How to Open a Foreign Bank Account Remotely?

Anyone who does a lot of international business — for work, study, business, or other reasons — should consider opening a foreign or offshore bank account online. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that holders of accounts set up with offshore banks abroad enjoy many more benefits than possible savings on fees and better rates of return.

The main reason why you may need to have a bank account –  offshore or just across the border – is to protect your assets. Protect your assets from what?  From a variety of micro and macro risks in your home country. Banking offshore is an opportunity to shield yourself and your assets from being targeted by aggressive, if meritless, lawsuits.  If you live in a politically unstable country, you might be at risk from currency devaluation, illegal expropriation or seizure of funds by governmental authorities or corrupt courts, introduction or expansion of currency controls, and many other perils associated with keeping all your assets  in one financial institution or jurisdiction.

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Moreover, banking internationally opens up  greater financial freedom and new horizons – especially in terms of investing in promising projects like overseas real estate, funds  or private equity deals that might not be open to you as a domestic investor.. Offshore bank accounts held in the names of legal entities (companies, trusts, foundations and the like) offer greater privacy and enhance credibility in the eyes of international partners and customers, enabling faster payment settlement and transfers (in the appropriate currencies), and can considerably reduce the fees charged for transactions.

The following types of offshore bank accounts are most often opened by non-residents:

  • Current or checking accounts. Also known in the trade as Demand Deposit Accounts,  they are the best for frequent transactions (deposit and withdrawal of money, SWIFT transfers, cheques, letters of credit etc). Please note that some banks set a minimum balance that needs to remain in a bank account regardless of the value of transactions. Such accounts are essential in international trade and business with foreign partners.
  • Savings or Investment accounts are opened primarily for saving excess liquidity. They are not suitable for day-to-day transactions. A savings account allows you to earn interest on your funds, while a private banking account is where you can invest in financial instruments like stocks and shares, bonds and the like.

PRO TIP: Fortunately, it’s often possible to combine both types of accounts – or better still, combine various personal and business accounts – in one international bank. That way you can easily move funds between accounts, often for zero fees and with less compliance work involved. You can also negotiate better deals on bank charges because of the total amount deposited.

There is no doubt that foreign or offshore bank accounts offer many advantages and may even be a bare necessity in some cases. But is it possible to open an account abroad at a distance without leaving your country of residence?

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Is opening a foreign bank account online possible?

Yes! Citizens of almost any country can remotely open a bank account abroad electronically. This allows them to save time and money on flights, and sometimes on courier expenses if the bank accepts documents submitted online. Even notarization may not be required if the bank account opening documents can be submitted as certified copies of the original. 

However, let’s be completely transparent: it would be extremely difficult to open a bank account online on your own. First, not all foreign banks agree to open accounts electronically. And those that do so, often do not want to make this possibility publicly known. 

Second, the requirements for online applications that foreign banks post on their sites are often incomplete. Only those who work with these banks all the time know all the details of the procedure. Moreover, offshore and international private banks are somewhat old fashioned – they are often more comfortable working  onboarding new clients who are recommended by professional credible experts who are already known to  the bank.. Cold leads from the internet are not taken very seriously.

Each financial institution has its own policies for onboarding new clients. A foreign bank account remote opening can be done in different ways:

  • during a video meeting or conference call  with a banker plus the online submission of documents;
  • by sending documents by post or courier;
  • via an in-person visit to a local office of the foreign bank in the country of residence;
  • by signing a bank form and notarizing it in the country of residence, then sending documents to the bank. 

These are just some of the possible options. Once the account is set up, it is usually managed by its owner completely online. In the case of Private Banking services, a private banker or a small team will be assigned to the client, and these people will be responsible for answering questions and executing transactions.

We can help you select the right account. Send us your questions and we’ll get back to you within a few hours. Please contact us at the e-mail address given at the top of this page or use our Live Chat or WhatsApp.

Where can I open a foreign bank account remotely?

Fortunately,  many offshore banks and financial institutions open non-resident accounts remotely even with the current challenging compliance environment and political pressure. They focus on foreign clients, offer a wide range of services, and protect customer confidentiality. Let’s look at some of them. 

Switzerland is one of the most popular and best known countries where you can open a bank account remotely. For example, to open a bank account for an individual or trust/corporate structure in some Swiss banks, it is sufficient to conduct a meeting via video-conferencing. You can open a multi-currency account abroad  (the minimum deposit starts from 5,000 EUR, CHF, or USD). All services are available online, and the bankers can communicate in many languages!  

Check out our top 10 Swiss banking choices here.  

Banks in some other European countries (for example,  Liechtenstein, Portugal) also open non-resident accounts online. They are an ideal solution for customers wishing to grow and invest their assets. Looking for crypto-friendly offshore banks? Banks in Liechtenstein are particularly crypto-friendly. Clients mostly interested in their asset protection against various risks usually choose to open several offshore accounts in different banks. For example, one bank account might be opened in Europe and another outside Europe. The list of popular countries in other parts of the world includes Bahamas, Belize, the Cook Islands,Saint Lucia, Panama, Singapore, United Arab Emirates etc.

Opening a bank account abroad: due diligence matters

Why is it important to understand compliance in offshore banks? And why is “due diligence” conducted at all?

All banks, whether they open accounts for local or international clients, are required by laws and international norms to “know their customers”. The purpose of this is to detect activity that could be unusual, representing warning signs of fraudulent activity, tax evasion, money laundering or financing terrorism amongst other things. Failure to comply with these laws is penalized with a huge fine and, perhaps more importantly these days, serious reputational damage. 

That is why offshore banks carefully check out the backgrounds of each and every one of their clients. Whether they are new applicants, customers at the stage of opening an account, or existing holders of their accounts, keeping the compliance department happy is a key to a successful offshore banking relationship. 

It does not matter if you open a personal bank account or a corporate one, if you apply online or in person: the first thing that will interest any foreign bank is the origin of your funds. All banks will ask where your money comes from.. 

The following documents are just a few examples of what may be requested as proof of the source of funds or wealth:

  • Personal account statement from another bank
  • Copy of your latest tax return
  • Personal or business financial statement prepared by a CPA
  • Pay stub
  • Documents on ownership of property or sale of some property
  • Probate or inheritance documents.

In most cases, offshore banks need documents in English or a certified English translation if your documents are in another language. Some banks may accept just scanned copies of the originals, others may require them to be certified by a notary public, and some may ask to send original documents by courier or mail. 

To set up a corporate account offshore, applicants are often required to “show the money” before the bank makes a final decision to open an account. For example, this requirement exists in many Swiss banks. And this opening deposit can only be done in three ways:

  1. from the personal account of the owner of the company (the advantage of this method is that the bank does not need to conduct any additional check of this person’s profile);
  2. from the account of the same company with another financial institution (in this case, the bank will not have to perform additional checks either);
  3. as a transfer from some contractor or partner company (in such a situation, a foreign bank will request to submit a contract, invoice, or other similar document). And of course, all these documents need to comply with/conform to the stated activity of the company. 

From companies that have been in operation for more than a year, banks will typically require a Certificate of Good Standing and/or a Certificate of Incumbency issued in the country of registration of the company. It will need to indicate all the relevant data about the legal entity, and also confirm the fact that the company is up to date on all its compliance, filing and payment obligations. 

Another document often requested by offshore banks is a letter of reference or recommendation from another bank that has served the client for more than two years. This document will allow an overseas bank to be sure that the client has already been checked by another financial institution and that the experience was good. Reference letters may also be supplied by attorneys, accountants, financial advisers and the like (these are known as “professional references) or business partners (“commercial references”)

Having successfully opened a bank account offshore – whether online or during an in-person visit – the account owner should be aware of the following important compliance recommendations

  • All transactions on the account need to be backed up by the relevant documents (contracts, invoices, bills of lading, etc.).  Even if they are not requested at the time, you might be required to show them during an annual review or account audit.
  • The bank’s questions need to be answered as quickly as possible and in as much detail as possible. For example, it is not sufficient to write that you made your money from “business activity.”  A better answer might be something like this: “I received a dividend payment from the company I owned for the financial year 2022. The company’s activity is development of apps for gamers and it carries out subcontracting work for [name verifiable companies]. The company’s website is [indicate website].”
  • If you plan some unusual transaction or transfer as part of your business activity, please consult with the bank in advance. 
  • Also, a bank abroad needs to be promptly notified about all changes in address, passport data, and other personal details.
  • Please be sure to check the dates of issue, expiration dates, etc. of all documents in advance, not when the bank notices it. For example, a Certificate of Good Standing is usually valid only for one year, so it needs to be updated annually in advance for timely submission to the bank. 
  • When planning to prepare and send the necessary documents, use a professional office scanner, rather than trying to use scanning apps on your phone that generally don’t produce good quality results. Banks prefer wet signatures in blue ink on scanned documents, rather than using services like DocuSign or electronic signatures that may not be legally recognized across borders.

All the above-mentioned tips are relevant for most banks, especially European, Asian and Caribbean banks. However, banks do differ in their policies, and their requirements can be unique. Some foreign banks ask for just a few documents, others require a lot of paperwork. Exact requirements will also vary depending on what they see as “risk factors” such as your country of residence, type of business, expected balances and more. 

Not to waste your time when opening an account online, we recommend that you contact our experts at the e-mail address given at the top of this page or via WhatsApp. They will promptly answer your questions and advise on the most relevant services.

Is it possible to open an account with a foreign bank remotely?

Yes, you can open a bank account abroad without going to the bank. However, this possibility is not available in all financial institutions. The task of finding a bank that is willing to open a bank account online is not easy if you are trying to look for it on your own. This is because many of them simply do not advertise this opportunity. Remote opening of a foreign account implies an online interview with a banker and submission of a certified package of documents by mail according to the bank’s requirements.

How can an individual open a personal bank account abroad?

First, you need to choose a foreign bank that will meet your purposes and match your financial status. In the above article we give you some tips on how to find the best foreign bank for your needs. Second, you should study its requirements, the required list of application documents, the minimum balance to be deposited on the account, etc. The success and speed of opening a bank account abroad depends largely on how well the documents are prepared and to what extent all the requirements of a particular bank are met. This is why hiring a professional who is experienced in opening foreign bank accounts can save you a lot of time and headache at the end, as well as getting your offshore bank account opened faster.

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