Creating A Singaporean Bank Account As A Foreigner

Updated: Feb 9





WHY OPEN A BANK ACCOUNT IN SINGAPORE


It’s all nice and good to start a business. But if you don’t have a local bank where you have your business, it leads to a few problems.


Firstly, you and your clients may need to incur additional transaction fees for possible currency conversion.


Next, if you run a business in Singapore but have a bank account in, say, Nigeria, your clients may start to ask questions about your credibility. And if you are some kind of Nigerian prince. Don’t know why they keep asking that.


Finally, because of precedence, banks are generally on the lookout for money laundering, and your transactions may be frozen on occasion for investigations. It’s great for security, terrible for paying your expenses on time.


So with these reasons, we would strongly recommend opening a local bank account if you are operating primarily in that country.


Why Singapore specifically, then?


With a recession coming round the corner, many banks have negative interests, while Singapore banks are still positive, albeit on the low end. In any case, Singapore is still considered as a good option.


Another reason why you might want to come to Singapore is because Singapore’s financial system is considered to be world-class in safety, stability, and sustainability. You will generally not have to worry about your money being stolen from you.


CAN A NON-RESIDENT OPEN A BANK ACCOUNT IN SINGAPORE?


It is relatively easy to set up a bank account in Singapore if you are working or studying, as you will have an employment pass or study pass.


However, if you are just visiting and not working or studying, you may find it much more difficult. This could be the case if you are moving with your partner and do not plan to work or study.


Because of increasingly stringent anti-money laundering (AML) laws in Singapore, procedures and criteria for opening a local bank account have become tighter over the years.


HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR CHANCES


First, if you are a millionaire, or are looking to make a six-figure deposit minimum, you will probably get help from a dedicated account manager so that you can pass this process quickly.


However, if you are not so fiscally lucky, you might need to pay more attention to the setting up details, because the banks are less likely to be tolerant of any mistakes in your documents.


This is particularly serious, because if any bank rejects your application, you are likely to be rejected at every other bank too. In addition, if you are missing any single document, it would pretty much mean a wasted trip down. Fortunately, some banks now do allow for a video interview rather than needing you to appear in person, so that helps make this process easier.


One aspect you want to consider is that different banks and branches may cater to particular industries, prefer certain client types, require particular minimums, or have varying degrees of openness towards non-residents. If you choose a wrong combination, you may be denied, and your chances of opening at that bank may be ruined!


Do check if the bank you’re applying at has any special requirements for authentication or translation of the documents from your home country or the country where your business is incorporated.


As these are part of the Customer Due Diligence process of banks, make sure that your company is not affiliated with any illegal funds or company structure, or nature of business. Scan through your clients and customers to ensure that you do not have Politically Exposed Persons who may be involved with adverse media activities, to minimize the risk of being linked to any potential involvement in any corrupt or nefarious activities.


To prove that you are setting up your company for proper economic and business reasons, ensure that your business structure is straightforward and easy to figure out, including the background of company beneficiaries and directors, nature and geography of business activities, representative clients and suppliers, and profile of transactional activity.


On a side note, be wary of any company that promises an extremely fast bank account opening for a foreign-owned company. It will take a few weeks to vet information about foreign nationals, so if there are any claims of just a day or so, stay away!


Above everything, BE TRUTHFUL. If the bank ever uncovers anything that is not accurate, it will affect your credibility and make it difficult to work with the bank in future, and by extension, any other bank in Singapore.


With all that said, what do you need to prepare?


WHAT YOU NEED TO PREPARE


Here’s what you need to prepare.


There are two key documents you will need to open a bank account in Singapore:

  • Passport

  • Employment pass (or study pass)

You will need to obtain your employment pass or study pass before you arrive – without one or the other, you cannot legally work or study in Singapore.


Most banks will require you to bring these into a branch to complete your application.


To be on the safe side, you should also bring the following documents with you when opening your account.

  • Bank statements from your local bank

  • Tax or national insurance number

  • Proof of address

  • Formal letter with proof of employment or study

  • Your rental agreement

Some banks might also require:

  • A recommendation from your home bank

  • An introduction from one of the bank’s current customers


We hope this serves as a surface-level but comprehensive overview of the banking requirements in Singapore. If you’d like to find out more, contact us at info@cfosg.sg and we will get back to you.


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