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A friend who is a Swiss citizen and resident of Switzerland has a checking account with a Swiss bank. Because of a stay in the US, he was asked to file a "Status Declaration Form for Individuals" confirming that he is not a US resident. In addition to many more documents including tax returns, the bank asks to see his US visa.

Does a Swiss bank have the legal right to request seeing a visa for a foreign country, and if so under which paragraph of which law?

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    If they are a US resident it imposes reporting requirements on the bank (since 2010). It has become harder for a US citizen to open an account in Europe as a result. This also impacts those who have worked in the US.
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 22, 2023 at 20:35
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    I submit that the issue is if a law gives your friend the right to not comply.
    – Tiger Guy
    Jun 22, 2023 at 20:43
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    @TigerGuy surely the bank has the right to ask and the friend has the right not to comply. The real question is what actions the bank has the right to take (or indeed the obligation) of the friend exercises his right not to comply.
    – phoog
    Jun 22, 2023 at 21:09
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    @phoog the bank may also have the right to not do business with the person if they do not comply
    – Tiger Guy
    Jun 22, 2023 at 21:11
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    @TigerGuy that is exactly my point. They may in fact have an obligation not to do business with the friend if he doesn't comply.
    – phoog
    Jun 22, 2023 at 21:41

1 Answer 1

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Yes

The relevant Swiss law is known as the FATCA Agreement and has been in force since 30/6/2014. FATCA stands for the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, a unilateral set of US regulations that applies worldwide for all countries. It requires foreign financial institutions to disclose information on US accounts to the Internal Revenue Service or levy a high tax.

At the moment, Switzerland uses the "Model 2" agreement with the USA, which requires the consent of the US taxpayer or an administrative request by the IRS. There are plans to move to the "Model 1" arrangement, which uses automatic data sharing, but the timeline is uncertain.

The bank is required to verify that your friend is not a US tax resident, and the visa is one of the pieces of evidence they need. Your friend can, of course, refuse to produce it. The bank can then either refuse to do business with them, or treat them as though they are a US tax resident and withhold the required tax until such time as they prove they are not.

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  • Relevant to the question: some statuses carry with them an exemption to the "substantial presence test" and others do not, although the possession of a visa in a given class does not actually show that the bearer was admitted in that class. There ought to be other ways to prove nonresidence, and in fact some of those ways, such as a comprehensive listing of entry and exit records showing the immigration status, would be more conclusive than the mere possession of a visa.
    – phoog
    Jun 23, 2023 at 12:01
  • Since in reality they don't want a US visa, but evidence that you are not a US resident, would applying for a visa and having it refused for some other reason count as evidence? Or a visa waiver? I have one of those, and my wife has one that is expired because she renewed her passport.
    – gnasher729
    Jun 25, 2023 at 13:31

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