Currently opening a bank account in the UAE is not an easy task. This is due to the fact that behind each financial entity the Central Bank of the UAE that issues guidelines and requirements relating to all aspects of opening and operating a bank account in the UAE. Currently opening a bank account can take between 1 and 3 months – but it is not surprising (not at all) that it takes longer.
Why is so complicated?
EAU has hardened barriers of entry to UAE banking despite what many outsiders may still think that the UAE is a tax haven (which is not) and that it is ‘easy’ moving capital through the country. Nothing further away from reality, today.
When opening a new bank account, and even more so if you are a new resident in the country, whether you are natural or legal person, you must go through many filters in order for the banks to assess who you are and the origin of your funds. All this with the aim of preventing money laundering, tax evasion regulations, and making the UAE a country with a safe and transparent jurisdiction. But, What about if I have been a UAE resident for years, is it easier? The answer is No and Yes. In the vast majority of occasions, banks are not concerned with the years resided in the country, but rather they still apply all regular filters on applicants irrespective of years in the country. This being said, while the same filters apply, the fact that the money already comes from within the UAE is a big advantage.
In general, opening a bank account for individuals is easier. The requirements that the person must meet are usually much simpler, and the set up ranges from 5 to 10 business days. During this period, the Applicant (the good applicant!) is usually receiving a physical debit card, and is able to access the banking application to operate. Important! These applies to residents, which implies being in possession of an Emirates ID (EID) which can be obtained via employment or investment (company set up).
The requirements for the opening of a corporate bank account are significantly more complex, with lengthier waiting times. Banks will advance one to two months, in our experience one to three months is a good mark. This time limit starts to count from the filing with the bank of the EID of the Manager of the corporate account which also means that the company has been fully set up as banks will request applicable license, articles of association, a board resolution, etc.
What documents do I need exactly to open a bank account in the UAE?
There isn’t a fix list of documents, each banking entity provides its requirements and internal forms. Applicants must satisfy each bank requirements and fill specific forms.
Individuals Opening a Bank Account in the UAE
In the case of natural persons, a distinction is usually made between a savings account or a current account. This is depending on whether the applicant has an employment contract in the UAE. The rest of the requirements are the passport, the visa, Emirates ID and interview with theBank for the bank to understand the profile and obtain signatures on applications.
Corporates Opening a Bank Account in the UAE
For companies, the documents that will need to be prepared are: (a) the specific banking forms which usually ask applicants to list the origin of their funds; (b) future suppliers and clients of the company; (c) annual expected income; (d) along with other variables and future requests arising out of the internal bank verification duties (name matches and mismatches, additional source of funds, translations, etc.).
Alternatives to Opening a Bank Account in the UAE
The above are the regular details required from traditional banks. Banks with assigned relationship manager or street presence. These banks are usually a must as companies do require to make payment of salaries, rents, etc. to manage the local needs of their business. However, more and more “digital” banks are making their way in, and we can also observe corporate clients seeking reliance in them for non-local operations. Given the current difficulty of opening bank accounts in the UAE, corporates applicants do not overlook foreign banks in western jurisdictions more welcoming of digital assets (which the UAE does not, banking wise) or to the very least to endure the bank account opening process in the UAE.
Based on the practice and the day-to-day of banks, it is true that despite the difficulty in the opening of bank accounts, if applicant can evidence the licit origin of the funds and the machinery of their corporate account, all applicants should be able to succeed sooner or later. Preparation in advance tends to expedite.
For example, awaiting to translate bank statements from abroad (where funds are coming from) when the bank requests may delay rather than having them translated earlier.