A growing number of foreigners open bank accounts with Georgian banks. Some do it for asset diversification purposes while others are attracted by high interests on bank deposits. If you want to start a company in Georgia or relocate your existing business to the country, you simply have to set up an account with a Georgian bank. Your company cannot be functional in Georgia unless it has a bank account there. All commercial banks in the country are licensed and monitored by the National Bank of Georgia.
The main advantages of banking in Georgia include the following ones:
- As a rule, the commissions are smaller in comparison to the commission charged by most European banks.
- Capital flows are monitored in Georgia but not exactly controlled.
- Modern online banking opportunities are readily available in the country.
- As a rule, Georgian banks have high levels of capitalization.
- It is possible to order debit and credit Visa и MasterCard from Georgian banks.
- You can open an account with an IBAN, which will let you keep money in US dollars, euros, pounds sterling, and Georgian laris in multicurrency bank accounts.
- English-speaking personnel are available in most Georgian banks.
- Since recently, Georgia has been exchanging fiscal information with other countries.
All banks in Georgia use the IBAN format, which simplifies international SWIFT/BIC payments. The specifics of the procedure of setting up a bank account in Georgia will depend on the particular bank that you choose. The type of bank account that you are opening (a personal or a corporate one) will have a bearing on the requirements. Opening a bank account in Georgia remotely is possible but the task can be challenging.
Below we discuss the specifics of opening a bank account in two largest Georgian banks – Bank of Georgia and TBC – and describe the range of services that each of them offers.
Bank of Georgia
Bank of Georgia (BoG) is one of the largest banks in the country. It is highly popular with non-resident customers thanks to the following advantages:
- High quality banking services;
- A large number of branches and ATMs;
- An opportunity to open a brokerage account and enter international markets;
- User-friendly mobile banking applications;
- Apple Pay support.
Foreign nationals opt for this bank because they can make SWIFT transactions. The account maintenance fee is 1.5 laris per month (approximately 55 US cents). Multicurrency Visa or MasterCard cards (Classic/Gold or Standard/Gold, correspondingly) are available. The card maintenance fee is 5 laris per month if you have a Gold card.
In addition to a personal account, you can open a corporate account with Bank of Georgia. You will have to supply the following documents when applying for bank account opening:
- A KYC completed form: the form’s contents change frequently so you have to ask for a sample just before you go to the bank;
- Documents confirming your income (a job agreement, bank account statements for 6-12 months preferably with the names of money senders/ receivers);
- A receipt confirming payment of the KYC fee (you cannot make the payment online: you have to visit the bank, make the payment there, and apply for banking services afterwards);
- A copy of your passport (the page with the photograph).
If any of the documents are written in a language other than English, they have to be translated into English and translations notarized.
Since a few months ago, the bank has been requesting proof of address in Georgia such as a rent agreement with the address indicated there. A Georgian SIM card is obligatory. The applications are processed within 3 to 5 days. It is possible to open an account with BoG remotely but you will need a trusted agent in Georgia who can do it by proxy. Opening a personal account with BoG online is impossible. Opening a corporate account remotely is also impossible and this applies to all banks in Georgia.
If you are opening a bank account for a sole proprietorship registered in Georgia, you also have to supply an extract from the Register. You will also be well advised to bring some documents confirming that your small business is making a profit (contracts, payment slips, tax declarations, etc.).
Specifics of opening an account with Bank of Georgia
Experience shows that people from sanctioned countries have trouble trying to set up accounts with BoG. If you are bringing bank statements, they had better be from a non-sanctioned bank. If you are not officially employed in Georgia, you can still open a bank account in the country. Bank of Georgia may open an account for you if you define yourself as ‘unemployed’. If you honestly claim that you are living on personal savings or on the money that your parents send you, you may be able to get away with it. There is no guarantee, of course, but the bank administration values honesty.
SOLO (Bank of Georgia)
SOLO is a premium division of BoG. The tariffs are higher, the requirements are stricter but the level of services justifies this. For instance, each customer has a personal manager and the bank has many bonuses to offer. You will greatly improve your chances of setting up an account with SOLO if you first open an account in BoG. If you actively use your account with BoG and/ or you make a large deposit there, the bank administration will suggest that you upgrade to a SOLO account.
SOLO boasts all the advantages that BoG does including a mobile application and a high level of services. What makes it different from BoG is a system of bonus points and the availability of some non-financial perks. For instance, bank customers have free access to VIP areas at international airports (only twice a year though).
The application documents are the same as the ones required by BoG:
- Passport copy;
- KYC form;
- KYC fee receipt (50 laris);
- Confirmation of sources of income.
Once again, having a Georgian SIM card is mandatory if you want to set up a bank account with SOLO.
TBC is one large bank in Georgia that is popular with foreign customers. All the standard banking services are available there and the service quality is high. TBC offers the following main advantages:
- High-quality mobile banking applications;
- Fast card issuance;
- Apple Pay support;
- TBC is Georgia’s largest stockbroker.
The bank also has some disadvantages, however. The main of them is a comparatively high cost of account maintenance – 100 laris per year. Besides, you have to submit a large package of documents when applying for banking services to TBC. In addition to the Georgian SIM card, the KYC form, and the passport copy, you must supply bank statements for the last 6 to 12 months from another bank. It often happens that a bank manager calls the applicant in a week or so to request some additional documents such as tax declarations, for example.
The TBC administration will also want you to prove the legality of your sources of income. You can submit the following documents to satisfy this requirement:
- A job contract if you are a salaried worker;
- A rent agreement if you are a rentier;
- Contract for real estate sale if you have recently sold a piece of real property.
- A bank statement from another bank (officially, for the last 3 months but many applicants report that it would be safe to have a bank statement for the last 6 months);
- Any documents confirming business income if you are a business owner;
- Inheritance certificates if you have inherited some property;
- Copies of share certificates or other securities if you live on interest or dividends that you derive from them.
A bank card will be issued to you within 1 to 3 days only but this can happen only after your application for banking services has been approved and an account has been opened for you. Now, application processing can take up to 10 days.
You can set up a personal and a corporate account with TBC. In the latter case, you have to supply an extract from the Register with your taxpayer’s number. Apart from other purposes, you can use your account with TBC to pay the taxes in Georgia.
Prepare to wait
The central office of TBC works as fast as it can but you may have to wait longer if you apply for services at a peripheral office. The same goes for client support: they may be slow to respond to your queries. Thus, you have to be prepared to wait if you want to have an account with TBC.
There are other banks in Georgia too but BoG and TBC are often referred to as the most reliable banks to be found in the beautiful Caucasian country.