One of the first tasks you will likely have to do when moving to any country is opening a bank account. For Americans such as myself this process is complicated by the fact that we are subject to US tax law wherever in the world we happen to live.
In the US I bank with Charles Schwab, an online bank which is fee free and even reimburses ATM fees worldwide. When I came to Italy I wanted to find a similar type of bank and after researching several options I settled on Fineco Bank, which is fee-free and offers free ATM withdrawals at any ATM in Italy, while ATM withdrawals abroad cost 2 Euros.
The first thing to realize about opening a bank account in Italy is that you must be a resident of Italy before you can start. In theory it is possible to open the Fineco account online and identify yourself with a webcam, but due to the fact that I am a US person I was told that I had to go to a branch in order to identify myself. I was also required to bring the following documents with me:
There are different types of residence permits depending on if you are an EU citizen or not. In my case I had to go to my municipality and register as a resident, which required me to show either my work permit, prove that I am a student in Italy, or prove that I have enough money to sustain myself. In theory the residence permit is sufficient for opening a bank account without showing the work contract again, but I think that the bank I dealt with was not used to opening accounts for foreigners so they asked to see my work contract to be sure that I was eligible for an account.
I also had to fill out a W9 form, which is an IRS form that identifies you as a ‘US Person’, and is basically how a foreign bank collects your social security number. For people with small balances such as myself, this form is just held by the bank as a formality, but if you have more than 10,000 euros in the account, you are required to report your account to the IRS, and the W9 is used by the bank to comply with US tax law. While researching bank accounts to open in Italy, I found that some banks, such as Hello bank!, explicitly exclude US citizens, probably because they do not want to deal with these reporting requirements. I did not have any issues opening an account with Fineco, however.
The hardest part of the whole process was making sure I had the right documentation, because the bankers here do not seem to be very used to dealing with foreigners either. It was also not that easy to get my actual residence permit due to the fact that they require a work permit as well as proof of address. Once everything was in order, though, it was easy to set up and I received my ATM card in the mail about a week later.
Opening a bank account is vital once you start life in another country. My account allows me to withdraw money anywhere in Italy, deposit money at certain ATMs, and transfer money for free within the EU. I can also use the debit card to pay throughout Europe. There is a bit of bureaucracy to deal with when opening an account here but overall it is not as hard as it seems, and I am very happy with my new account.