Discover how to open a bank account in Dubai as a non-resident. Learn about required documents, account types, and the process involved.
Dubai is a foremost artery of global trade.
Entrepreneurs and business owners from all over the globe flock to Dubai to enjoy its low taxes, free zones, high-flying technological ventures and impressive networking opportunities.
Here’s the frustrating part. Opening a business bank account in Dubai is difficult — particularly for non-resident SMEs..
This is because SMEs aren’t a priority. After all, Dubai is a playground for the rich. Look no further than the fact that the amount of centimillionaires in Dubai is expected to grow by 52% in the next ten years. The rising cost of living is pricing out expats. New credit cards like Dubai First’s ‘Royale Mastercard’ is by invitation only.
Moreover, Dubai’s banking system is haemorraged by antiquated processes — quite a contrast to the tech-savvy, business-haven image that Dubai radiates in the popular imagination.
But can non-residents open a bank account in Dubai? We did the hard work so you don’t have to. Read on.
Opening a business bank account in Dubai is a slow and often painful journey for SMEs.
In a study conducted by the Dubai Chamber and Ministry of Economy, almost two thirds (65%) of UAE entrepreneurs say banking is the biggest challenge they faced when launching their business. For some, opening a business bank account can take months — even up to a year.
Take Nikhil Kamath, co-founder of Zerodha. He said, “Dubai seems like a good place for the privileged few to spend their money. But to start a business there and earn money is very difficult.
“I was trying to create a company and fund there when I realised that they take three months to open a bank account for a company.”
The truth is ugly. Compared with multi-national corporations, small to medium-sized business are ‘low value’ accounts. They’re not as commercially attractive as the main players in the market.
This results in longer wait times as banks take care of their multi-million dollar accounts first.
The pros of opening a business bank account in Dubai are as follows:
The challenges of opening a business bank account in Dubai are:
Firstly, you need to obtain a residence visa and business licence to open a business bank account in the UAE.
Non-residents can only open basic accounts which don’t function as a full-service business account.
Some banks will allow non-residents to open a savings account — however, this will be personal. We needn’t explain to you why business activities must be conducted in a separate corporate account.
You’ll need to bring with you the following documents to open a business bank account in Dubai. However, be aware that each bank has their own requirements — it’s always best to ask in advance.
If you’re not able to gain a residency visa, or are uninterested in doing so, you can still open a bank account in the UAE as a non-resident. However, you’ll only be able to open a basic personal account with limited services.
To do this online, check with the specific bank — some may require your signature in person and in the presence of a bank officer. Some banks will allow you to do this remotely by authorising a financial advisor to act on your behalf.
There are currently 23 domestic banks and 28 foreign banks in Dubai and the UAE. The most popular banks include First AbuDhabi Bank, Emirates National Bank of Dubai, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Emirates Islamic Bank and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank.
Choosing the right bank for you depends on what services you’re looking for and the fees you’re willing to pay.
Access to round-the-clock technical support is critical, particularly when you’re regularly sending and receiving high-value global payments. You want someone to explain why your bank account is frozen or why your payment is delayed.
If you’re involved in international trade, you want a dedicated account manager is beneficial, and a multi-currency account armed with unlimited transfers.
Some banks in Dubai do offer these features, but they require high minimum balances. Take Emirates National Bank of Dubai. They give you a dedicated relationship manager if you open a Business Banking Plus Account. This means, however, that you’re able to hold a minimum balance of AED 200,000.
If this isn't feasible, consider your alternatives.
Silverbird is an EMI-certified cross-border payment solution primed for international trade. It allows you to hold, transfer and exchange 30+ currencies — all from a single multi-currency account and at a fraction of the usual cost.
Unlike traditional banks, Silverbird will provide you with an account manager — no matter the size of your business — so you have consistent one-to-one support whenever you need it. No transfer limits. No hidden fees — enjoy a transparent fee structure tailored to your business.
If you require online payments and business account solutions for your UAE-based business, chat with us at Silverbird.
You likely won’t have to pay a fee for opening a bank account in the UAE, but you could have to keep a minimum average balance each month. If you don’t meet this amount, you will be charged around 250 AED. There may be different minimum balances depending on which bank you choose, but it could be anywhere between 50k and 500k AED.
As we’ve shown already, you need to register your business in UAE to open a business bank account there. Here’s how the process works.
Get your residence visa
You’ll need to register your company, obtain an establishment card, get an entry permit, apply for an Emirates ID and undergo medical tests and then have your visa stamped into your passport.
You could also apply for a work visa, a freelance visa, enrol in a college or university, apply for a family visa, a residency visa for retirees, a Golden, Silver or Green visa or by purchasing a property worth at least 1 million AED.
Obtaining a UAE residence visa through opening a business should take no more than five working days.
The ‘Dubai Trade License’ is a document that clarifies which activities a company can carry out. These are issued by the Department of Economic Development.
Before applying for the licence, you must know which area you’ll be basing the company in — whether in the mainland, offshore or a free zone.
You must also know your business name, define the legal structure and business activities, complete the application form, gather the required documents, submit the application and pay the licensing fee.
The approval process can take anywhere from a few days to four weeks, so hang tight to see if you’ve been approved.
You can apply for a residence visa with the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Port Security.
Choose your banking provider and arrange a meeting with a member of staff. The employees will walk through the details of your application before formally sending it off to be verified and checked.
You can expect to receive your account documents and card details within two to four weeks.
Dubai is great for global trade, but it isn't friendly for non-resident businesses. You need residence permits and trade licences — even then, opening an account can take up to a year fo some SMEs.
Open a multi-currency account online with Silverbird. Get onboarded in days — not months. Hold, send and receive money instantly in 30+ currencies. Enjoy a dedicated account manager who understands global trade. 100% human support. Tier-1 security. In short, all the benefits of a bank account — just without the frozen accounts and delayed payments. Speak to us now.
Opening a bank account in Dubai as a foreigner is possible. Indeed, it’s commonplace — only 1 out of UAE’s population of 10 million are UAE citizens.
Foreigners can only open a business bank account in UAE if they have registered their company in the UAE and have obtained a trade licence.
Most UAE banks allow non-residents to open a bank account, but restrict them to basic business banking services.
Some corporate accounts can be opened without the need for a deposit, whereas others require at least 50,000 AED. It entirely depends on the bank you choose.
After opening the account, you must transfer a set amount of money per month as banks usually require a minimum average monthly balance — you’ll be charged if your balance falls below this. For the First Abu Dhabi Bank, for example, even the ‘Business Basic Account’ requires 50,000 AED as the minimum average monthly balance.
To open a corporate bank account, you need to have a residency visa and a trade licence. Further documentation is required too, such as a certificate of incorporation, company memorandum, articles of association and much more. Each bank will have different requirements so check ahead of time to avoid disappointment further down the line.
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