Polish banking services for non-EU foreigners
With increasing mobility on the labour market, more and more foreigners from non-EU countries are settling in Poland for economic reasons. As most often salaries are paid by bank transfer, one of the first issues when relocating is to open a bank account in Poland. To keep up with market changes, Polish banks try to make their offers more flexible and adapt them to customers’ current needs. Thus banks offer many services aimed at foreigners, including those from non-EU countries, and banking products are becoming more and more available to them.
How do you open a bank account in Poland?
The laws regulating the operation of banks in Poland do not provide specific regulations on opening of a bank account for a foreigner. The general regulations on opening a bank account apply. In addition, each bank may establish its own internal regulations in this respect and request various documents and information from the customer. So before choosing a bank it is crucial to find out what the formalities look like and how long the whole process takes. The good news is that a negative decision at one bank does not exclude the possibility of success at another bank.
Potential customers from foreign countries are usually divided into two groups: residents and non-residents. Banks usually set more rigorous criteria for non-residents, who must submit more documents and are more likely to be turned down when seeking to open a bank account.
Although each bank has its own internal regulations, there are some standard requirements any foreigner must meet regardless of the bank. First, each bank will carefully verify the identity of the potential customer. A foreigner will be asked to submit identity documents such as a foreign passport, residence card or other document confirming the foreigner’s identity. The identity documents that must be presented may be strictly defined, or the customer may be able to decide which document with personal data to present. One document may not be sufficient, as some banks request at least two different documents confirming the customer’s personal details, especially when the foreigner cannot present a Polish residence card. Second, the customer is often required to present a document confirming the legality of their stay in Poland on the date of opening the account. This condition may be met by presenting a document confirming employment, any kind of visa, a student card, or any other document acceptable to the bank.
The foreigner will also be required to make a statement on tax residency. A foreigner who is not a tax resident of Poland should submit at least a tax residency certificate issued by the relevant authorities of the foreigner’s country, with a sworn translation. Thanks to this document, the foreigner may be exempt from withholding of tax in Poland or reduce the amount of withholding—the details are set out in the tax treaty between Poland and the country issuing the tax residency certificate.
When completing an application to open a bank account, the customer must provide his or her personal and correspondence data. In addition to basic information, such as name, telephone number and e-mail address, the customer must also provide a correspondence address in Poland, which may be problematic in the case of non-residents. It is not allowed to indicate the address of a specific bank branch as the foreigner’s correspondence address.
Although many banks waive this requirement, some banks may still require customers to have a Polish personal identity number (PESEL) to open a bank account. Any foreigner living in Poland may automatically obtain a PESEL number if they register their residence for a stay of over 30 days. If they cannot register their residence, the foreigner may apply to the municipality to obtain a PESEL number in a special procedure. Having a PESEL number is often a condition for applying for credit products linked to a bank account, such as an overdraft facility or revolving line of credit.
Customer service for foreigners
Many banks in Poland now provide customer service in foreign languages. An English helpline is currently a standard service at every Polish bank, and with an increasing number of foreigners from Eastern Europe, many banks offer a helpline in Russian or Ukrainian. The helpline may provide basic information on the offer of bank accounts, but a bank account cannot be opened by phone or online. To accurate verify the customer’s identity, banks require the foreigner to appear in person at a branch.
There are usually some branches where customers can be served in a foreign language, but the banks’ websites generally do not provide official information identifying those branches. Moreover, the bank account agreement and other applicable documents are usually accessible only in a Polish version, so at the stage of concluding the agreement the customer may require the assistance of an interpreter. After concluding the agreement, the customer can download a mobile app or use the bank’s online transaction system, which usually functions in several foreign languages.
Credit products for foreigners
Opening a bank account often enables the holder to access other products offered by the bank, which may be useful in the long run. Customers of a bank where they have an account usually have easier access to additional credit products tied to their existing account. For example, they can apply for products such as an account-linked credit line, a credit card, or a loan for any purpose. In addition to documents requested when opening a bank account, the foreigner must also provide proof of income for the indicated period in order to meet all requirements. As mentioned, credit products are sometimes offered only to persons with a PESEL number. At some banks, this is a necessary condition for incurring any financial liability to the bank.
When offering credit products, the division into residents and non-residents is of great importance. At many banks, non-residents cannot apply for any loan. If there is such a possibility, the procedure for applying for a loan is complex and extensive. The foreigner may be asked to submit documents such as a certificate of income obtained abroad for a specific period, documents confirming the customer’s history of income payments, a credit report recognised in the country of residence, a foreign bank reference, and other documents depending on the characteristics and financial position of the customer and the purpose and amount of the loan. All these documents must be translated into Polish by a sworn translator.
There is no special procedure for residents. They are usually treated like Polish citizens and must meet the same standards of creditworthiness. As each loan application is considered individually, the customer may be requested to submit some specific or additional documents due to their country of origin, but the whole procedure should not differ greatly from the standard procedure for a Polish customer.
Banks have taken note of the demand by foreigners for services in the financial sector in Poland, and consequently are opening up to foreigners and expanding the availability of their products for this group of customers. The best example is the wide range of banking activities targeted to Ukrainian citizens, who now have easy access to helplines, personal service, or documents provided in their native language. This shows that banks are adapting to changes on the market, and now foreigners can open an account or even apply for a loan at almost every bank in Poland.
But each case is always considered individually, and different requirements may be imposed at each bank. Before making a decision, the foreigner should learn about all formalities and procedures, to determine if they can satisfy all conditions and whether the specific offer meets their expectations.
Ewa Winiarz, attorney-at-law, Sylwia Boguska, Banking & Project Finance practice, Wardyński & Partners