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How to open an offshore bank account

Many banks require a physical interview but not all of them do for a bank account formation. It is still largely possible to open your offshore account by mail.

Your bank will always be happy to find the following documents included in your account-formation package:

Bank Account Purpose.
Draw up a letter describing the purpose of your offshore company and the use to which its offshore bank account will be put, including intended annual turnover and information regarding the origin of the funds deposited in the account.

You should provide this information even if your bank has not asked; an upfront explanation might help avoid tiresome scrutiny later on.

Company Existence.
Provide evidence of your offshore company's legal existence. This can take the form of a Certificate of Incorporation or if the company was incorporated more than a year ago a Certificate of Good Standing.

Make the effort to have these documents either apostilled or legalised by consular authentication, unless, of course, you are opening a bank account in the same country where your offshore company is registered.

Company Charter.
Include a copy of your offshore company's Memorandum and Articles of Association, By-Laws or another form of your company's charter.

Directors' Mandate.
Include a resolution by the offshore company's board of directors to open the offshore bank account. Some offshore banks provide their own resolutions for the directors to sign.

Provide firm evidence of the current directorships. Non-anonymous companies (those that place their directors on public file) can provide an officially certified copy of the relevant register for this purpose. Anonymous companies (those that only maintain a private, internal register of directors) must sometimes provide other evidence.

If your offshore bank does not accept the internal register alone, you can supply incorporators' resolution that originally appointed the first director(s) of the company, if they are still acting. If directors have changed since, be sure to also provide further documents evidencing any changes (letters of resignation, resolutions to appoint new directors, etc.)

Many banks require information about the shareholders of any company seeking a banking relationship with them. Most often, this can take the form of a copy of the company's register of shareholders.

Some offshore banks provide their own-format declaration regarding ownership; if they do, you have to complete and sign that, too. In an increasing number of jurisdictions, banks have legal responsibility to have this information.

Confirmation of identity.
Virtually all offshore banks want to receive some form of evidence of the account signatories' identity. This is can be a copy of a passport or a driving license.

Depending on the bank, photocopies might have to be notarised. In addition, there are offshore banks that request proofs of identity not only for the actual account signatories, but for all directors and owners of the company as well (if different).

Bank references.
Many offshore banks, but not all, request that letters of reference from another bank is provided by account signatories.

Some offshore banks go even further: they demand that a bank reference each be given by all directors and shareholders of the company. There even are a few that will contact the issuing bank to verify references.

References are sometimes needed instead of, and sometimes in addition to, the confirmation of identity. There are jurisdictions where banks are under legal obligations to seek references, and there are banks that request references despite any legal obligation to do so.

Sometimes an introduction by a party known to the offshore bank (such as an existing customer) is accepted instead of a reference. A fair number of offshore banks still happily open company accounts without any references at all.

Policies vary greatly across offshore banks and jurisdictions, so make a choice that is acceptable to you.

About the Author: Bruce Stander is the Director of UK based Worldwide Corporate Services, specialists in
offshore company and offshore trust formations

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