Immigrant, why so difficult to open a bank account?

Que dit la loi en France et dans l’Union européenne ? Et pourquoi un compte bancaire est-il indispensable pour les demandeurs d’asile, réfugiés, migrants ? Les documents dont vous avez besoin.

During the interview with the officer of the French Office for Integration and Immigration (OFII), in addition to housing and other services1which I have explained so far, you will also be offered financial assistance as an asylum seeker. In French, it's called ADA. Over the past 4-5 years, the method of use and its amount have changed a lot. Especially after November 2019. In short, the ADA card that will be proposed to you by the OFII, now offers much more limited possibilities: it no longer allows withdrawals from ATMs as before. ADA serves you simply to make card payments in stores or supermarkets (which should always be over 5 euros), it does not tell you how much money you are left, and does not serve you for online shopping either. It does not entitle you to have a bank account.

Before explaining ADA… 

What many asylum seekers and many immigrants in France do not know or just skip is that, apart the ADA card, the legal framework in France guarantees the opening of a current bank account, which will give you more financial independence and greater convenience of services. For example, it is unlikely that any internet or telephone operator in France can contract with you if you do not have such an account. Why? Because in France the payment is automatically withdrawn from the account and is not paid in cash, unlike of the way this is done in many countries from which immigrants come. In the absence of a current account, prepaid cards are the only solution for telephone and mobile service. Very expensive and with very limited time, these cards greatly burden the budget of immigrants, without allowing them to receive the necessary services. But the internet and telephony are of the greatest importance to you: to get information, to orient with addresses in France, to learn the language, to talk to your family, to communicate with various institutions, etc.

The question is clear then: How can you obtain a bank account, ideally a current one, when you are an asylum seeker in France?

What many asylum seekers and immigrants in France do not know or just skip is that, apart the ADA card, the legal framework in France guarantees the opening of a current bank account.

Yes, a bank account is possible

Regardless of the ADA "... it is still advisable to open a bank account (at La Banque Postale ). For this, you must present the asylum application certificate and a valid postal address. In case of difficulties, you can contact the Spada or the accommodation center to help you out ". - explains GISTI1association (August 2021), which specializes in legal advice for immigrants in France. Keep the two above- mentioned documents in a safe place.

Of course, migrants who are not asylum seekers, but who nevertheless have valid residence permits or admissions, must present these documents to the bank and not the asylum application certificate.

Apparently, there are a lot of problems. It is not obvious that banks in France accept that a foreigner opens an account even when he/she has a valid proof of residence and lives legally in the territory.

In the absence of a current account, prepaid cards are the only solution for telephone and mobile service. Very expensive and with very limited time, these cards greatly burden the budget of immigrants, without allowing them to receive the necessary services.

What does the law say in France and the European Union?

And yet, it is a fundamental right validated by official texts in France and also 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…”

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).

 Thus, it is obvious that asylum seekers and consumers who do not have a residence permit but whose expulsion is impossible for legal or practical reasons, have the right to a bank account which guarantees the basic services. As is the case with the checking account. 

In the following article I will explain why the current account is essential for a migrant in France, what happens in reality quite often, why it may happen that you cannot even open a Livret A (a kind of saving account ) and what are the legal ways that can be followed in such a case.

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References

1 Pro IDE, (verifié le 04.11.2021). L’asile en France : par où commencer?

https://pro-ide.fr/lasile-en-france-par-ou-commencer/

2 Gisti, (verifié le 04.11.2021).Les démarches au guichet unique (préfecture et Ofii).

https://www.gisti.org/spip.php?article5118

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

https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/codes/id/LEGISCTA000006174383/

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

https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/FR-EN/TXT/?from=FR&uri=CELEX%3A32014L0092

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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