There are several obstacles that non-German investors who strive to start their businesses in Germany face. Key among the challenges is opening a German bank account. Although there are other difficulties that are largely associated with the incorporation process, opening a German business bank account with any bank isn’t easy for non-citizens and for those not residing in the country. Here in this detailed guide, we detail everything about opening a German bank account from abroad. We will further explain the nations from which it is presently impossible or possible to open a German bank account.
Opening a German Bank Account for Non-German Citizens
Theoretically, anyone can open a German business account with literally any German bank. For non-German residents, particularly those who don’t reside in the country, they can still open a business account with direct banks, popularly known as Direktbanken. As opposed to multi-branch banks (Filialbanken) like Volksbank or Sparkasse, direct banks don’t have specific locations where customers can access them from. That means direct banks are strictly available online. In addition, the requirements for opening a German bank account can vary from one bank to the other and thus, banks set different requirements for their clients. When it gets to opening a German business bank account from abroad, direct banks are usually much more accommodating. Non-German citizens, especially those who don’t live in Germany will find it extremely difficult to open a bank account with any German bank.
Documents and Process To Complete When Opening a German Bank Account
Generally, you will require the following to open a German bank account:
- Any documents that confirm your identity
- Legalisation for foreign certificates/ documents (the authentication process is dependent on the nation giving the documents and the country where the business bank account is expected to be opened from. In this case, the nation where the business bank account will be opened from is Germany.
- Proxy form permitting a particular representative to open the business bank account using your name (this is a crucial requirement especially if you will not be there to open the business bank account in person).
- Prior to opening a business bank account with any German bank, ensure all the documents or legalisations from the nation in question are acceptable in Germany. This is also incredibly important, considering there are several nations whose authentications aren’t acceptable in Germany for political reasons, notwithstanding the fact that these nations take part in this process as well.
- Additional proof and information are required for purposes of confirming your identity. You need to submit proof of your identity to a specific bank that you intend to open a business account with in person. Alternatively, you can submit your proof of identify via a representative. Just in case your preferred bank is an online bank (direct bank), or if it isn’t possible to submit proof of your identity, you might have the chance to complete the Videoldent or POSTIDENT process for identity verification.
The POSTIDENT process
To benefit from this process, you must be living in Germany. Visit any Deutsche Post location with a copy of your account application form from your bank. Your bank will cater for the fee hence, making POSTIDENT process absolutely free of charge. There might be problems with this process if the ID doesn’t give all relevant details, such as your specific place of birth. Just to be safe, have additional documents like birth certificate ready with you.
The Videoldent process
The process is quite simple and better still, it can be done outside Germany. After scanning your documents and sending the relevant files to the bank of your choice, you will then video call your bank via your tablet, computer or mobile phone. Verification via mobile phone is especially effective in comparison to a webcam, since your mobile phone will allow you to focus and zoom in. While making your video call, you will be required to raise your ID in front of the camera. Both the back and the front of your ID will be examined thoroughly. Your ID will further be tilted to ensure holograms and other security features are detected easily. You will then receive a TAN via email or SMS, which you will be required to enter online. This verification process is relatively new, having been introduced recently after revision of German Money Laundering Act. Nevertheless, the process takes just a couple of minutes to complete.
Are there other Methods that can be used for Identity Verification?
There are other methods that can be used for identity verification while overseas. For instance credit institutes, banks, lawyers, certified accountants, notaries and tax advisers from EU member nations, are authorised to certify and verify the identities of legal persons.
What to do when your Bank doesn’t Offer Videoldent or POSTIDENT Verification Process
Not all German banks offer Videoldent or POSTIDENT verification processes. If the German bank you would wish to open your business account with doesn’t offer these two verification processes, you can have your identity verified by a local lawyer, bank, tax advisor or certified accountant. A local bank, for instance, verifies your identity directly and then sends it to your preferred German bank. But, this isn’t always possible in all nations. Just in case your country of origin has relatively better or comparable security standards to Germany, then you can benefit from this possibility. It is worth noting that Germany doesn’t accept authentications and legislations from specific nations. Therefore it will be impossible to open your German business bank if you hail from such jurisdictions.
What documents should I have for my Identify to be Verified by an Authorised Third Party?
You must have these documents below for your identity to be verified by an authorised 3rd party in your nation:
- Form for confirming your identity, tax ID number and residence
- A valid passport, EU identity card or ID
- All requisite documents required for opening an account
The authorised 3rd party will examine and fill out all the relevant forms on your behalf; all you will be required to provide is your signature. Nearly all German banks insist that letters written by authorised 3rd parties must be written in German. Therefore, you need to get certified translation if you want your identity verified via an authorised 3rd party. The signature of the authorised 3rd party of your choice also needs to be verified by an extra authentication. Nevertheless, there are exceptions for Switzerland, France, Greece, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg and Denmark. If the authorised 3rd party isn’t sure of exactly where to get additional authentication, then contact the German embassy or consulate in your country.
Once all the relevant papers have been submitted to the authorised 3rd party, he or she will present them to the German bank of your choice. If your authentications from the country of your origin aren’t acceptable in Germany, then you will require further legalisation. The nation issuing the authentications is the crucial factor while deciding on the validity of the authentications sent to the German bank of your choice. Therefore, legislation will be required to be issued overseas, pre-authenticated and further authenticated in a particular German embassy or consulate. There are specific nations where neither legalisations nor authentications of the documents required to open a German bank account are presently acceptable in Germany. At least, not all legalisations and authentications are acceptable in Germany.
How to have a Representative to Open a German Bank Account on your Behalf
In case the possibilities of opening a German business account that are mentioned here aren’t suitable choices for your, or if there aren’t accepted by the German bank of your choice, then you can have a representative to open a business bank account for you in Germany. To allow a representative to open an account on your behalf, you need to seek authorisation from an attorney. The relevant German embassy or consulate in your country can provide you with written authorisation from an attorney. But, prior to seeking representations, find out from the German bank of your choice if it accepts such representations. In case the bank doesn’t accept representations, then gather all the requisite documents and legislations needed for opening a German account in advance. If your preferred German bank turns down your request to have an account with them via a representative, you can either travel to Germany to open a bank account in person or choose another German bank that allows you to open a German business account via a representative.
What are the Documents Needed for Verifying my Identity Prior to Opening a Bank Account in Germany?
To open a business bank account in Germany, one must be able to verify or confirm their identity. There are many types of documents supporting your identity that need to be submitted, although this is largely dependent on whether the account will be registered under your firm’s name or your name. The documents needed for verifying your identity can be classified into two categories namely, those needed for proving your identity and documents that show the identity of your business.
Documents needed for proving your identity- these documents may include any identification documents that bear your date of birth, name, citizenship or residence. The documents may further include tax returns, current utility bills or certificate of registration.
Documents proving your business’ identity- if you wish to register your account under your business’ name, you may be required to provide some information regarding your business. This information may include the name of the company, certificate of registration of the company, legal company form, name and addresses of the company’s members. Most importantly, you will have to present official and written proof of right to register your account under your company’s name.
How to Open an Account with either Comdirect or DKB Bank from Abroad
DKB Bank is one of the German direct banks that are presently accepting clients that don’t live in Germany. Although DKB Bank largely accepts citizens from various nations globally, there are, however, some exceptions. For instance, the direct bank doesn’t accept clients from North Korea and Iran due to the prevailing EU sanctions. To open your account with DKB Bank, you simply need to fill out their online registration form. The great thing about this direct bank is that it allows identity verification through any bank. Once you submit your online account registration form, DKB Bank will notify you on the existing options for verifying your identity in the country of your origin. Once the identification process is concluded, your account will finally be opened.
Comdirect is another direct bank that allows non-German citizens that aren’t residing in Germany to open an account with them. Nevertheless, there is one condition that anyone striving to open a German business account with Comdirect must meet. This condition is that, one’s account should be easily accessible through Schufa. This is a requirement if you have been an active consumer in Germany, or if you have consumed within Germany.
How long will it take for Non-German Citizens who don’t live in Germany to open an Account in the Country?
The process can take several days, since the bank will have to verify all the documents and information submitted by a prospective applicant. Ideally, the process can be shorter if the requisite information and documents are submitted in time.
Is it Possible to Withdraw Money Overseas for Free?
The possibility of withdrawing money abroad from a German account for free solely depends on the bank you will be withdrawing your money from. The withdrawal fee varies from bank to bank, for some German banks charge a higher percentage when one is withdrawing money overseas. But, there are barely any banks that will allow you to withdraw money overseas for free.
Why did my Preferred German Bank Decline my Application to have an Account with them?
Most Germany banks, especially direct banks reject account applications owing to their requirements for prospective clients. Again, non-German clients who don’t live in Germany are obliged to substantiate their reason for wanting to open a German bank account. Some banks decline account applications from potential clients who are self-employed, while other may reject applications, citing missing Schufa records.
Opening a German bank account isn’t that complicated as it might sound to many aspiring investors. With this guide for opening a German business bank account, you will ultimately know the possibilities that you have, as well as what to expect.