1. Who can open a bank account in Switzerland?Swiss banks are happy to have foreign residents as customers. You can hold an account in Swiss francs or in a range of other world currencies.
Each bank will set the minimum deposit amount for opening the account, so you will need to find a bank that will accept the amount of funds you have.
2. Which documents will I need?All banks will require customers to prove their identity with an official document, usually a passport.
If you are not able to go to Switzerland in person to open the account, you may complete the procedure by post by sending a copy of your passport certified by an approved institution.
By law, banks in Switzerland are not allowed to accept funds which they know or suspect have been obtained through criminal activities.
Therefore, it’s normal when opening an account for the bank to ask for documents proving the origin of the funds.
This could be a bank statement showing salary payments or documents from the sale of property.
3. How private is Swiss banking?It is illegal for employees of Swiss banks to reveal any information about customers’ accounts.
This secrecy is the foundation for the success of the Swiss banking industry, so you can be sure that your privacy will be totally respected.
You should note, however, that in recent years, several agreements have been signed between Switzerland and countries including the USA, Germany and the UK in attempt to crack down on tax evasion.
These agreements mean that, while Switzerland fiercely protects privacy, there are some circumstances where banks must cooperate with foreign authorities.
4. How do I open an anonymous account?In fact, in Switzerland there is no such thing as a completely anonymous account and a bank must always verify your identity before opening an account for you.
However, if you are looking for the highest level of privacy from your bank, you may be interested in opening a numbered account.
You will still be required to prove your identity, but transactions related to your account will not be identified with your name, but instead with the number of your account.
For more information, get in touch with the bank where you are interested in opening an account and ask them which services they provide.
5. Do I need to be physically present in Switzerland to open an account?
No. It is possible to open an account with most of the bigger brands without being in Switzerland, however these banks will require a minimum deposit for this that can go from 100.000 CHF up to 500.000 CHF.
If this is out of your possibilities, e-banking can be another option as some banks let you open an account online by filling a form on their websites.
6. Are there specific nationalities that can not open an account?
Restrictions regarding nationalities vary from bank to bank and depend on the current political situation.
There might be political embargos that reflect restrictions - this is now the case of Russia and Iraq for example - or politically exposed people that will not be accepted.
For US citizens there is now the chance to open legal fully FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) compliant bank accounts in Switzerland.
7. How safe is my money in Switzerland?
Some banks known as “Kantonal Banks” - Postfinance, Zurcher Kantonal Bank - have a state guarantee in all accounts of up to 100.000 CHF. This means that Switzerland as a state guarantees you that sum.
Bigger banks like UBS or Credit Suisse are considered to be “too big to fall” during an economic crisis so your deposits are more than safe here.