As a foreigner who just arrived in Singapore to work, study or live, there are many reasons why opening a local bank account should be one of your first things to check off your to-do list.
You’ll need a local bank account to receive your salary (either via direct transfer or for banking in your cheque), make use of ATMs islandwide to withdraw cash, as well as being able to send and receive money in Singapore.
If you want to invest or trade, you’ll also need a local bank account to make settlements and fund your trades. Paying of insurance premiums or bills is another important use case.
As we’ve also covered previously, certain high-interest savings accounts are also great for earning risk-free interest on cash that you still want immediate access to.
What Do Foreigners Need To Qualify For A Bank Account In Singapore?
Due to increasingly tight Anti-Money Laundering (AML) laws in Singapore, procedures and criteria for opening a local bank account has become tighter over the years.
To open a bank account, you’ll either need to 1) Show proof of your residence in Singapore or 2) Justify your need for a local bank account.
Recognised proof of residence in Singapore includes a valid employment pass, dependant pass, or student visa. This proves that you have a legal basis for residing in Singapore and for requiring a local bank account. If you are in the midst of securing these documents, letters of offer from a local company or school may be accepted at the bank’s discretion.
There are good reasons why you may not fulfil the proof of residence in Singapore criteria, but still would like a local bank account. Perhaps you’re a regional manager who is stationed in Singapore for a few months each year, or you own a local business subsidiary.
For those cases, you’ll need to produce supporting documents to justify your need for a local bank account. This can be a company letter stating the nature of your job, or ACRA documents showing your directorship in a company, or other documentation depending on your unique situation. You can speak to a bank staff and get advice on the specifics of what you need.
I Know I Qualify. How To Open A Bank Account In Singapore?
If you know you fulfil the above guidelines, you can visit the bank of your choice’s website or branch to find out what are the exact documents and initial deposit amounts they require, before heading down to the branch to open your account.
Here’s an example of the documents required for foreigners working in Singapore to open a DBS bank account.
1) Passport; and
2) Proof of Employment: Employment pass/In Principal Approval (IPA) issued by Ministry of Manpower*; and
3) Proof of Residential Address: Latest copy (last 3 months) of any of the items below:
– In Principal Approval (IPA) issued by Ministry of Manpower*
– Work permit of foreign domestic worker (domestic helper) issued by Ministry of Manpower
– Letter of offer
– Letter of employment
– Latest payslip
– Local utility bill
– Local telecommunication bill
– Local bank statement/credit card statement
– Letter issued by government of other public bodies regulated for AML practices in a FATF member country
– Letter from regulated insurance companies in a FATF member country
– Letter from school (restricted to official letters from educational institutions or schools under the purview of Council for Private Education or Ministry of Education)
* The IPA can only be used to fulfil either the Proof of Employment or Proof of Residential Address criteria, not both.
For students, the Proof of Employment portion is replaced by Matriculation card/Student card/In-Principle Approval by ICA. If you’re here on a dependants’ pass, you’ll need your spouse’s Proof of Employment as well as your Proof of Relationship.
Alternative: Opening A Local Bank Account With A Foreign Bank
Singapore is home to a large number of foreign banks, some of which have full banking licenses and offer bank accounts in Singapore. If you’re already a client in your home country, you could look at the criteria for opening a local bank account with the Singapore branch.
However, note that the criteria wouldn’t necessarily be more lax. In fact, most banks’ international banking services don’t come cheap and may only be available to those with huge deposits.
You may be better off just evaluating the various banks in Singapore and choosing the one that gives you the best benefits, such as interest rates, valued-added services, and ATM network.
This article was first published on 27 March 2019 and has been updated to reflect new information.
Listen to our podcast, where we have in-depth discussions on finance topics that matter to you.