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How can foreigner open bank account in Singapore in 2020? Part I - 18.03.2020

After a year, we are writing again on the matter of opening bank accounts in Singapore banks for foreign citizens who don’t live in Singapore.

As we noted in the previous article, Singapore remains one of the few places on the planet of Earth that maintains reliability and stability of its banking system amid growing uncertainty and fears of a new global financial crisis.

The year 2019 turned out to be relatively calm, in the sense that there were no radically new rules, like the automatic exchange of information that was introduced over the previous years.

At the same time, 2019 was the first year with automatic exchange of information in force in all countries that announced the adoption of Common Reporting Standard, or CRS.

Last year proved that life in times of transparency of banking system is possible. Moreover, it is almost the same life we had before an automatic exchange.

Of course, there are more rules governing the procedure for opening a bank account by non-residents of the country where the bank is located.

But the global economy is also in danger of another recession. The number of countries with negative interest rates is growing; accordingly, bank risks increase.

With COVID-19 panic, it is officially recognised start of bear market period at all stock markets throughout the world.

Therefore, a foreign bank account is simply necessary to protect savings. And Singapore today is the best place to place funds where investors feel safe.

In the end of 2018, we summarized our many years of experience in working with Singapore banks in the form of questions and answers and published an article on our website on how a foreigner to open a bank account in Singapore in 2019.

A year later, we again answer the same questions to tell you what has changed in the procedure for opening accounts with Singapore banks and what to expect from Singapore banks in 2020.

To save you time, we split the large text into three parts:

  • in the first part which you are reading now, we provide answers to questions regarding general rules for opening accounts in Singapore banks for foreign citizens who permanently reside outside of Singapore;
  • the second part tells about additional services and tariffs of Singapore banks;
  • the third part answers questions related to the daily work with accounts. You can turn to the relevant part, depending on which block of questions you are interested in.

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

Having a visa which allows foreign citizen to stay in Singapore for a long period of time remains the main requirement of Singapore banks when opening current personal accounts to foreigners.

These visas include:

  • Long-term visa for professional who has employment in Singapore (Employment Pass);
  • Long-term visa of a family member of the holder of Employment Pass (Dependant Pass);
  • Long-term visa of a foreigner who is a family member of a Singapore Citizen or a Singapore Permanent Resident (Long-Term Visit Pass).

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

Citizens of a foreign country who don’t have a long-term Singapore visa, can open the following accounts with Singapore banks:

  • Privilege Banking / Priority Banking (privileged accounts in commercial banks);
  • Private Banking accounts in banks specializing in the management of large private capital.
These accounts are classified as savings.

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

The list of necessary documents for opening a personal account with a Singapore bank has remained unchanged compared to 2019 and includes:

  • Passport of the applicant;
  • Confirmation of the address of permanent residence of a foreign citizen outside Singapore;
  • A letter of reference (Bank Reference) from a bank where a foreigner has his/her personal account;
  • Confirmation of the source of funds (for Private Banking accounts).
Documents issued in a foreign language should be submitted along with English translation.

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

Personal identification of the account holder by the bank officer is a core part of the procdure of opening a personal account with a bank in Singapore.

Therefore, foreign nationals must visit Singapore and appear in person at a Singapore bank branch to apply for opening a personal account.

Private Banking accounts may be an exception, due to the fact that employees of private banks regularly travel abroad. Therefore, an interview for opening a Private Banking account with a Singaporean bank for a foreign citizen can be held outside of Singapore.

5. IS IT NECESSARY TO CONFIRM THE SOURCE OF THE FUNDS OF THE ACCOUNT HOLDER?

Yes, such confirmation must be provided when opening Private Banking accounts.

6. HOW WOULD INFORMATION REGARDING THE SOURCE OF FUNDS BE PROVIDED?

Information on the source of funds must be documented.

For example, if the source of your capital is your own business, you will need to show that it makes a profit (financial statements, statements of your company accounts, etc.).

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

The account of an individual, which can be managed by several people at the same time, is called the Joint Account.

Singapore banks open joint accounts, including for foreign citizens.

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

The application for opening a joint account must be signed by all account holders. Therefore, each of them must be present in the bank.

If the Joint Account applicants cannot visit the branch of the Singapore bank together, they can do this one at a time.

Singapore Bank will start to process the application for opening a joint account after all application forms have been duly executed and signed, that is, after all the holders of the future joint account have visited the bank.

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

There is a ban on working with citizens of countries for which international sanctions apply. This ban applies to all Singapore banks. Such countries include, for example, the DPRK, Cuba, Iran and few others.

In addition, each Singapore bank has an approved list of high-risk countries. Bank’s cooperation with citizens and residents of countries from this list is undesirable or impossible.

Therefore, before applying for opening an account with a Singapore bank, you should make sure that the bank works with citizens of your country.

10. WHAT CURRENCIES ARE AVALIABLE FOR PERSONAL ACCOUNTS WITH SINGAPORE BANKS?

Most banks in Singapore open accounts in Singapore dollars and US dollars, as well as other main world currencies (Swiss francs, Australian dollars, Euros, etc.). Customers are offered 10-12 currencies to choose from to open an account.

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

As of March 2020, Citi Singapore offers multi-currency accounts for individuals - citizens of foreign countries who do not reside in Singapore permanently.

The practice of other Singapore banks is to open separate accounts for each selected currency. The numbers for these accounts will also be different.

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

Applications for opening a personal account for a non-resident of Singapore in Singapore commercial banks (Privilege Banking / Priority Banking accounts) are processed within 3-5 weeks.

Opening Private Banking accounts in Singapore banks takes 2-3 months.

The second part of the article will tell about the first steps of working with Singapore banks personal accounts, and the third will answer questions that arise after the start of active use of the account.

Check new publications on our website or contact us to get answers to those questions for which you did not find the answer in the articles.

Thank you very much for your attention and see you soon!