The Italian government website Integrazione Migranti (Integration Migrants) has published information about opening a 'basic bank account' in Italy. The 'FAQ' site highlights that asylum seekers have the right to open a bank account, and explains which documents are needed.
Asylum seekers who are waiting for a residence permit have the right to open a basic bank account in Italy. A FAQ article published on the government website Integrazione Migranti explains the main features of a basic account and what to do if there are problems.
The article says that by law, "all consumers legally residing in the European Union, without discrimination and regardless of the place of residence, have the right to open a basic bank account."
Italian legislation defines a "consumer legally residing in the European Union" as "anyone who has the right to reside in a member State of the EU under EU or Italian law, including consumers without a permanent address and asylum seekers, under the Geneva Convention of July 28, 1951 on the status of refugees, the connected protocol of January 31, 1967, and international treaties."
- What is a basic bank account?
It is an account for those who need simple services like depositing and retrieving cash, an account to which their salary or pension gets credited, a debit card and a payment card that can be used online. No credit lines or overdrafts can be granted.
The cost of the account varies from bank to bank, but it is in general very low, with a fee that includes a certain number of operations. It is possible to pay for single operations in addition to the number already included in the fee.
Some disadvantaged customers and pensioners can have a free basic account.
- My employer has asked me to open a bank account for my salary. Which documents are necessary?
A "basic bank account" represents a fundamental right because, in the absence of an account, it is not possible to be regularly employed and paid. The employer who pays a salary to a worker in cash, in fact, can be punished with an administrative fine ranging between €1,000 and €5,000.
Under Italian law, to open a bank account it is necessary to present valid identity papers (or another document of identity that is considered equivalent under current legislation) and the fiscal code.
Non-EU citizens are often required to have a stay permit or a receipt proving that they have requested a residence permit. A job contract is not necessary because employers are obliged to pay salaries though a bank transfer. Without a bank account, therefore, it is impossible for a worker to obtain a regular job contract.
A stay permit is also not necessary because the basic account has also been designed for those who do not have permanent accommodation.
- Can asylum seekers still waiting for a stay permit open a basic bank account?
Yes, as explained both by a memo of the Italian banking association ABI of April 19, 2019, and by the Italian postal company Poste Italiane, an asylum seeker can also open a basic bank account at the postal service or in a bank, presenting the following documents: 1) fiscal code; 2) stay permit for asylum seekers, or a receipt of the presentation of the request for international protection (which is given when the application is registered).
The receipt must be "valid; include the name and date of birth of the applicant; have a photo."
- Can a foreign detainee who has been allowed to work outside prison or has been granted an alternative measure to detention open a basic bank account?
Yes, foreign detainees with a document proving they have been granted an alternative measure to imprisonment can open a bank or postal account, even if they don't have a stay permit.
In order to open a basic bank account, it is necessary to exhibit a valid document of identification (in the case of an original document that has been seized by authorities, a copy of the document can be produced with a certification of validity provided by police) and a document with the tax code.
In addition, it is necessary to have documentation certifying the conditions of community service and the job contract or an equivalent document.
- What can be done if a bank or post office refuses to open a basic account even if an applicant has the necessary documents?
Having a bank account is a fundamental right because, in its absence, it is not possible to be legally hired and paid by an employer, nor request benefits and social assistance provided by the Italian State.
It is illegitimate and discriminatory for a bank or postal office to refuse to open a basic bank account if an applicant has the necessary documents (fiscal code, document of identity or receipt of application for international protection). The discrimination can be directly reported to ABI. It is also possible to report it to UNAR (National office against racial discrimination) and ASGI (Association for juridical studies on immigration).
If the situation is not solved, a complaint can be filed under articles 43 and 44 of the legislation Testo Unico immigrazione (see ruling of the Tribunal of Rome of January 26, 2021).
For more information on the access of foreign citizens to bank services, ABI has published 'Benvenuto in banca', an online brochure in 10 languages to promote financial inclusion and simplify relations with banks.