Dubai Banking Setup – 5 simple steps that can be done overseas

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Dubai Bank Account Setup 

Starting a new business can be daunting, to say the least. The UAE, like any jurisdiction has its own systems you need to navigate to get anywhere. One of the most important aspects of setting up, will be to get your business a bank account so you can send and receive invoices.

The banking process in Dubai can be tiring, with the same information repeatedly asked for and long meetings where numerous of documents are required, many of which simply don’t exist in your home country.

A lot of forward planning is needed before you approach any bank. Why? The UAE is trying to attract bigger and safer business types. As part of this strategy, the banks have to be perceived as extremely diligent.

Getting your company bank account in the UAE

1. Get your trading licence

The following steps are the most commonly required for any company trying to open a bank account in the UAE. 

Like anywhere else, a bank will need to know that you are a real and serious business. Therefore, setting up a trading license is the first and most crucial step to complete. Make sure to consider the below points before applying for your trade license. 

  • Select the right business activity: Make sure the activity mirrors what your business is actually going to be doing. Double check this, it’s an expensive mistake to make otherwise.
  • Get your company name: Not all company names are allowed in the UAE, so before you really settle on one, have another three alternatives available. As an example, company names containing ‘Group’ aren’t always allowed.
  • Complete your incorporation paperwork: There will be a lot of paperwork involved, make sure everything is done before you submit anything.
  • Receive your licence notification: Now that you have your trading licence, you can begin the initial discussions with the banks. We usually try with 3.

2. Get your documents in order

Although each bank will ask for slightly different information depending on your company type, most will ask for copies of the following:

  • Corporate account opening form
  • Board of directors’ resolution sanctioning the opening of the account, and the signatories to the account
  • Company’s certificate of incorporation
  • Trade licence
  • Share certificates
  • Company’s memorandum and articles of association
  • Copies of passports for all partners in the company
  • List of 3 or more clients and vendors
  • Personal and company profile

Most banks will require additional supporting documents, including contracts or invoices. Reference letters from business partners, company business plans are also very useful to have. Lastly, you should give a description of the intended business activities which matches your personal profile. We call this a ‘common sense relationship’ between the business and the business owners.

If your company is owned by another company (like a holding company), more often than not you will be required to provide the same documents for both. If the owner company is registered outside the UAE, these documents will need to be attested by the UAE embassy from the country of origin, as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in the UAE. Everything needs to be legalised inside of the UAE. It can be frustrating, but we are here to help.

3. Visa related requirements 

As a simple rule of thumb, any person or director who will be a signatory on the account will always have less hassle if they hold a UAE residency.

Although most banks won’t ask for every shareholder to be a resident, they will need to perform normal KYC checks on each. Check this with the bank before you begin.

4. Which bank should you choose?

Now that you’re armed with the masses of documents required by most banks, you can start investigating which bank is best suited for you and your business.  

Many of the banks located in the UAE are suitable for international business; Emirates NBD, Mashreq, RAK Bank, HSBC, Standard Chartered, ADIB are just a few.

The one that’s right for you will depend on your specific requirements. For example, a company that’s dealing in very high value transactions will need a bank big enough to cover that potential liability. Oil exporters will typically try for Emirates NBD.

Here is what to consider:

Eligibility: Most banks will expect you to have a valid and current residence visa and Emirates ID. Often a proof of office address and residential address is required too. Ejari is usually also asked for and some banks will request to visit your office, due to the Economic Substance Requirements (ESR). Mainland companies have historically had an easier time.

Minimum balance: Your company activity and whether you’re a free zone or mainland firm, can have an influence on a bank’s acceptance of you and the balance required. A maintained balance can range from 5,000 AED up to 1 million AED, depending on how the bank asses the risk your company may carry. As an indication, we usually see banks asking for a minimum balance ranging between 50,000 AED to 150,000 AED.

5. Application process

Now that you’ve selected the bank you wish to work with, and you have the required documents and information; you can start the application process.

In some cases, a bank will send a representative to your office or your home to conduct the meeting. This is basically a vetting process to make sure that the details you have are all in the correct format for that specific bank.

It’s highly advisable to ask a few questions to the person you meet for business banking to be sure they know what they’re doing and have been at the bank for quite a while. This will be helpful as they will know the banks processes and key people much better. 

During your bank meeting, which can last up to one hour, you’ll be asked a lot of questions about income, client types and to sign plenty of application forms. Make sure to be careful when signing as the bank will use this signature for all future correspondence. A common problem clients face is that the bank is very ridged and will only accept a signature that is a very close match, even if that application was years ago.

We usually advise that a new bank account will take 3 to 6 weeks to open. This allows for any of the usual issues to be dealt with. The fastest is 10 days, given that all documentation is provided in the correct format.

Make your life easier, delegate the work 

Although it may seem like something easy enough to do in a few stages, it is critical that each part of the process is done correctly. Simple mistakes can add months onto opening a bank account. Preparation is key. You usually end up with almost 1kg of documents, which have to be in the right format, signed and stamped in the right place, in the right coloured ink and delivered to the right person. Otherwise, you risk starting the process all over again.

Delegating this rather arduous task to a decimated expert ensures the process goes as smoothly and fast as possible. We do all of the legwork, help select the best suited banks, collect and organise the paperwork, double check everything to avoid the usual mistakes, freeing up valuable time for you to use on growing your business. 

You’ve got a million other things you need to do. Let us help with this one. 

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