By Christos ILIOPOULOS*
Foreign residents wishing to do business in Greece must open a bank account, but when they get in touch with a Greek bank they discover that this is not so easy. For example those who wish to obtain property in Greece, must have a bank account in order to complete the transaction, most importantly the transfer of money to the seller. And those who set up a new company, can’t do any business, obviously, without a bank account in the name of the company and possibly in their own name, as foreign residents. But is it possible these days to even open a bank account in Greece, with the capital controls still in force? Of course it is, especially if you have a specific reason to open the account, like the two main reasons mentioned above, i.e. purchasing property or setting up a company in Greece. It should be made clear that being a Greek citizen does not make things much easier, as long as you are a foreign resident and do not file income tax returns in Greece, because you do not have any income in the country.
The Greek bank will request a number of documents, which you must obtain from your country of residence. You must have your tax returns from your country of residence, a telephone and/or an electricity bill to prove your address and possibly telephone number and some type of written proof about your occupation or professional activity. This could be a letter or certification or license from your professional chamber or board or other body governing your profession, or from your employer etc. All the above documents must be certified by the Consulate of Greece in the country of your residence. Alternatively, in the countries where the Apostille Convention is in force (Convention of the Hague of 5 October 1961), these documents, instead of being certified by the Consulate of Greece, can be certified by a local notary public and then the Apostille stamp must be affixed. However, since each country has its own legal system and a somehow different way to certify or notarize documents, a foreign resident wishing to open a bank account in Greece must always consult with the Greek bank in question and then with his lawyer in Greece, in order to find out what type of certification of the above documents is needed, depending on the country of his residence.
If the documents from the country of residence are in English, the Greek bank may dispense with the official translation of the documents in the Greek language, but this depends on the particularities of each case. If, however, the documents are in another language, it is almost certain that all or some of them will have to be officially translated in the Greek language, so the legal department of the bank can review them. The final stage for the opening of the account is the physical presence of the foreign resident at the branch of the bank in Greece, with his/her valid passport, in order to sign the documents, give sample signatures and fill our other paperwork, including internet access to the account. The opening of the bank account cannot be completed without the presence of the owner of the account, and a power of attorney can only serve to complete the initial stages of the process, not the actual opening of the account.
*Christos ILIOPOULOS, attorney at the Supreme Court of Greece , LL.M. www.greekadvocate.eu e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org bm-bioxoi@otenet.