How can a foreigner open a bank account in Singapore in 2019?

We would like to tell you about the possibility of opening up a bank account in Singapore for individuals who are non-residents of the city-state.

The year 2018 was a year of further tightening of onboarding rules in banks worldwide. As a result, establishing bank accounts is now a far more complicated process than it was several years ago.

However, the demand for opening foreign bank accounts is growing as less countries are considered to be safe havens for the storage of money.




This being said, Singapore remains one of the few countries in the world where its’ financial system has consistently proven to be safe, stable and sustainable since the GFC.

As such, it is essential for businesspeople to understand how one can apply for a bank account in Singapore with a high chance of success.

This article is written to summarize the many years of our experience in dealing with Singapore banks in opening accounts for foreigners.

We chose a form consisting of the most frequently asked questions and our respective answers to them, in both a general and specific manner.

Ultimately, we believe that this article will be useful to every reader interested in opening a personal account with banks in Singapore.

1. WHAT IS THE MAIN REQUIREMENT FOR OPENING A PERSONAL CURRENT ACCOUNT IN A SINGAPORE BANK FOR A NON-RESIDENT?

The main requirement non-residents must comply with when opening a current personal account in a Singapore bank is to produce a valid confirmation that one is allowed to stay in Singapore for a long period of time, i.e. beyond 30-60 days usually granted by immigration authorities to foreigners visiting Singapore.

2. WHAT DOCUMENTS CONFIRM THAT A FOREIGNER IS ALLOWED TO STAY IN SINGAPORE FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME?

The below documents are issued to foreigners to confirm that they are allowed to stay in Singapore for a long period of time:

  • Local ID (National Registration Identity Card, NRIC) issued to foreigners who are granted the status of Permanent Resident (PR) in Singapore;
  • Employment Pass (EP) issued to skilled foreign employees of Singapore companies;
  • Dependant Pass (DP) issued to family members of EP holders;
  • Long-Term Visit Pass issued to family members of Singapore PRs before they are granted PR status;

For these reasons, opening a personal current account for foreign nationals permanently residing outside of Singapore is currently not possible.

3. WHAT TYPES OF ACCOUNTS AT SINGAPORE BANKS ARE AVAILABLE TO FOREIGN CITIZENS PERMANENTLY RESIDING OUTSIDE SINGAPORE?

Foreigners permanently residing outside of Singapore can open two types of savings accounts in Singapore:

  • Privilege Banking or Priority Banking (preferred accounts offered by commercial banks);
  • Private Banking accounts in banks specializing in wealth management.

4. WHAT DOCUMENTS MUST BE PROVIDED FOR OPENING AN ACCOUNT?

The list of required documents for opening a personal account with a bank in Singapore includes:

  • Passport;
  • Proof of the residential address of the applicant; A reference letter from a bank where a foreign applicant has already opened a personal account; Proof of the source of funds (for Private Banking accounts).

5. IS THE PERSONAL PRESENCE OF THE ACCOUNT OWNER REQUIRED TO SUBMIT AN APPLICATION TO A SINGAPORE BANK?

Yes, foreign applicants must come to Singapore and submit their applications in person at a branch in Singapore.

However, sometimes it is possible to arrange an interview outside Singapore and apply for a Private Banking account from abroad as officers of Singapore private banks travel overseas from time to time.

6. IS IT NECESSARY TO CONFIRM THE ORIGIN OF THE FUNDS OF THE ACCOUNT OWNER?

It is a requirement to submit supporting documents confirming the source of funds when opening Private Banking accounts.

7. HOW WOULD INFORMATION REGARDING THE ORIGIN OF FUNDS BE PROVIDED?

Information regarding the origin of funds must be documented. For example, if the source of your capital is from your own business, you will need to show that it makes a profit (financial statements, account statements of your company, etc.).

8. IS IT POSSIBLE TO OPEN A PERSONAL ACCOUNT WITH A SINGAPORE BANK IN THE NAME OF MULTIPLE PERSONS?

Yes. Singapore banks allow for accounts to be established in the names of multiple individuals. These accounts are called Joint Accounts.

9. ARE ALL OWNERS REQUIRED TO BE AT THE BANK WHEN ESTABLISHING A JOINT ACCOUNT?

Yes. It is a requirement for all account holders to be present when opening a Joint Account with a bank in Singapore. If all the holders cannot visit bank together for any reason, they can visit the bank separately.

In this case, the bank will start the consideration of the application after all account holders have visited the bank.

10. IS THERE A RESTRICTION ON THE RESIDENCY OF THE OWNERS OF THE PERSONAL ACCOUNTS OF NON-RESIDENTS INDIVIDUALS IN SINGAPORE BANKS?

Each bank in Singapore has a list of countries whose residents cannot apply for opening an account with that particular banks.

The list usually consists of countries that are under sanctions by the Singapore government. For example, this may include North Korea and Cuba. It may also include other countries at the discretion of the bank’s management.

11. WHAT CURRENCIES ARE AVALIABLE WITHIN PERSONAL ACCOUNTS WITH SINGAPORE BANKS?

Most banks in Singapore open accounts in Singapore dollars and in US dollars. On top of this, accounts in other world currencies including the Swiss franc, Australian dollar, Euro are also available. Ultimately, clients have the opportunity to choose approximately 10-12 different currencies to open an account with.

12. CAN NON-RESIDENT INDIVIDUALS OPEN MULTICURRENCY ACCOUNTS WITH A BANK IN SINGAPORE?

As of December 2018, multicurrency accounts for individuals who are non-residents of Singapore are available at Citibank Singapore and at DBS.

The rest of the Singapore banks assign different numbers to accounts in different currencies opened by the same client.

13. WHAT IS THE USUAL TIME OF CONSIDERATION OF APPLICATONS FOR OPENING A PERSONAL ACCOUNT IN SINGAPORE BANKS FOR NON-RESIDENTS?

The average time for consideration of an application for opening a Privilege Banking/ Priority Banking account for non-resident individuals with Singapore banks is 2-3 weeks.

However, the opening of Private Banking accounts in Singapore banks takes approximately 1 month or more.

14. DO SINGAPORE BANKS CHARGE THEIR FOREIGN CUSTOMERS FOR OPENING ACCOUNTS?

No, Singapore banks don’t charge their foreign clients for opening accounts.

15. IS IT POSSIBLE TO ISSUE DEBIT CARDS ATTACHED TO PERSONAL ACCOUNTS OF FOREIGN INDIVIDUALS OPENED WITH SINGAPORE BANKS?

Yes, Singapore Banks issue debit cards linked directly to accounts denominated in Singapore dollars.

Following the bank’s approval, it takes around two weeks to issue a debit card after the opening of an account by a non-resident of Singapore.

16. IN WHAT CURRENCY DO SINGAPORE BANKS ISSUE DEBIT CARDS?

The currency of all debit cards is the Singapore Dollar.

The exception is Citibank Singapore, which allows the card to be linked to accounts in other currencies.

17. WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE INITIAL DEPOSIT ON THE ACCOUNT OF NON-RESIDENTS IN SINGAPORE BANKS?

The size of the deposit depends on the individual requirements of the bank and the type of account to be opened.

For Privilege Banking / Priority Banking accounts, the amount of the initial deposit starts from 200,000 Singapore dollars (or the equivalent in another currency), whilst for Private Banking accounts initial deposit starts from 1 million US dollars.

The largest Singapore banks (DBS, OCBC, UOB) recommend opening Privilege Banking/ Priority Banking accounts with balances of 350-400 thousand Singapore dollars, as the personal manager is assigned to the owners of accounts with higher balance.

18. DO I NEED TO MAKE A FULL INITIAL DEPOSIT TO MY SINGAPORE BANK ACCOUNT?

At Privilege Banking / Priority Banking accounts, the initial deposit must be paid in full.

For Private Banking accounts, the gradual replenishment of accounts is allowed for a specified period (usually 6-12 months from the date the account was opened).

19. WHAT ARE THE BALANCE REQUIREMENTS FOR PERSONAL ACCOUNTS OF NON-RESIDENTS IN SINGAPORE BANKS?

The average monthly balance for the Privilege Banking / Priority Banking account must be at least 200,000 Singapore dollars.

For Private Banking accounts, this amount ranges from 1 million US dollars to 5 million Singapore dollars.

The average monthly balances are calculated by quantifying the value of assets (stocks, bonds, other investment instruments) acquired by the client through the bank or deposited in the bank.

20. WHAT IS FALL-BELOW FEE?

A fall-below fee is a commission that Singapore commercial banks charge when the average monthly balance of account is lower than the required minimum. The size of the fall-below fee is usually 100 units in the account currency (that is, the fall-below fee on an account in US dollars would be $100, an account in euros would be 100 euros, etc.).

Private banks don’t charge fall-below fee.

21. IS REMOTE ACCESS TO ACCOUNTS PROVIDED BY SINGAPORE BANKS?

Yes, individuals – including non-residents of Singapore – can manage their accounts opened in Singapore banks remotely.

22. IN WHAT FORM DOES REMOTE ACCESS TO THE NON-RESIDENTS ACCOUNT COME?

Privilege Banking / Priority Banking accounts are provided with full-featured access to the Internet banking system (with the possibility of making outgoing payments).

For Private Banking accounts, remote access is provided for viewing purposes only.

Transactions for Private Banking accounts are managed through a personal account manager.

23. DO SINGAPORE BANKS REQUIRE DOCUMENTED CONFIRMATION OF INCOMING PAYMENTS?

As a rule, such confirmation is not required.

However, if necessary, banks in Singapore have the right to request supporting documents for incoming payments.

24. DO SINGAPORE BANKS REQUIRE DOCUMENTAL CONFIRMATION OF OUTGOING PAYMENTS?

As a rule, such confirmation is not required.

However, Singaporean banks have the right to request supporting documents for outgoing payments, if necessary.

25. IS IT POSSIBLE TO WITHDRAW CASH OUTSIDE OF SINGAPORE?

Cash withdrawals outside of Singapore are possible with cards linked to the accounts of individuals – non-residents of Singapore – in Singapore banks.

The possibility of withdrawing cash outside of Singapore should be discussed with the bank when applying for the issuance of a card.

26. WHAT ARE THE LIMITS FOR CASH WITHDRAWAL BY SINGAPORE BANK CARDS?

Limits for withdrawing cash on cards are set individually by Singapore banks.

As of the end of 2018, depending on the bank, the limits for withdrawing cash on cards of Singapore banks range from 3,000 to 10,000 Singapore dollars per day.

27. WHAT ARE THE LIMITS OF DAILY PAYMENTS BY SINGAPORE BANK CARDS?

Limits of payments on cards of Singapore banks as of 2018 are up to 10,000 Singapore dollars per day.

The limit of daily expenses on the card is agreed with the bank when applying for a card issue.

28. WHAT ARE THE LIMITS OF MONTHLY PAYMENTS ON SINGAPORE BANKS CARDS?

Payment limits on Singapore bank cards as of 2018 are up to 50,000 Singapore dollars per month.

The limit of monthly expenses on the card is agreed with the bank when applying for the issuance of a debit card.

29. HOW IS PAYMENT RECEIVED IF THE FUNDS ARE SENT IN A CURRENCY DIFFERENT FROM THE ONE MY SINNGAPORE BANK ACCOUNT USES?

The funds credited to a Singapore bank in a currency other than the currency of the beneficiary’s account are credited by converting the funds received to the account currency at the rate set by the recipient’s bank on the date of crediting funds.

30. IS THERE AN OPPORTUNITY TO OPEN A DEPOSIT ACCOUNT?

Yes. Singapore banks offer a wide range of deposit accounts for foreign investors.

31. WHAT ARE THE AVAILABLE RATES FOR DEPOSITS IN SINGAPORE BANKS?

As of December 2018, interest rates on deposits (regardless of the deposit currency) in Singapore banks are less than 1% per annum. However, banks often make special offers to their customers by significantly raising the interest rate.

32. DO SINGAPORE BANKS SEND PAPER STATEMETS OF CUSTOMER ACCOUNTS?

Yes. Singapore banks send paper statements to the postal address of their clients monthly following the establishment of an account.

33. I DO NOT WANT TO RECEIVE PAPER STATEMENTS ON MY HOME ADDRESS. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

We would be happy to provide a postal address in Singapore for one to receive their bank statements.

34. HOW CAN I CLOSE MY SINGAPORE BANK ACCOUNT?

The closure of accounts held by non-residents of Singapore in Singapore banks can occur both at the initiative of the client or at the initiative of the bank.

When closing an account at the initiative of the client during the first year of operation of the account, Singapore banks charge a fee for closing the account.

When account closure was initiated by a bank, a Singapore bank sends a notice to the client by mail one month before the proposed account closure. Singapore banks have the right not to disclose the reason for account closure.

35. IN WHAT LANGUAGE IS COMMUNICATION WITH THE BANK CONDUCTED?

Official communication with Singapore banks is conducted in English.

Remote bank account management systems are also available in English.

As Singapore is multicultural country with four official languages, bank officers can communicate in other languages.

Please contact us to discuss your language preferences, and we can advise you on the best option for you.

36. DO SINGAPORE BANKS DISCLOSE INFORMATION ON THE ACCOUNTS OF FOREIGNERS OPENED IN SINGAPORE?

Singapore has joined the automatic exchange of tax information (AEOI) since September 2018.

To find out how the automatic exchange for your case works, consult our experts.

36. CAN I RECEIVE A PAYMENT FOR RENDERED SERVICES TO MY ACCOUNT OPENED WITH SINGAPORE BANK?

As a general rule, bank accounts of individuals are not intended for commercial activities.

For those who wish to start a business and use Singapore’s reliable and stable banking system for conducting business, we recommend contacting us to learn how to register a Singapore company and open a bank account for it with a Singapore bank.

This is how, in general, the process of opening a bank account in Singapore for a non-resident individual works. Contact our specialists, and we will do everything to make your dream of opening a personal account in Singapore – one of the few remaining pockets of banking stability in today’s increasingly unstable world.

Interested in opening bank account in Singapore?

Our company provides support services for opening bank accounts with Singapore banks.We are professionals and have already provided quality support to many foreigners who aimed to open personal bank accounts in Singapore.

We wish you prosperous New Year for 2019 and would be excited to ensure your success in opening a personal account with a Singapore bank in the upcoming year!

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