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Changes to French banking law will help Americans refused an account

We explain the process where Americans and others struggling to open an account are allocated a bank through a simplified ‘right to a bank account’ rule

Banque de France will step in more quickly now ‘right to a bank account’ rule is easier to administer Pic: ricochet64 / Shutterstock

It is now simpler to make use of the ‘right to a bank account’ rule – a change which might be useful to some Americans and others who struggle to be accepted by a bank.

US law complicated for French banks

Due to the US ‘Fatca’ law, which requires French banks to report assets and identities of American customers to the US authorities, some have reportedly faced difficulties with opening accounts. 

This includes so-called ‘accidental Americans’, who hold US nationality due to being born there but who have spent most of their lives elsewhere.

Evidence from French bank was needed

The rule of le droit au compte bancaire involves applying to the Banque de France, which then designates a local bank that should open an account for the person.

A resident in France who was refused an account previously had to obtain confirmation of the refusal from the bank concerned in order to make use of the process. 

This sometimes proves “difficult, or impossible” to obtain.

What is the new system?

This has now been replaced by a ‘tacit refusal’ system. 

The applicant should write to the bank (registered post with receipt slip) asking to open an account, or hand in a request in person and obtain a récépissé de dépôt en main propre receipt. 

Then, if there is no response in 15 days, the person can apply to the Banque de France with only the receipt slip as proof.

Contact from new bank within four days

In one working day from receiving the request, the Banque de France should designate a bank, which then has three days to inform the client of the documents it requires to open a basic bank account. 

Overdraft and chequebook services are not necessarily part of this. Find out more.

Banks can only refuse in limited circumstances, such as if you do not supply documents requested aimed at avoiding money-laundering and the financing of terrorism.

Agreements needed for ‘accidental Americans’

President of the Association of Accidental Americans Fabien Lehagre said: “This change should make the process more accessible for all those who are refused an account.”

He said it will not necessarily remove all obstacles as he believes accounts could still be refused where Americans lack a US social security or tax identification number, which is often the case for his members. 

However, it is hoped a recent meeting between the French presidency of the Council of the EU and US tax and treasury officials will lead to an agreement that this will no longer be required for those without close US links other than nationality. 

Allison Lounes, of Your Franceformation, who helps Americans move to France, said the change was “positive”. 

She said Americans usually do not have to resort to the ‘right to an account’, though they sometimes have to try several banks.

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