Banking in France: why is it so difficult for expats to open an bank account?

Opening a French bank account

Technically, whether you live in France or not, you are allowed to open a bank account in France. However, in truth, it can be very difficult to open an account if you’re not French, and especially if you’re not European. But what exactly changes?

It’s worth mentioning that banks are always careful when opening accounts, because of stiff regulations on money-laundering. Because of this, the overwhelming majority of French Banks will want to see you in person, and won’t accept you opening an account from afar.

Furthermore, they’re also careful when checking anything relating to your identity. As such, to maximize your chances of opening your account, you should always have as many documents ready as possible, from a passport, to current bank details, to a marriage certificate. In particular, banks always ask for a “housing certificate”, or at least something that can prove where you live if that doesn’t exist in your country.

Even then, it’s really only up to the bank to decide whether to open your account or not. As such, having a French contact to help you and guide you through the procedures might just be your best shot at opening an account!