Opening a corporate bank account in the UAE

Opening a local bank account for a UAE company requires strong due diligence and know-how. Our corporate banking team enjoys excellent relationships with local and international banks in the UAE and will undertake the necessary banking steps on our Client’s behalf. Healy Consultants Group works with internationally-recognised banks such as HSBC, Barclays, Standard Chartered, Citibank, and major UAE banks such as Emirates NBD, Emirates Islamic, Mashreq Bank, ADCB, DIB, and more.

Learn how our team of experts guarantee corporate bank account approval.

The UAE banking sector

Before setting up a corporate bank account for a UAE company, our Clients should be aware that:

  • The UAE is a global financial centre with a well-regulated, stable banking system. Historically, the UAE has been seen as ‘tax neutral’ for capital flows from conflict zones in the Middle East, Africa and West Asia, Russia, and India. The UAE Central Bank has a reputation for maintaining the stability of the UAE financial system. The UAE dirham has also maintained a fixed exchange rate with the US dollar since 1980.
  • There are no foreign exchange controls in the UAE. The movement of funds is unrestricted for several financial operations, including the remittances of profits, dividends, debt service, capital, capital gains, branch profits, royalties, and returns on intellectual property or imports. Foreign individuals and companies are also free to open personal or corporate multicurrency bank accounts
  • UAE’s economy and banking system is vulnerable to i) regional conflict and uncertainty, ii) international efforts to combat the financing of terror and money laundering, iii) low oil prices, iv) declining real estate prices in the city, v) overseas visitors spending money in the city, and vi) a healthy global economy. Banks in the UAE are well capitalised, comfortably exceeding minimum regulatory requirements. According to S&P Global Ratings’ UAE Banking Sector 2023 Outlook, UAE banks maintain sufficient liquidity on their balance sheets to sustain loan growth, remaining more resilient against the unpredictable movements in international capital markets. In 2023, the total assets of banks operating in the UAE also experienced an 11% year-on-year increase, reaching a record high of AED4.1 trillion
  • In January 2024, the UAE’s foreign exchange reserves rose to US$184.4 billion, up from US$180.5 billion recorded in the previous month. The UAE is also rated highly by international credit rating institutions such as Moody’s and Fitch Ratings. The country’s government holds a sovereign credit rating of Aa2 from Moody’s and an AA rating with a stable outlook from Fitch
  • While deposits in UAE banks are not insured, the government has consistently stepped in to protect depositors’ money in the past and is unlikely to let any local bank collapse
  • Dedicated digital banks are emerging in the city, offering services via app, and typically with lower transaction fees and service charges. The UAE’s banking sector will also move further towards mobile payments, artificial intelligence, and blockchain in their services
  • UAE banks offer savings, deposits and checking accounts, online banking, currency exchange, foreign currency banking, wire transfers, ATM services, wealth management, loans, LCs, treasury, hedging and advisory services
  • Even the smallest transactions can be completed in the UAE by local and international debit and credit cards, as well as methods such as Apple Pay and an array of other payment gateways. Nearly all ATMs in Dubai accept international cards, many offer withdrawals in US dollars, and some have high daily withdrawal amounts of at least Dhs5,000
  • Most UAE bank branch staff speak English. Correspondence and online banking are available in both English and Arabic
  • The UAE is a signatory to the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) and the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), a global initiative to clamp down on tax evasion
  • All travellers entering the country must fill a declaration when bringing cash amounts equivalent to or higher than AED60,000

Considerations when opening a bank account in the UAE

  • The UAE government requests local banks to implement strict ‘Know Your Client’ procedures. Therefore prior to bank account opening, our Client will be required to submit i) detailed information on the company’s activities (including proof of business in Dubai such as examples of contracts, invoices etc) ii) information on the company’s Clients and suppliers iii) background information on shareholders and directors and iv) financial projections. Our corporate banking team will assist in preparing the necessary company documents to the bank’s satisfaction
  • Every UAE bank will request our Client to submit legalised and attested foreign company documents before the corporate account can be opened. A local company should budget approximately US$2,000 for attestation fees. A foreign entity opening a corporate bank account in the Emirates should budget for US$5,000 in attestation fees (seven documents @ US$800 each). If the foreign company has a complex structure, then the Client should budget for over US$6,000 in attestation fees
  • Some free zones require deposit of paid-up share capital. The same can only be deposited in a local UAE bank account and in local currency (AED). You can open supplementary accounts outside UAE once the primary AED account is opened
  • As well as UAE dirham accounts, local banks offer accounts in multiple currencies, including US$, euros, sterling, and other global currencies
  • UAE banks usually ask for a minimum deposit and maintenance balance of US$130,000. If the account fails to meet this monthly balance requirement, a fall-below fee is applied
  • In UAE, banks require a face-to-face meeting with directors and signatories of the entity before approving the business bank account application for their UAE companies. Travel is, therefore, required
  • More and more UAE banks may also require the client to secure a i) physical office in UAE and/ or ii) signatory to obtain a UAE work/residency visa. If required, Healy Consultants Group can assist to i) identify suitable office space and ii) assist in obtaining UAE visas
  • In most cases, UAE banks’ legal and compliance departments do not assess the initial due diligence documents prior to our Client’s arrival in the UAE. Instead, this task is handled by the front desk officer. As a result, it is common for the bank to request additional documentation at various stages of the account opening process
  • On average, UAE banks take on average eight weeks to issue corporate bank account numbers once a complete application and KYC document set is submitted to the bank
  • UAE banks do not require foreign companies to possess a local entity to set up an account. However, it may be difficult and expensive to open offshore company bank accounts as banks have tightened their requirements

Table of UAE banking problems and solutions

UAE corporate banking problem Solution

UAE banks always require physical presence of the signatory to secure a corporate bank account opening. Despite this, travelling to meet with the bank does not guarantee that the account will be successfully opened.

Our Firm will seek banks with branches for non-UAE residents. This might allow the beneficiary to visit at a branch closer to them, or in their home country in some cases.
If travel to the UAE is required, we will i) secure in-principal interest prior and ii) schedule bank meetings with multiple banks as backups.

Since 2019, opening a UAE corporate bank account as a UAE offshore company can be more challenging to meet all bank requirements and receive approval as they may have no substance or employees in UAE.

Since 2003, Healy Consultants Group has built quality banking relationships with UAE and global banks. These banks trust and welcome our multi-national Clients. A quality business plan is a big help. Additionally, Healy Consultants will help our Client meet UAE Economic Substance Requirements.

Just like many international banks, it is common for UAE banks to close corporate bank accounts without giving an open, transparent reason to their customers. To close a customer bank account without giving the bank signatory an opportunity to explain ‘unusual transactions activity in the corporate bank account’ is an unfair, unreasonable action which can place our multi-national Clients' business under stress.

We recommend our multi-national Clients to open multiple back-up multi-currency corporate bank accounts with different banks. It is not advisable to open one corporate bank account and have your business be dependent on one bank.

UAE banks and banking regulations continue to tighten and complete thorough due diligence, ask for stringent compliance and Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements.

Rest assured Healy Consultants Group will ensure the timely provision of all necessary documents in compliance with UAE banks and regulatory authorities.

Dubai banks may be particular about onboarding non-UAE registered entities, and the process is difficult and costly. They typically prefer customers with a local presence and economic substance.

Dubai banks will ask foreign registered companies to legalise corporate KYC documents with the UAE embassy in the country of origin. This can be costly as embassy fees are as high as US$800 for each document.

Since 2003, Healy Consultants Group has developed strong relationships with banks in the UAE. These institutions trust and are receptive to our multi-national clients, particularly when supported by a quality business plan.

As back up, Healy Consultants simultaneously contacts multiple banks to minimise completion timeframe.

The majority of Dubai banks only provide telephone support during Dubai business hours. This is inconvenient for multi-national Clients in Asia Pacific or the USA.

Healy Consultants Group staff assist our multinational Clients with bank communication, regardless of time zones. An attested POA will be needed.

How to open a corporate bank account

  • During the engagement, our Firm will contact multiple banking institutions to secure their confirmation of interests for our Client’s business and organise a meeting at the branch office of the bank
  • Healy Consultants Group’s Banking Team will complete the multi-currency corporate bank account application forms for our Client’s review and signature and collate Know Your Customer (KYC) due diligence documents
  • We will also draft a quality business plan for our Client’s review. This plan may improve the prospects of successfully securing a multi-currency corporate bank account at the bank of our Client’s preference
  • Our team will support our Client in Dubai by joining them in in-person meetings with local banks to open multi-currency corporate bank accounts
  • Upon successful completion of the above, the bank officer will present a complete potential customer file to the bank’s Legal and Compliance Department. This department may require additional documents and information from each bank signatory, director, UBO of the companies, and about our Client’s business and transactions
  • Should a bank decide not to onboard our Client’s business, Healy Consultants Group will promptly inform our Client and implement alternative banking solutions
  • Three weeks following the engagement commencement, we will deliver a summary table to our Client, listing the banks that have preliminarily expressed interest in onboarding them. Four weeks after our Client’s trip to the UAE, they may expect to receive their multi-currency corporate bank account numbers
  • Internet banking login details usually follow within one to two weeks after the issuance of bank account numbers. We are also able to help with the activation of internet banking facilities on our Client’s behalf
  • After getting the corporate bank account numbers, Healy Consultants Group is available to help our Client add new shareholders and directors if necessary. However, approval of these individuals as bank signatories usually depends on a face-to-face meeting with the bank and the subsequent review and approval of their applications
  • Other UAE corporate banking services

    UAE brokerage account

    • Many Clients choose a UAE brokerage account as their preferred trading platform in the Middle East. While stock exchanges in the Middle East may not be as advanced as those in Europe, the US, or Asia, interest in UAE brokerage accounts has increased alongside growing turning volumes.
    • A brokerage account in the UAE also opens doors for trading on European and American stock exchanges
    • As investment opportunities grow in cities like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, and Qatar, setting up a UAE brokerage account becomes a valuable strategy for our Clients to engage with these markets
    • Services offered when establishing a UAE brokerage account include equities trading in the Middle East, an optimal cash account, a margin trading account, FX and futures margin trading, securities borrowing and lending, funds and unit trusts, fixed income investments, research products including daily and weekly updates, company research reports, and sector focus reports
    • A UAE brokerage account will be subject to brokerage commissions, data fees, stock transfer charges, real-time price quotes and research tools, interest rates for margin loans, and management fees for discretionary accounts

    Trade finance

    • UAE banks are willing to provide finance to local companies if the following conditions are met:
      • submission of a good business plan
      • availability of security
      • experience of the business owners
      • auditing of the financial statements of the last three years
      • availability of a realistic feasibility study
      • report of the project’s strength and weaknesses analysis (SWOT)
    • Trade finance covers several financial instruments including bank guarantees, letters of credit, finance against trust receipt, and documents against payment and acceptance
    • Corporate finance options include loans, overdrafts or preferential credit terms
    • Some multinational Clients seek trade finance to boost working capital, better manage cash flow, benefit from economies of scale by buying in volume, and reduce bankruptcy risks

    Conclusion

    For quick solutions, including shelf companies and bank account numbers, please contact us.

Contact us

For additional information on our corporate banking services in UAE, please contact our in-house country expert, Ms. Chrissi Zamora, directly:
client relationship officer - Chrissi