How do I open a bank account in the United Arab Emirates?

Opening a bank account in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after relocating is likely to be one of the first tasks you need to tick off. As with a number of processes, it can seem more difficult when you are an expatriate. Have no fear, here is your guide to how it is done.

Are you a resident?

The chances are all your paperwork for becoming a resident hasn't been finalised when you first arrive, which means you can only get a basic current account. This is fine to begin with, as it gives you a debit card to access your funds, which will tide you over.

Once your documents have all been processed you will be able to upgrade the account in most cases to something more sophisticated. Perhaps check with the specific bank before opening the initial account to make sure it will be simple enough to change when the time is right.

Local versus international banks

There are two types of bank in the UAE – local and international – and it is entirely up to you which one you decide to use. Local banks offer all standard services, such as current, savings and deposit accounts, so you may find one of these suits your needs.

On the other hand, you may wish to opt for an international bank for a number of reasons. Perhaps you already have a relationship with one of these institutions and would feel more confident following through with this.

Another motivation may be that you are not sure how long you will be in the UAE and transferring an account with an international bank to a new destination could be easier. You may also be able to start the proceedings to set up your account with an international institute before you leave home.

If you opt for this, be sure to check that they have branches not just in the city you are relocating to, but also in your neighbourhood. Having to travel across town to sort out your banking can be inconvenient and sometimes downright impossible.

What you will need

Use the following as a checklist of items to take with you when you open your account in-branch, as forgetting any of them will slow the process down and require a return trip.

·         Passport

·         Residency visa if you have it

·         Proof of employment

·         NOC – this is a letter from your employer stating your job and salary, but is separate from the item above

·         Identity card – this can be your labour card, driving licence or Emirates ID card

·         Your tenancy contract or some form of proof of address

·         A photocopy of all of the above

Obtaining a credit card

All banks in the UAE offer credit cards, but these will not be made available until residency has been secured. Shop around for the best offer to suit your needs, just as you would in the UK, as some will set a minimum account or balance limit.

Travelling outside of the UAE

While your debit card should work right across the UAE, there can sometimes be problems using it in other countries. This can include popping over the border into other countries or returning to visit the UK.

The best way to avoid such issues is to inform your bank prior to travel, but also asking about it when setting up your account is a wise idea. This will let them know that you intend to make foreign trips and use the facility in this way.


Despite the fact that cheques are falling out of favour in the UK, they are still widely used in the UAE, so make sure that your bank issues you with a cheque book. Even if you rarely use one at home you will find certain types of service will be asked to pay this way.

That includes school fees, rent on accommodation or making a large purchase, such as a car. Be warned that bouncing a cheque is a criminal offence in the UAE, so be careful to ensure such a situation never arises.

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