One of the things that Switzerland is most famous for is the excellent banking industry. Although the transparency level has increased considerably over the last years in order to prevent money laundering activities, Switzerland is still one of the countries with the highest level of privacy that banks provide to their customers.
Who can open a Swiss bank account?
Foreign citizens are allowed to open a Swiss bank account, no matter what nationality they have or their country of residence. Bank accounts can be held in Swiss francs or in other currencies (US dollars, euros etc.).
However, it is important to note that most Swiss banks set up a minimum deposit amount in order to be able to open a Swiss bank account. Therefore, it is not unusual to request and compare offers made by several Swiss banks to choose the one most suitable for your banking needs.
Documentation needed to open a Swiss bank account
All banks require identification documents from their customers. In the case of foreign customers, it is necessary to provide a passport. If some customers are not able to go in Switzerland and open a bank account in person, they have the option to send a copy of the passport that is certified by an approved institution.
Swiss banks are not allowed to accept suspect funds, or funds that have been obtained through criminal activities. To avoid these situations, it is common for Swiss banks to require documents as proof for the origin of the deposited funds. The documents can be salary payment, documents that prove the sale of property etc.
Privacy level of Swiss banks
Employees of Swiss banks are not allowed to reveal any type of information about the accounts or their customers. This is a legal requirement. Banking secrecy is the key base for the success of the Swiss banking industry; therefore all banks emphasize this aspect in their business conduct.
Over recent years, Switzerland has signed several agreements with other countries in an attempt to prevent tax evasion. This means that financial information of bank account owners may be exchanged for tax purposes. In some situations, Swiss banks are obliged to cooperate with foreign authorities.
Anonymous bank accounts
There are no completely anonymous bank accounts, due to the fact that all Swiss banks must verify the identity of a customer before opening a bank account. On the other hand, to ensure the highest possible level or privacy, it is possible to open a numbered account.
In the case of numbered accounts, the customer must still provide its identity, but all transactions related to the bank account will be identified using the number of the account instead of the name of the account owner.
Open a Swiss bank account online
It is possible to open a Swiss bank account with some of the bigger banks, without being physically present in Switzerland if large deposits are made (from 50,000 CHF to 250,000 CHF). In other cases, it is possible to appoint a legal representative in Switzerland to open a bank account on your behalf.
E-banking is also an option, as some banks offer the possibility to open an online bank account by filling out a form.
Restrictions for opening Swiss bank accounts
Depending on the current political situation, some restrictions regarding the nationality of the bank account owner may apply, from one bank to another. There might be some political embargos that reflect such restrictions, or politically exposed individuals that are not excepted. Swiss banks generally tend to do checks to see whether the candidate applying is indeed a politically exposed person or has otherwise restrictive factors in his record.
Safety of Swiss banks
Swiss banks are considered to be some of the safest in the world. Cantonal banks have all a state guarantee that goes usually up to 100,000 CHF on all accounts. This means that the state guarantees for the sum in any type of situation.
Larger Swiss banks are considered too big to ever fall during an economic crisis, which means that bank deposits made are safe.