As a foreigner, opening an account with banks in Serbia may not make the most sense. If you’re not a resident or don’t plan on becoming a resident, there are better options elsewhere. However, as we’ll share, there are reasons why banking in Serbia is still interesting.
In fact, if you’re looking to open a euro IBAN account to send payments through Eurozone banks, you will be happy to know that Serbian banks issue IBANs to their customers.
- Banking in Serbia is not for everyone
- Remote account opening is nearly impossible
- Banking in Serbia as a non-resident can be difficult to navigate
- Opening multi-currency bank accounts in Serbia is possible
Opening a Personal Bank Account in Serbia
Opening an account with banks in Serbia as a non-resident is possible. However, the process of doing so comes with challenges, and once open, they can be difficult to maintain. In fact, in order to even obtain an account, you will need to provide proper documentation, identity requirements, and go through detailed due diligence. Of course, the language barrier can further complicate the approval process.
In this article, we’ll provide you with the information you need to know when opening bank accounts in Serbia. We’ll also cover the challenges you’ll face and common mistakes when applying for a bank account here. Of course, we’ll also discuss the benefits of banking in Serbia for non-residents. So, if opening a bank account in Serbia is something you’re interested in, keep reading!
But, before diving in, don’t forget to download your FREE copy of the Non-Resident Banking Starter Guide. It helps non-residents navigate the world of international banking and start opening accounts faster and easier in countries like Serbia.
Feel free to use the table of contents to jump ahead to the sections most relevant to you.
Table of Contents
- Overview of the Serbian Banking System
- Challenges of Opening a Personal Bank Account in Serbia
- What Do You Need to Open a Bank Account in Serbia?
- Why Open an Offshore Bank Account in Serbia?
Overview of the Serbian Banking System
In the past, Serbia posed a high risk to the international financial system with respect to money laundering and financial crimes. So, it’s no surprise that Serbia was listed on the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) blacklist as a high-risk jurisdiction. However, in 2019, Serbia was removed from the FATF blacklist and has since continued to live up to international standards.
Today, Serbia’s banking sector continues to improve. At the same time, there has been significant improvement in the business climate as well. Not surprisingly, economic growth has improved over this period. This has been largely driven by a stream of investments into Serbia from major economies such as China and Germany.
That said, it’s worth mentioning that Serbia’s banking sector still has limitations. We’ll explore these, along with the challenges of banking in Serbia, in the following section!
Challenges of Opening a Personal Bank Account in Serbia
Like most countries, opening a bank account in Serbia as a foreign non-resident can be challenging. In fact, as you’ll see below, some of these challenges are outright concerning and can limit your banking services.
For example, if you don’t have an address of the country your passport is in, you may be turned away. That said, if you’re one of the lucky ones who’s able to apply for an account, you may still have some limitations when it comes to operating the account once opened.
So, if you’re considering opening an bank account in Serbia as a foreign non-resident, you need to understand the following challenges that you’re going to run into. We explore these in further detail below.
- Account opening options for non-residents
- Non-resident banking limitations
- Non-resident business bank accounts
- Frequent account freezes
- Remote Account Opening
- Currency restrictions & challenges
- Language barrier
1. Non-Resident Account Opening
Not all Serbian banks accept non-residents. In fact, as mentioned above, some banks may require an address in the country your passport is from, even if you don’t reside there. So, it’s important to do your homework beforehand and only choose banks that have a history of accepting foreign non-resident clients.
2. Serbian Banking System Limitations for Non-Residents
In addition to complicating account opening applications in Serbia, being a foreign non-resident also limits your banking services. In other words, a non-resident can have a difficult time operating the account. Depending on the bank you choose, this can include no access to online or mobile banking for the first 12-months of your account.
In fact, if you’re looking to transfer money out of your account, you’ll have to physically visit a branch to do so. So, if online or mobile banking is important to you (which they probably are), you should choose the Serbian banks that you’re considering, very carefully.
3. Business Bank Accounts in Serbia
If you’re looking for a non-resident business bank account in Serbia, your options are going to be limited. This is because foreign non-resident companies are listed as high risk by Serbian banking regulators and most banks are therefore restricted from onboarding such clients.
4. Frequent Account Freezes
Like most countries, banks here can freeze your account if they notice any suspicious activity. However, unlike banks in other countries, Serbian banks take enforcement a step further. If a Serbian bank contacts you with compliance-related questions and you do not respond within 24 hours, the bank can freeze your account.
5. Remote Account Opening
Serbian banks, like most places today, don’t allow remote account opening to everyone. In fact, in most cases, opening an account in Serbia remotely is not going to be an option. However, there are some options available (we share these options with members of GlobalBanks IQ).
6. Currency Restrictions & Challenges
Serbia uses its own currency, the Serbian Dinar. So, if you are looking for a foreign non-resident bank account in Europe to access the Euro, look elsewhere. Instead, if you’re looking to bank in Serbia, you should be prepared to bank in (and hold) Dinars. Of course, if you’re considering relocating to or working in Serbia one day, you will need a Dinar account in order to receive payments and cover expenses.
7. Finding a Bank Serbia Branch That Speaks English
No surprise, Serbians speak Serbian. So, if you don’t speak Serbian you better find a banker that speaks english. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. To find a banker that speaks your language, you should check with other people who have successfully opened a bank account in the past. Alternatively, you can focus on opening a bank account in major cities such as Belgrade.
Again, these are just some of the top challenges you may face when opening an account with a Serbian bank. Of course, these challenges may vary depending on the bank and the type of account you’re looking to open. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the actual account opening process and the required documents in the next section.
What Do You Need to Open a Bank Account in Serbia?
If you’re interested in opening an account here, you’ll need to pass each bank’s due diligence process. While the requirements may vary from bank to bank, you can assume that you’ll need to provide certified documents.
That said, if you’re looking for a non-resident business account, you may be better off looking elsewhere. In fact, there are even options within the EU, US, and many top banking jurisdictions abroad that will more easily allow you to apply for a bank account as a non-resident and offshore company. We share these options with members of GlobalBanks IQ.
But, in addition to passing due diligence, bank selection is critical. With this in mind, you’ll want to make sure that you’re opening an account with the best Serbian bank that caters to your specific needs. Of course, you’ll also need to find a bank that will accept your client profile. And, even though there are 29 banks within Serbia, not all of them accept non-resident individuals and foreign companies.
So when opening a bank account in Serbia as a foreign non-resident, make sure you have the following documentation prepared before you apply.
- Two forms of government-issued identification (Passport being one)
- Accepted proof of address (varies from bank to bank)
- Employment letter to prove source of income
- Statement to demonstrate source of wealth
- Proof you’re able to support the account opening deposit (varies by bank)
- Some banks also require personal references
- White Card (proof of tourist registration with local authorities)
Importantly, these documents cannot be older than 3 months. Additionally, some Serbian banks will request certain documents to be translated into Serbian by an authorized translator. Of course, requirements vary from bank to bank. So, confirming which documents are required before applying is critical to successfully opening an account.
Lastly, one final hurdle that you need to be aware of is the risk of actually being denied. For instance, if you do get denied, there’s a strong chance you will not be able to re-apply or have an opportunity to bank in Serbia at all. This is because bank compliance will essentially blacklist you from applying in the future. In other words, if opening an account with banks here is important to you, you need to tread carefully and do everything to increase your chances of success from the beginning.
We explore everything you need to know about international banking, account opening, and bank and banker selection in GlobalBanks IQ. This includes access to our library of international banking reports, our database of international banks, and detailed account opening strategies to help you successfully open a bank account.
Why Open an Offshore Bank Account in Serbia?
Now that you’re aware of the challenges and the account opening requirements, it’s time to look at the notable advantages of banking here.
But first, it’s important to note that the specific advantages that one person may unlock from opening a bank account in Serbia may be completely different than the next person.
In most cases, benefits should be considered on a case-by-case basis. This ensures that you choose the best bank for your situation.
So, here’s a list of some of the key benefits foreign non-residents look to capture when opening bank accounts here. We explore each of these in further detail below.
- Retirement fund & savings account
- Local transactions
- Serbian endowments
- Multi-currency accounts
1. Retirement Fund & Savings Account
Opening a retirement fund or a savings account in Serbia can be beneficial if you have plans to spend long periods of time here. Not only does it ensure your money is accessible locally, but it can also protect you from fluctuating exchange rates.
2. Local Transactions
More opportunities present themselves after 12 months of having a Serbian bank account. Such as, being able to receive local payment(s), execute transfers, and more options for withdrawing money.
3. Serbian Endowments
Serbian endowments are the Serbian version of a quasi-private foundation. They offer privacy, asset protection, and tax planning options. Naturally, banks here will be more familiar with such structures. So, if you are looking at using a Serbian endowment, banks here will be a great option for your banking requirements.
4. Multi-Currency Options
In addition to opening a bank account in Serbian Dinar, banks here also offer accounts in USD, CAD, CHF, EUR, TRY, GBP, SEK, RUB, DKK, and JPY. So, if you are looking for a less traditional banking jurisdiction but still need access to any of the above global currencies, Serbia could be an option for you to consider.
These are just a few of the benefits and services available to you if you decide to apply for a bank account in Serbia. But, as mentioned, benefits and services will vary from bank to bank. So, it’s important to confirm that the bank you are considering offers the specific services, products, and benefits that you are interested in before applying for an account.
But, the bottom line is, with the right information and knowing which banks best suit your needs, opening a bank account in Serbia as a non-resident is possible.
Ready to Start Opening an Account With Banks in Serbia?
To start opening a Serbian bank account, you can obviously follow the steps outlined in this article.
Or, you can access one of our membership services and get the help you need to find and unlock the best expat banking options with Serbian banks.
If you’re ready to take action and start opening international accounts now, you can access GlobalBanks IQ, our dedicated international banking intelligence platform.
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