiss bank account might be impossible for some people and manageable for others.

Requirements for opening a Swiss bank account

Whether you’re in Switzerland or abroad, there are some standard requirements that everyone will have to meet when opening an account in a Swiss bank.

Each bank in Switzerland sets its own requirements, but the basics remain the same. Firstly, an applicant must be at least 18 years old and have a valid ID. Besides that, some banks will request the following:

  • Proof of address in Switzerland or other country – proof of residence, for example an official document or current utility bill as tenant, etc.
  • Proof of employment
  • Proof of residence permit G, B or C types
  • For cross-border workers often a G permit and proof of employment is required
  • Verification of the origin of the income (this could be a statement from the last bank)

Due to the fight against money laundering, every bank is obliged to clarify the origin of the funds. In case of doubtful origin, each bank reserves the right to refuse a client.

If you’re looking to open a Swiss account from abroad, you’ll need to get your documents authorized. It can be done by getting notarized copies or an Apostille stamp.

Minimum deposit

Some Swiss banks may require a client to deposit a minimum amount, which can be even 10,000 CHF ($9,000) within a month of opening an account. However, according to Swissbanking.org, most Swiss banks don’t require a minimum deposit today.

Yet, some private banks may require a particular amount to start your account officially. Luckily, most Swiss banks take US dollars, so you don’t need to convert the deposit into Swiss Francs.

How to open a Swiss bank account from abroad?

The simplest way to open a Swiss bank account is by visiting a bank in person. If you don’t have such an opportunity, some banks open an account online. In general, accounts take from one week up to one month to become active.

To open a bank account in Switzerland, follow these steps:

  1. Select the bank
  2. Compete the online application process
  3. Verify your identity

1. Select the suitable bank

For foreign nationals, we recommend a digital bank Nuri, that works not only in Switzerland but in all EU and EEA states. The sign-up process is simple and can be done online in a few minutes.

2. Complete an online application

The second step is to fill out the online account applications. The bank will ask for your personal data such as name, address, marital status, citizenship, residency, etc. Allow 5-10 minutes to complete the process.

What might you need to provide to the bank during the online application?

  • valid passport or European ID card
  • first name and family name
  • email address
  • Swiss or foreign home address and mobile telephone number
  • date of birth
  • nationality and the country in which you were born

3. Verify your identity

The last step is a requirement of any bank – you need to verify your identity before the account will be open. This is made to prevent money laundering and is required by the state. Swiss banks offer various verification methods. The most common are the PostIdent and VideoIdent procedures.

Bank will collect all documents requested to verify the applicant’s identity before a bank account can be used. It may take up to 30 days to obtain these documents in exceptional cases.

No withdrawals may be made until the documents have been received, and access to the account will be blocked at the end of the 30-day period if the documents have not been submitted by then.

Citizens of some countries will have difficulties opening bank account in Switzerland

Documents for opening a bank account that is issued abroad must be certified either by apostille or legalization, depending on the country of issue. There are some countries that Swiss banks can reject.

Bank account with a Swiss residence permit

Having a Swiss residency will definitely help you to open a bank account in Switzerland. Foreign nationals might have various residence permits, but the procedure is much easier, and the approval rate is much higher than for a non-resident.

Opening an account with B and C permits

With a residence permit B or a settlement permit C, foreign nationals can open an account at most Swiss banks without difficulty. This rule also applies to diplomats performing their service in Switzerland.

Many banks will accept your application, provided they have a Swiss residence or work permit of at least 6 months.

Some Kantonal banks may have stricter requirements. For example, a Thurgauer Kantonal bank doesn’t deal with any foreign customers without a permanent residence in Switzerland.

Furthermore, the customer’s nationality can also be a factor for opening a bank account in Switzerland.

Open a Swiss bank account online

Nowadays, it’s also possible to open a bank account in Switzerland online. Some banks will have certain products available for non-residents to open online, but others will require you to visit a Swiss branch in-person to carry out the process.

Nonetheless, as a foreign national, you must fulfill the requirements first. It includes providing an official ID, an address in the EU, or other additional documents.

When applying online, make sure you have these documents at hand. All documents must be officially authenticated (with a notarized copy or an Apostille stamp).

If you aim to open a Swiss bank account online, you should first check the offers of direct banks, more innovative banks and banking solutions. The approval rate in such organizations is much higher than in traditional banks. Furthermore, many classic banks even don’t offer such a service.

The most crucial step in opening a bank account in Switzerland is to verify the identity. The verification can be carried out in several ways, including visiting the bank or doing a video call. Some banks also require residence confirmation either in Switzerland or some European countries.

Best banks to open a bank account online

1. Nuri

Nuri is an innovative digital bank developed in Germany. They open accounts online and operate in all European countries, including Switzerland.

The biggest advantage of signing for a German bank is the ease of application, high approval rates, zero fees, and access to all the same features that any Swiss bank offers. 

Besides all Nuri’s benefits, the bank account is absolutely free for everyone. Moreover, it can be used to manage, invest and buy cryptocurrencies.

Consequently, not only do you get a fully-fledged European bank account (with IBAN and debit card) that is working in Switzerland, but you can also buy, sell, and store Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH).

With Nuri you get:

  • Free bank account
  • Free Visa debit card
  • Free cash withdrawals worldwide
  • German IBAN
  • Free SEPA transfers and payments
  • Open a bank account online
  • Insurance on deposits up to 100,000 CHF
  • Interest on Bitcoin (BTC) holdings
  • Great mobile app
  • Customer support in English and German

Things to keep in mind:

  1. Currently, Nuri bank account is available for citizens of 70 countries; check out all eligible nationalities here.
  2. The daily limit for cash withdrawals is 1,500 CHF. 

Opening a bank account with Nuri can be done in a few minutes online. To successfully open an account, you need to be at least 18 years old and resident in the EAA, including Switzerland and UK. You will be asked to submit a proof of address to confirm your residency.

2. DKB

DKB bank account is available for Swiss residents and people living abroad. An opening is possible online via Videoident.

DKB or Deutsche Kreditbank is a solid German bank with very attractive options for foreigners. With DKB, you can enjoy a free account and free cash withdrawn at all Visa ATMs abroad (over 1 million worldwide).

DKB bank offers customers a free bank account and a Visa card. That allows you free cash withdrawal from anywhere in the world. Moreover, all banking transactions can be done online, and you do not have to go to the branch.

With over 4,5 million customers, DKB is the third-largest direct bank in Germany. DKB is an optimal bank if you are located or visit Europe often. Furthermore, even as a non-resident, you can use overdraft on the Visa card, hence, it can be a great alternative to the credit card.

People residing in Germany, Austria, or Switzerland have the highest approval rates in this bank.

By signing for DKB you will receive a European debit card and an international Visa card.

DKB offers:

  • Free bank account
  • Free online banking
  • Money deposits in EUR and foreign currency possible
  • Free VISA card
  • Zero foreign transaction costs
  • Free cash withdraw and payments with Visa card in Europe, and worldwide
  • Account opening online via VideoIdent, PostIdent or from some other countries via identification by notary, lawyer or bank

3. Wise

A multi-currency account from Wise is accessible to almost anyone regardless of the country of origin or residency. It’s not clear in which countries Wise account is available, but it can be used in at least 80 countries and 54 currencies.

You can also open a Wise account free of charge and hold not only EUR but a total of over 54 currencies in one place. Account owners also get a fair average exchange rate without surcharge and hidden fees when using foreign currencies.

Wise card is suitable for both online and offline payments and can be used to withdraw money from any ATM that accepts Visa/Mastercard. Withdraws of up to 200 EUR per month are free of charge; after that, a fee of 1,75% applies.

You can open Wise multicurrency account online and from abroad. That way, you can hold multiple currencies, including Swiss francs. Furthermore, it’s also possible to open a Wise business account, depending on your needs.

Bear in mind, that Wise doesn’t come with a Swiss bank account, but it has an approval rate of almost 100%.

Nuri compared to DKB and Wise as an alternative to the Swiss bank account:

NuriDKBWise
Cash withdrawal EUR/CHFFreeFreeUp to 200 EUR free after 1,75%
Cash withdrawal non – EUR/CHFFreeFree for active customers* Up to 200 EUR free after 1,75%
Account openingOnlineOnlineOnline
Online bankingYes inc. mobile appYes inc. mobile appYes inc. mobile app

*To be considered an active customer, your monthly turnover on the account must be over 700 EUR; otherwise, a fee of 2,20% applies.

Open a bank account in Switzerland as a non-resident

Can a non-resident open a bank account in Switzerland? Theoretically, yes. You would need to contact a Swiss bank and request an application package. While normal residents traditionally open an account at the bank directly. Non-residents also can open a bank account in Switzerland, but they will have very limited options. Non-resident bank accounts are often offered by direct or international (foreign) banks.

Moreover, opening an account tends to be very simple for residents, while non-residents may face more limitations. Plus, ordinary Swiss bank accounts are usually associated with high fees for customers living abroad.

Swiss banks may require from non-residents a minimum deposit and higher account management fees due to the additional expenses.

  • Most Swiss banks charge higher fees to customers residing outside of Switzerland and Liechtenstein who want to open a bank account in Switzerland for non-residents.
  • Some banks waive fees for a Swiss bank account for non-residents for customers who hold large number of assets.

Consequently, you can open a Swiss bank account as a non-resident, but you need to provide more documents than a resident. For example, a large bank Credit Suisse offers a non-resident account. For this, potential clients need to provide a set of documents.

You can see a detailed overview of fees for foreign clients (non-residents) in most Swiss banks here.

DKB

You can open a DKB bank account with a residence in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and some other countries (regardless of nationality).

  • optional credit card
  • money withdraw – free with Visa Debit Card on all ATMs with Visa sign
  • money withdraw outside EU-countries – free with Visa Debit Card on all ATMs with Visa sign
  • interest paid on overdraft – 6,74%
  • proof of identification abroad – VideoIdent, local bank or lawyer

The video chat is possible daily (also on weekends) between 7 am and 10 pm Swiss local time.

Credit Suisse

Bank Credit Suisse is one of the few financial institutions in Switzerland officially offering a non-resident account.

Requirements for a non-resident at Credit Suisse:

  • Identity proof (official document, e.g. passport, ID).
  • Proof of funds source. This could be a bank statement showing documents from the sale of property or salary payments.
  • Be over 18 years old.

Applicants at Credit Suisse don’t need to be physically present in the country to open an account. They can complete the process by post by sending a copy of the passport certified by an approved institution. However, minimum deposit amounts still apply.

See the full document about the non-resident account at Credit Suisse.

Type of banks in Switzerland

There are two types of banks in Switzerland – national and cantonal. National banks provide consumer bank accounts and products to everyone, while cantonal banks are only available to residents of a specific canton (member states of the Swiss Confederation).

If you’re looking to open a bank account in Switzerland, a national bank is the best option. This is especially the case for expats who plan to move around to different parts of Switzerland. If you open an account with a cantonal bank, you’ll have to switch accounts if you move to a different canton. With a national bank, it’s more flexible.

National banks in Switzerland

Cantonal banks in Switzerland

All cantons have banks apart from Solothurn and Appenzell Ausserrhoden. You can find the websites of each main cantonal bank below (some websites are only available in French and German).

Regional and savings banks are also available in Switzerland, which tend to deal with business and retail banking.

Source: Expatica.com

Examples of fees at some common Swiss banks:

Management fee (per year)Account opening Management fee waivered from
PostFinance360 CHF – 444 CHFBranch, post officeN/A
Migros BankCHF 60-120BranchCHF 250,000.00
UBSCHF 120BranchCHF 50,000.00
Valiant578 CHFBranchN/A
AKBCHF 195-735BranchCHF 50,000.00

See the full overview of fees for non-residents in the largest Swiss banks.

Want to open a bank account in Switzerland remotely?

Opening a Swiss bank account remotely is comparable with the procedure of opening it online. You can scroll back and see the steps for the online opening process.

Generally, the requested documents are an ID card, address, and proof of residence.

How to open a bank account in Switzerland from the US?

If you’re a US citizen, you’ll face some additional hurdles when opening a bank account in Switzerland, regardless of whether or not you have a residence permit in the country.

If you’re from the US, it’s important to check the details and eligibility requirements for a bank account in Switzerland. It’s related to the FACTA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) legislation. Swiss banks are particularly careful with American clients since they have additional responsibilities when offering accounts to US citizens. 

In fact, opening a bank account in Switzerland got more complicated for US citizens. Only a few banks offer reliable solutions.

Changes in European Law as well as the enforcement of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA), mean that US citizens can’t hide their money from IRS. Hence, funds held overseas by US citizens must be reported by banks to the IRS to ensure full US tax compliance.

This involves some extra work; smaller Swiss banks are unwilling to deal with new customers from the US and don’t even take them on.

Furthermore, Swiss banks are forced to require US citizens to fill out extra paperwork and onerous financial disclosures in order to get the job done.

How can an Indian open an account in a Swiss bank?

Residents of any nationality are eligible for a bank account at the Swiss bank. Indian nationals can open a bank account in Switzerland if they live or work in Switzerland. In that case, you should provide a residence permit and proof of income source.

If you are Indian and don’t have an official residency in Switzerland, check out Credit Suisse, they provide a non-resident account.

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