Opening a bank account in Dubai

Discover whether it's possible for you to open a bank account in Dubai, what documents you may need and how to apply.

Dubai is a relatively unique city, in that the majority of its population are expatriates.

For that reason, the UAE economy is well set up to allow foreign workers to open a bank account.

In this guide, you’ll learn about the process of opening a bank account as a foreigner in Dubai, and the limits that you may face while doing so.

Can a foreigner open a bank account in Dubai?

A foreigner can open a bank account in Dubai, as long as they’re able to provide specific documents and meet the terms of the specific account.

However, your choice of accounts will be limited, based on whether or not you’re a UAE resident.

Resident bank accounts will typically have more features and less restrictions compared to non-resident accounts.

For example, some banks require non-resident accounts to maintain a minimum balance. Others may enforce a maximum balance. Non-residents may go through more intense background and financial checks that take a little longer.

Some banks in Dubai don’t offer non-resident accounts at all.

Which documents are required?

You can expect to be asked for the following documents when opening a bank account in Dubai.

  • Your passport.
  • Copies of your passport photo.
  • A no-objection letter from your employer or visa sponsor.
  • Your UAE identification card or proof of residency (if applicable).
  • Proof of address.
  • A copy of your visa.

In some cases, you may be asked for

  • an updated curriculum vitae (CV).
  • a copy of recent bank statements.

If the official language of your home country is not English, you may have to get these documents translated.

How does the application work?

The application process is very similar to opening an account in the UK.
In most cases, foreigners will have to complete their application in branch, because there are so many documents that needed to be presented.
After these documents have been presented and checked, the bank will complete background checks and financial checks before your account is opened.
What’s more, the UAE Central Bank recently mandated a Know Your Customer (KYC) policy, which requires banks to ask a few questions about their previous financial transactions.

Can a foreigner open a bank account if they are not physically in the country?

Some banks may allow you to open an account if you’re not in Dubai. However, in this case, you will have to hire assistance from a financial advisor in Dubai to present and sign documents on your behalf.

Can a bank account be opened online?

Yes, in recent years, a number of online-only banks have emerged.
A key advantage of these accounts is that they can be opened online, without having to present any documents to bank staff within a branch.
These banks also tend to offer competitive rates on overseas spending and ATM withdrawals, meaning UK residents will have little problem using these bank accounts while living in Dubai (or anywhere in the world). A disadvantage to these accounts is that you’ll have no access to in-branch customer service.

Alternative options

For those who would prefer not to open an account in Dubai, another option is to open an account with a digital bank such as Starling Bank or Revolut. Providing you download the bank’s app, opening an account is easy and you’ll also benefit from low foreign transaction fees.

Starling’s personal account, for example, does not charge fees for ATM withdrawals or foreign transactions. Revolut’s account allows you to transfer money abroad in more than 30 currencies with the interbank exchange rate, while its multi-currency card can hold up to 30 currencies at a time.

Pros and cons of opening a bank account in Dubai

  • Banks in the UAE cater to foreigners and expats. As an international business hub, the UAE’s banks are used to opening accounts for foreign residents.
  • Accounts can be opened online. This is handy as it could mean you can open an account without having to go into a physical branch.
  • There can be a great deal of paperwork involved. Unlike in the UK, you’ll have to present a bank with documents from your employer or visa-sponsor and occasionally your CV.
  • Restrictions and limits on some accounts. Bank accounts opened by foreigners in the UAE may come with certain restrictions.

The bottom line

Dubai is a hub of international business, so it’s perhaps no surprise that you’ll have a lot of options for opening a bank account there as a foreigner.

However, you will have to provide a few documents, and there are limits for non-residents.

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