Asylum, how to open a bank account?

Pourquoi tant de mal à ouvrir un tel compte pour les demandeurs d’asile, réfugiés, migrants ? Des conseils.  Les documents dont vous avez besoin.

Opening a bank account in France is a legal right for asylum seekers and many other categories (refugees, people benefiting from subsidiary protection, immigrants holding a valid residence permit, etc.). Guaranteed in France but also at the level of the European Union. The two basic documents required by law are the asylum application certificate and the valid postal address.

But in reality?

Many banks do not accept to open current accounts for these groups of people, even though they show all the necessary documents. For example, according to Revue Banque 1(May 2019), a media specializing in banking and finance in France, “the Dom'asile association, which supports exiled people in their procedures, notes that they see more livrets A being issued (a savings account - author's note) than the current accounts ... With other associations, Dom'asile wants to challenge the Banque de France about access to the right of bank account”, - adds Revue Banque.

Other associations say that the discrimination of French banks regarding the asylum seekers goes, often, further than that. By even depriving access to a livret A. “In fact, since ALL asylum seekers have a certificate of asylum application, regardless of the procedure in which they are placed, access at least to a livret A must be easy. But La Banque Postale considers that a mean of payment (the ADA card - author's note) is already available to them, which is why asylum seekers often face refusals to open a bank account”, - explains 2.

Other associations say that the discrimination of French banks regarding the asylum seekers goes, often, further than that. By even depriving access to a livret A.

The current account more necessary than the livret A

Why is it more important to have a current account than a livret A, while an immigrant, asylum seekers, refugee or simply a foreigner (always having a valid postal address) in France? Because simply "to have a current account is to have a normal life, to consume what one can and to have access to vital social rights", - says Salomé Linglet, coordinator in charge of social rights for Dom'asile1 (May 2019). "Access to most social benefits requires at least a Livret A, or even, increasingly, a current account. The issue of banking accessibility for these people is therefore a priority. To collect the RSA (Solidarity Labor Income), for example, to which refugees are entitled, you need a bank identity statement (RIB in French). Likewise, to have access to universal medical coverage (CMU in French), more and more health insurance funds are asking for a RIB to process the request or to renew the rights, and it must also be used to benefit from the third-party payment ".

Ask for the "written refusal" and ...

What to do then? Give up? No way. Because you would give up a right that belongs to you by law. At the same time, you would give up many basic services, the shortcomings of which make life in France even more difficult. Remember that this is a fundamental right validated by official texts and documents in France and at European Union (EU) level. More precisely:

  • L264-3 CASF3 ("The absence of a stable address cannot be opposed to a person to deny him the exercise of a right, a social benefit or access to an essential service guaranteed by law, in particular in banking and postal matters, as long as the person has a valid certificate (of choice, the postal address”).
  • Directive 2014/92/UE of 23 July 2014 /4 ACCESS TO PAYMENT ACCOUNTS/ Article 15/Non-discrimination (“Member States shall ensure that credit institutions do not discriminate against consumers legally resident in the Union by reason of their nationality or place of residence”. Article 16/2 “Member States shall ensure that consumers legally resident in the Union, including consumers with no fixed address and asylum seekers, and consumers who are not granted a residence permit but whose expulsion is impossible for legal or factual reasons…”

Remember that this is a fundamental right validated by official texts and documents in France and at European Union (EU) level.

More than that, the above-mentioned directive specifies that these persons (… have the right to open and use a payment account with basic features with credit institutions located in their territory. Such a right shall apply irrespective of the consumer’s place of residence).  

You must insist that this legal right be granted to you. A bank that refuses to open an account when you show the needed legal documents, has the legal obligation in France to give you a letter of refusal, signed. The term in French is «refus écrit». You should ask for this "refus écrit" and take it to an association which helps immigrants to have their rights. The latter, together with you, can put more pressure on the bank. "Indeed, we note that without our intervention, the banks refuse to issue a written refusal, although this is a legal obligation", explains the Dom'asile association for Revue Banque1 (May 2019).  

Other solutions?

It will not be an easy procedure, let alone a short one. But it's worth it. Another option? Go to as many banks as possible and ask for a current account to be opened! Even if the beginning is bitter, it may happen that a bank accepts you. Not all doors are closed. “At Dom'asile, we inform people of the, sometimes, long waiting times involved in an account entitlement procedure: several weeks, even several months of waiting before obtaining a refusal letter. Then again, several weeks before having the designation of the Banque de France (to designate another bank where the person can open an account - author's note). When people don't have the energy to fight yet another battle, we sometimes simply advise them to try their luck in several different banks… ", adds Salomé Linglet. 

« En effet, nous constatons que sans notre intervention, les banques refusent de délivrer un refus écrit, alors que c’est une obligation légale », explique l’association Domasile pour Revue Banque5 (May 2019).

Another solution can be that of online banking, but you must know French well and the same goes for using the Internet and the computer. However, in most cases, online banks require a residence permit in France. This condition excludes many groups of migrants, although they may be living legally in this country (for example, while they are still in the asylum procedure).

Another option? Contact your housing center or association where you have pre-registered your asylum application (PADA or SPADA) and which has provided you with a postal address. Their employees can give you advice, signed certificates or make phone calls to the bank to speed up the process.

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1 Revue Banque (mai 2019). « Les banques ouvrent souvent d’office des Livrets A aux réfugiés et aux demandeurs d’asile.

2 (vérifié le 04.11.2021). Allocation de Demandeur d’Asile – ADA.

 3 Légifrance, (verifié le 04.11.2021). Code de l’action sociale et des familles.

4(EUR Lex (verifié le 16.10.2021). Document 32014L0092.

This article is produced as part of the “Migration, Youth and Internet” project. It is written by Elda Spaho Bleta, volunteer of the local group Oxfam in Nancy, who paid close attention to the information given. The sources of the information are cited, and when personal advice is given, it is the sole responsibility of the editor. If, despite her attention, an error had slipped into the document, please report it to her by writing to [email protected]. This article is published with the funds of the French Development Agency, Grand Est Solidarités et Coopérations pour le Développement (GESCOD), and with the support of Oxfam France. The content of the articles does not engage the structures previously named.

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