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Bank account for refugees

Having an own bank account is indispensable for most of the daily business transactions. Therefore you are entitled by law for a basic account („Basiskonto“).
Portemonnaie in einer Hosentasche

The essentials in brief:

  • Owning an own bank account is indispensable for most of the daily life affairs in Germany. Therefore you are entitled by law for a basic account ("Basiskonto").
  • To get a basic account you only have to file an application and verify your identity.
  • If a bank or savings bank refuse it to open a basic account, you can appeal to the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht (BaFin)).

Entitled persons specifically mentioned by law are also asylum seekers and tolerated persons. Every credit institute that basically offers accounts for consumers is obligated to setup a basic account for refugees.

This means a giro account which can be set up independently of a creditworthiness and ensure the access to cashless payment transactions.

The basic account must at least be able to be used

  • for deposit and pay out in cash,
  • debits, transfers, standing orders and
  • card payments.

If the respective bank offers to keep giro accounts online, this has to be possible for the basic account, too.

To open a basic account there are two requirements that need to be fulfilled:

  • You have to file an application and
  • the applicant has to verify its identity.

The Consumer Association recommends to use the form provided by law. We provide this form for download.

Banks and saving banks must provide this blank, also online.

Furthermore, the payment institutions are obligated to accept the duly completed form and to confirm the receipt of the application (on a copy/ duplicate) with date.

As proof of identity within the meaning of the Money Laundering Acts, for asylum seekers the official proof of arrival (Ankunftsnachweis - § 63a Asylgesetz) and for tolerated persons the tolerance notification (Duldungsbescheid - § 60a Absatz 4 Aufenthaltsgesetz) is generally sufficient, but as a rule also required.

Banks and saving banks are allowed to decline the opening of a bank account only in a few exceptional cases regulated by law.

A problem with refugees can be an unexplained nationality for example, because the identity check according to the Money Laundering Act then cannot be made completely.

If a basic account is applied, the bank or saving bank has not only to offer the form, especially for consumers,  but also further support (§ 45 Gesetz über die Vergleichbarkeit von Zahlungskontoentgelten), e.g. general information on a basic account (claim, functions and charges) also in other languages.

If a credit institute refuses to open a bank account, you do not have to accept it, but you can contact the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) with your concern. As the competent supervisory authority, it can initiate a free administrative procedure.

The Consumer Association recommends persons concerned and refugee workers, who face a problem with opening a bank account when assisting the asylum seekers (e.g. PostIdent- or VideoIdent-process from Online-banks) to exhaust all lawful means.

In particular, the BaFin administrative procedure should be used, which you can initiate with the form provided by law.


More to that topic

Questions and answers about the basic account

What you should know about bank giro accounts