Thursday, September 11, 2008

Opening a bank account in Spain as a non-resident

I've been seeing lots of questions in the forums lately asking whether and how a non-EU resident can open a bank account in Spain. The answer, quite simply, is: yes, a non-EU citizen can open a bank account in Spain using their passport. Y punto.

If a non-EU passport holder has a permiso de residencia (and thus a NIE) in Spain, they can open a normal resident's account. If at first you don't have the NIE, you can open the account with your passport and later change it to a resident's account once you are legal.

When you open an account as a non-resident, they will have you fill out a form stating that you are not a resident in Spain. I was also asked to provide some sort of "proof" of my non-resident's status. I submitted a copy of a freelancing contract with a company back in the U.S. to show that I was working in the States. If, for example, you were studying Spanish in Spain, you could tell the bank you are studying and submit a letter from your academy backing you up. It's all just a formality. My account was open for nearly two months before I finally got around to submitting the "proof". The banks are supposed to re-verify your non-resident's status every two years. (I've never kept an account open long enough to know whether they do.)

It's all very simple, really. The only tricky part is if you don't speak Spanish. Some of the bigger banks (e.g., La Caixa, Barclays) have English-speaking representatives at certain branches. They also tend to have higher rates/fees (such as for transfers to/from your account), but if you don't have a good level of Spanish, it may be worth it.

You can find more on banking matters in Spain here.


Troy said...

As far as I know, you are completely right. I have acted as a translator for a non-resident opening a bank account here in Spain, with the BBVA, and they didn't ask for anything more than her passport. True that was out here in Extremadura and things tend to be rather looser in regards to rules out here.

In regards to which bank you should use, remember that the "Cajas" have the obligation of investing a certain amount in the local community. Although far from being altruistic, they aren't the blood suckers that the others are.

Careful with the banks if they tell you to open this account or that, it may not be in your interests but in the interests of the person selling it to you in order to meet their targets.

eslhell said...

Thanks for the extra info, Troy! And you bring up a good point -- if your Spanish isn't that good, try to find someone to help you out. Even though some banks have "English-speaking representatives", there may still be communication issues. The level of English is often nothing more than "Hello".