- September 1, 2022
Awara Guide on Opening a Bank Account in Reliable Jurisdictions to Support Your Russian Business. Chapter 3: Serbia.
Differences, Features, Tips, Pitfalls, and Best Serbian Banks for Russian Companies
This is the third article in our series on opening bank accounts in reliable jurisdictions. Find out in our interview with lawyer Anja Andrić from our partner Legal Eagles in Serbia how to open a bank account in Serbia and what the benefits are.
What is the standard procedure for opening a bank account in Serbia?
Note that procedure of account opening can vary depending on a bank in question, still some general overlay of the matters is explained below.
In case of non-resident companies, before we officially engage ourselves in the procedure client sends us documentation via email for the review, same documentation is forwarded to the bank and after bank issues green light for the account opening, we are initiating official procedure which implies following steps:
- request for opening is submitted with the necessary documentation
- the bank’s opening fee is paid
- bank activates the account and delivers payment instructions
- request for online banking is submitted
- the bank commission for e-banking is paid
- e-bankig is activated, instructions for using and activating the account are provided, and e-banking equipment is sent to the client via courier service.
In case of foreign individuals, client either comes personally to Serbia and is taken to the bank with us or he/she verifies power of attorney and send us original based on which we are conducting account opening procedure.
What documents are required? Who can open an account, is the presence of the General Director of the Russian company personally needed or can it be via power of attorney?
The following documentation is generally required to open an account for legal entities:
- extract from the register
- director’s passport copy
- owner’s passport copy
- power of attorney
Depending on the ownership structure, additional documentation may be requested by the bank.
Also, depending on the country in which the headquarters of the company is registered, our team from Legal Eagles provides instructions on whether and what kind of certification of documentation is required.
Theoretically bank account in Serbia can be opened for any non-resident company, with proviso that some obvious destinations of incorporation would not be accepted pretty much by any bank here (Syria, North Korea, Iran and Iraq).
The bank account in Serbia can be opened via power of attorney, so the presence of Director isn’t required.
Documents required in case of individual accounts are power of attorney, passport copy and copy of document showing address.
Does the company have to open a local entity (LLC) and/or have a local General Director in order to open an account?
Company doesn’t have to form a local entity in order to have bank account as option of opening a non-resident account always exists. Also company doesn’t need to have local director neither as non-resident company or local company in order to open and manage its bank account.
How long does it take to open an account?
In case of companies, from the moment we receive all the required documentation, the opening process takes about 2 to 3 weeks, while e-banking takes another week. In case of individuals, opening process takes around 3 days, while card issuance additional 7 days.
Is it possible to transfer money from Serbia to Russia or is there a risk that these transfers will be blocked because of the sanctions?
Bearing in mind the current situation regarding sanctions, transactions from Serbia to Russia (and vice versa) are possible only in RUB currency. Serbian bank which opened account for Russian client does not have issue of transfering funds in EUR and USD as well, but in most of the cases transactions of those type are stopped by EU or US intermediary banks.
Are there currently any sanctions in force against Russia, Russian companies or individuals limiting them to open bank accounts?
Serbia as a country has not introduced any type of sanctions toward Russia, Russian companies or individuals, however majority of banks operating in Serbia are extension of EU banks, which despite lack of sanctions will follow guidelines dictated by their country of origin. Luckily several banks without EU origin here do accept Russian clients, most notably API Bank and Expo Bank.
Have you already assisted Russian companies in opening bank accounts?
Yes, we have. Our team has been recognized on the market for several years as one of the leaders in this field, not only for Russian companies but companies all over the world. Our biggest recommendation are satisfied clients.
Is it possible to issue a virtual corporate card for making online payments (for example to pay for Adobe Photoshop and other online services)?
It is possible to make online payments with debit card (Visa or Master) issued after bank account opening.
Do you need a local mobile SIM card for approving bank operations (signing bank payments)?
Local mobile SIM card is not required.
What banks would you recommend for opening accounts for Russian companies and individuals?
(Note: based on which ones provide more favorable conditions for Russian/international businesses, less paper work, but with a high reliability level etc.)?
We strongly recommend API bank. This bank has recognized the potential for clients abroad. Our team from Legal Eagles achieved excellent communication and cooperation with it.
Is it possible to open an account as individual person (not a company) and can you assist with this as well?
It is possible to open an account as individual person and we do provide assistance with this.
There are two ways of handling the account opening procedure in case of individuals:
1. with the personal presence of the client in Serbia
2. without the personal presence of the client, when we act based on power of attorney verified and sent by client.
How can Russian individuals/companies manage their accounts in Serbia from abroad? Are there options for online banking provided with all banks?
Russian companies can manage their Serbian bank accounts from abroad through online banking without any limitation and without need of director’s or anybody’s personal presence in Serbia.
However usage of the Serbian bank accounts in case of individuals comes with some caveats. For individuals online banking is rarely offered by Serbian banks, and at this moment both API and Expobank offer online banking just in form of checking the account balance (and just in case when we do account opening with client’s personal presence here). Even when the online banking is offered for individuals, outgoing international online payments cannot be performed with it, just the domestic ones. International payments can be executed in two ways:
1. with personal presence of the client in the bank for the purpose of international payment execution
2. issuance of special power of attorney with which authorized person exectues transfer in the name of the client.
On the other hand incoming international payments to the client’s individual Serbian account are credited to the same account without need for client’s personal presence in the bank or presence of authorized person.
Besides mentioned, after opening of individual account, clients receive debit card (Visa or Master) which can be used all around the world as payment instrument on POS terminals or simply for cash withdrawal at ATMs or bank counters,.
Could you describe in a sample case how the process works, including timelines etc. for interested clients to get a more clear picture what they will have to expect?
We should separate explanations depending on the fact whether the client is individual person or company.
So, in case of companies when client interested in Serbian bank accounts contacts us, first thing would be our request to the same client to sends us documentation via email for the review. Subsequently same documentation is then forwarded to the bank in expectation of receiving green light for the account opening from the same. When banks confirms willingness to establish relation with our client we are sending complete list of documentation that client needs to prepare, along with instruction for verification of the same. When we receive originals of the verified documentation same is sent for the translation and then handed to the bank. Naturally after that bank opens the account and issues online banking allowing usage of the same, while the whole above mentioned process takes around a month.
In case of individual accounts process is fairly simplified. We either visit bank together with client or with client’s power of attorney (passport copy and copy of document showing address), account is opened in around 3 days, while debit card issuance takes additional 7 days.
Together with our reliable and professional partner Legal Eagles we’ll find the best way to support your company, to ensure smooth operations and reduce the sanction risk! Contact us for questions or a quote.