In popular culture, due to Switzerland's age-old tradition as a financial center as well as the whiff of exclusivity surrounding it, there is a lot of prestige attached to owning a Swiss bank account. But joining the club is easier than you probably think.
The first thing you don't need to worry about when applying to open a bank account in Switzerland is the language barrier: Front office employees in most major Swiss banks speak English, and a few of them (such as Credit Suisse) even have English versions of their brochures.
This is just one of the many details that make up the prestige of the Swiss banking sector – a prestige that will continue to work in your favor in terms of professionalism and helpfulness during your working relationship with the bank of your choosing.
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What you need to bring to open a Swiss bank account
Opening an account in Switzerland, or anywhere in the world, for that matter, is subject to various regulations. The first thing you need to know is that the application process can vary depending on your nationality and place of residence. But for your application, there are three things you will definitely need:
- An ID card or passport
- A valid Swiss residency and work permit (or a residency permit plus a Swiss employment contract)
The last point is as important as the previous two, because you cannot open a bank account over the phone or send your partner or even lawyer to open one for you. Swiss laws require banks to verify a potential client's source of income and confirm his or her identity.
Opening a Swiss joint account
Speaking of partners: If you would like to open a joint account with your husband or wife or anyone else, each account holder must be identified separately and you might also be asked to sign tax compliance forms.
In any case, your bank will advise you of any supporting documents you might need once your application is logged.
Opening a Swiss bank account as a US citizen
A note to US citizens: Thanks to a bilateral agreement between the US and Switzerland, it is possible to open a fully tax compliant account in accordance with the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).
Welcome to the club!