Once you decide that you want to live in France, one of the first practical details you'll need to handle is opening a bank account. Opening a bank account in France is purportedly a simple process, if you believe what you read elsewhere on the web. However, I actually live in France, and I can tell you that opening a French bank account can become complicated. So, how do you open a French bank account? What are the exact requirements for opening a bank account in France?
I traveled to France after selling my house in the States. I was prepared to make a substantial deposit with the money I made from my sale, so off I went with my passport in hand to the offices of my Stateside bank. Surely, I would be able to open an account with them, since they know me already. I had been a customer for many years in the US.
The French Are Different--You Can't Just Stroll In
After walking up to the lobby receptionist and stated that I wanted to open an account, I discovered the first of many differences between French banking and banking in the US. In the US, to open an account, all you do is stroll into the bank and wait your turn for a bank officer. Provided you have the right identification, you can open an account that very day. Not so in France. In France, banks don't deal with customers who just stroll in. You have to arrange a meeting to see a bank officer, what they call a "rendezvous".
Okay. I then asked to make a rendezvous with a bank officer to open an account. My rendezvous was set for a week from then, on a Tuesday morning.
Tuesday arrived, and I was finally seated in front of a bank officer. She was friendly, even spoke English --a relief to me since my French is still sketchy. She talked animatedly and at some length about her last vacation to the US --New York--all preliminary, I thought, to getting down to business. Forty minutes in, she finally set back, cleared her throat and said, "well, I cannot open an account for you."
"Why?", I asked. I hadn't even had a chance to give her my passport.
"I am not authorized to open accounts", she answered. "But I will make you a rendezvous for Sophie Gilliard (not her real name). She can open accounts for foreigners. She will be back from vacation next week on..she searched her online shared calendar... Wednesday".
I took a deep breath. Two visits to the bank. One hour wasted chit-chat. No account. But, heeding my pre-France mantra to remain patient at all costs, I sighed, "Merci', thank you, I will come back".
As I have since learned, all French banks work this way, with the exception of La Poste bank, which is operated by the Post Office.
Exact Requirements to Open a French Bank Account
Finally, Wednesday was here and I was sitting in front of Sophie, a bank manager, who actually had authority to open an account. This time we got down to the requirements:
1. Identification, of a type recognized by France. A passport will do. The bank will review your original passport and make a copy of the pages that have your picture and identifying details.
2. Proof of domicile in France. They call this "Justificatif de domicile". What it means is you must have an utility bill (electric bill, phone bill, internet bill). Some banks will not accept internet bills as proof of domicile. Also, if you are moving in with someone you know in France, you can get around this requirement by getting an attestation from them, along with a copy of their French ID and a "quittance de loyer", which is a receipt the landlord sends them verifying receipt of rent.