Whether you’re planning to move to the United Arab Emirates for work, going to set up a company or make an investment, a bank account will be crucial to navigating the relocation of part of your life. There are many factors that go into where you commit to banking. What are the factors you’ll need to consider when choosing the right bank for you if you’re currently overseas? From the number of branches, the benefits you can gain from saving, income requirements, extensive documentation needed and other common criteria and schemes of note, here are the details you need for managing the process of finding the right home for your finances.
Can a foreigner open a bank account in the UAE?
With expatriates making up the majority of the Emirati population, there are pathways for foreigners to open their bank accounts. The short answer to this question is yes, but there is a critical distinction that will determine where you can bank and what types of accounts you can open. That is your residency status in the UAE.
Why does the question of residence apply in the choice of setting up a suite of financial products? That’s because most banks will require you to present your passport (along with copies of your passport photo) and a no-objection letter from either your employer or the person sponsoring your visa. The second of these requirements implies that you must have residency to open an international or offshore bank account in the UAE. Still, as you’ll see, some financial products are limited to residents.
Requirements for Opening a Bank Account in the UAE
Along with your passport and the no-objection letter we just mentioned, different banks will require other documents for resident ex-pat accounts. These can include your visa if you are a new arrival to the UAE and your Emirates ID card (or the copy of your application if you’re still waiting for it). You’ll also need a document that states your employer or sponsor and your salary and proof of address in the form of a utility bill or rental agreement. Banks may also request a letter of recommendation from another bank; you can easily procure this from the bank you use in your country of origin or residence. Every bank will also require you to hold a minimum amount every month and the amount will depend on the specific institution and the products offered.
Can I have a bank account in Dubai without a residence visa?
If you have not considered moving to the UAE yet, there are a series of options for you to consider. Most banks in Dubai only allow non-residents or tourists to open savings accounts. That means the restrictions imposed imply that current accounts or other services are only open to residents. While as a non-resident, you will not receive a cheque book, non-resident accounts receive debit cards that you can use to withdraw or deposit funds at ATMs. A caveat to non-resident accounts for UAE banks is that many institutions will require a minimum balance or even enforce a maximum balance you can carry in your account at a time. Some banks will allow their non-resident account holders to choose the currency for the money in their account, whether it be dirhams (AED) or another major currency. For those not interested in having to exchange dirhams for GBP, dollars, or another currency, this option can be attractive.
Requirements for Opening a Bank Account as a Non-Resident
What should you expect when you want to register yourself for a bank account with non-resident status for either yourself or businesses? Here’s what you need to stay aware. To open a personal bank account in the UAE as a non-resident, the following documents are mandatory:
Copy of your passport with the UAE entry page
An original copy of a reference letter from your bank where you have a personal/corporate account from your country of origin or any other country
An updated curriculum vitae (CV)
An original copy of the last six months of your personal bank statements from anywhere around the globe or your home country
There are other two crucial points you must note about non-resident bank accounts. First, most Emirati banks will require non-residents to hold a monthly average balance of $USD 100,000. While it may appear exorbitant, the federal government decided to impose tight regulations around its financial system. Finally, the UAE mandates that the applicant is present to open the account.
As for a corporate bank account, the requirements differ for business accounts, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will need you to certify some of your documents. The documents that banks may request include proof of address, the overview of your corporate structure, identity documents, certificate of incorporation/company licence, and sometimes they may want projections of future profits and transactions for your business.
If you are from a country where the official language is not English, it’s best to get all of your documents translated. Lastly, the Central Bank in the UAE mandated a Know Your Customer (KYC) policy for all banks to ensure that they remain compliant with international standards. Bank tellers or other representatives may ask you questions about transactions before or after opening the account.
Main banks in the UAE
What are some of the financial institutions you can find in the UAE? Here are some of the names, both national and global players, you may find as you consider who should be your banking partner.
Some options for international bank accounts in the UAE include
Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)
Local banks in the UAE popular among expats and locals include
Emirates NBD (National Bank of Dubai)
FGB (First Gulf Bank)
ADCB (Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank)
Dubai Islamic Bank
There are a total of 20 local banks in the UAE to choose from if you prefer to go with a local partner. With the larger global banks entering the Emirati market, the local players have come up with attractive new bank account offers for UAE locals and expatriates.