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How to open an offshore bank account in Singapore


Update (February 2016): To avoid any doubt, opening a bank account in Singapore as a non-resident was fairly easy when this article was first written, but has since become much harder and perhaps effectively impossible in many cases.

This article remains on the site as a reference. Some of the information in here may still be useful if you are trying to open an account. However, you should not rely on this article or on any information anywhere else on the internet to reflect the current situation. Do not just travel to Singapore expecting to be able to open an account.

Update (June 2014): There’s no doubt that opening a non-resident bank account in Singapore has become much harder since this article was originally written. Some readers are still reporting that they have been able to open an account with relatively little trouble, but others have been turned away. This is largely due to the ongoing global crackdown on money laundering and tax evasion, which has resulted in Singaporean banks being more concerned about opening accounts for non-residents.

In addition to a passport and proof of address, it seems likely that you will require a letter of introduction from your current bank in your home country. Some readers have reported that banks demand considerably more information, such as exhaustive detail on source of funds.

I strongly recommend that you contact a number of banks to establish what their current policies are and what documentation will need before travelling to try to open an account. There is some indication that bank representatives have discretion over opening accounts for non-residents and that a logical reason for requiring an account may help, such as travelling to Singapore frequently or opening a brokerage account with the same bank.

This article has been left unchanged for now because the situation is unclear and the background information may be useful. But the process is certainly not as easy as it once was. Feedback from readers on their recent experiences of opening accounts is welcome, via the contact form.

Original article (August 2011): Singapore is a very popular choice with foreign investors looking to open an offshore bank account. It’s a safe and stable country with a very solid financial system, while all account servicing is conducted in English.

Most importantly, it’s extremely easy for non-residents to open a bank account in Singapore. Most institutions welcome non-resident customers of all sizes.

If you are a US citizen or resident looking to open any kind of financial account anywhere outside the US, see this article on the added problems you face. However, at present it seems that most major banks in Singapore will still open accounts for US residents and citizens.

Choosing a Singapore bank

The first thing to do is pick a bank. There are about 30 major banks operating in Singapore, both local and foreign. But it makes sense to look at the three local banks first. These are DBS (which includes the Post Office Savings Bank or POSB), Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) and Union Overseas Bank (UOB).

The main reason to go with one of these three is that if you decide to open a stockbroking account as well, they will offer quicker, easier and cheaper transfers between your bank account and your broking account via the Electronic Payment for Shares (EPS) system. Citibank also offers this facility, but other foreign banks currently don’t.

In addition, if you plan to be visiting Singapore and using your account locally, the local banks have the most extensive ATM and branch networks.

Of the three, OCBC probably stands out as the best choice. The most compelling reason is that it offers one of the two most comprehensive stockbroking services in Singapore and having your bank and brokerage account together means that transfers between the two are fully automated. Foreign investors usually speak highly of its customer service, especially at the flagship Chulia Street branch.

If you currently bank with a global bank such as HSBC or Citibank, they will often have a presence in Singapore. However, do not assume that moving money between your home account and your Singapore account necessarily be simpler or cheaper even if you keep both accounts with the same firm.

Some banks are improving their global integration, but most remain remarkably bad at it. Check the details carefully if you decide you want to look at opening a Singapore account with your current bank.

What bank accounts can I open?

The conditions for non-resident bank accounts are pretty much the same between all the banks – or were when last checked for this article. You cannot open a current account with a chequing service or a debit or credit card, but you can open a savings account.

You can transfer money in and out of this easily and you can also have an ATM card that can be used at cashpoints in Singapore and abroad. Obviously, you will usually be subject to fees when using cashpoints abroad.

There are no account fees as long as you keep a minimum account balance – typically S$1,000. Personal internet banking came as standard and was completely free with all banks.

In addition to Singapore dollar savings accounts, you should also be able to open term deposits for a higher interest rate. Foreign currency deposits are also available for most major international currencies.

Opening an account in Singapore

Once you’ve picked a bank, you need to go through the account opening process.

Doing this in person is simple and the recommended way if you’re taking a trip to Singapore anytime soon – and if you’re not, perhaps you could plan one anyway. That may sound excessive, but for added confidence in any offshore bank, it’s never a bad idea to see the country and meet your account representative face to face.

To open an account in person, you will need to go to one of the bank’s customer service centres. You do not need to book an appointment – just turn up, take a ticket and wait your turn.

As a visitor, it makes sense to go to the financial district, where all three local banks have a branch very close to the Raffles Place MRT. DBS is on Malacca Street, while OCBC and UOB are on Chulia Street. Most other major banks also have a branch in the same area.

You will need your passport as proof of identity, plus a proof of address (for example a bank statement or utility bill). You may also require either a letter of reference from your bank abroad or an introduction from a current accountholder at the bank you have chosen. Reportedly, some of the global banks also want proof of your taxpayer number or national insurance number in your home country, although the local banks have not asked for this in the past.

Obviously, before you travel to Singapore, you should check with the bank that the rules haven’t changed and no further information or documents are needed.

You will also need the minimum balance (typically S$1,000) to pay into your account. If your ATM card works abroad, you could withdraw this from an ATM in Singapore, otherwise change cash in advance.

There are no capital controls in Singapore. But you have to make a customs declaration if you are bringing more than S$30,000 in cash or bearer instruments into the country. In any case, doing an electronic transfer subsequently for large amounts usually makes more sense than carrying it on your person.

And that’s essentially it. You will be assigned an account representative, complete the forms and pay in your deposit. With most, you will be given an ATM card on the spot. Statements will be sent to your home address abroad.

If visiting Singapore in person is out of the question, you may be able to open an account by post, depending on which bank you plan to use. You will need to check with the bank exactly what they require, but it will involve having the forms and a copy of your passport verified by a lawyer or notary in your home country.

Banks that have branches in your home country will sometimes help you open overseas accounts. So if you are unable to visit Singapore, this may be the one reason to use a global bank such as Citibank or HSBC.

Doing this is clearly more paperwork and bank staff definitely express a preference for opening accounts in person if possible. Recent reports from investors have been contradictory on whether either of the three local banks will allow accounts to be opened by post.

Paying in funds from abroad

When you want to pay more funds into your Singapore account, you can do so by international transfer. Your bank will give you its SWIFT number and all the details you need to quote and you provide those when arranging the transfer.

You should be able to do this from your home bank account via your bank. But you may get a better exchange rate and lower fees by using a specialist currency transfer service, as discussed in this article.

A transfer will typically take 3-10 days to arrive depending on how efficient the firm handling the transfer is. Singaporean banks using make a small charge on receiving a money transfer. The typical fee is S$10.

To withdraw small amounts from your account, you could of course use your ATM card. For larger amounts, your Singapore bank will be able to arrange a transfer out to your home account.

Again, you will be charged for this. And again, you could look at using a currency transfer firm (among the ones listed in the article above, WorldFirst has operations in Singapore) to see if they will do it more cheaply.

However, the cost and speed of international transfers is still sufficiently poor that it isn’t worth transferring money back and forth frequently. It’s sensible to work on the basis that any money placed in an offshore bank account as staying there for a long time.

How safe is my money in Singapore?

Singapore has a very stable and well-regulated financial system. Banks are regulated and monitored by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the country’s central bank.

In terms of depositor protection, Singapore dollar deposits in a full bank are insured up to a limit of S$50,000 by the Singapore Deposit Insurance Corporation (SDIC). Note that foreign currency deposits are not insured.

The three local banks are extremely solid. Only one is partly state-owned: DBS, via sovereign wealth fund Temasek. But it seems highly unlikely that the government would allow any of them to fail with significant losses for account holders even beyond the SDIC limits. The same support would perhaps not be extended to local arms of non-Singaporean banks, so if you are concerned about this, it provides another reason to choose the local banks.

For what it’s worth these days, Singapore’s government has the top AAA credit rating from all major ratings agencies. Perhaps more relevantly, it has a long track record of prudent and conservative fiscal policies.

61 replies on “How to open an offshore bank account in Singapore”

I have a handicapped son and cannot travel to Singapore to open an account. I am a U.S. Citizen. What are my options for opening an account with one of the three local Singapore banks.
Thank you for your response.

Hi David,

Unfortunately as far as I’m aware it is essentially impossible to open an individual account with any of the local banks without being present in person (it seems to be becoming increasingly difficult even in person anyway).

Regards
Cris

Not even that if you’re a US citizen/pr. Unless you have about a million to deposit. Thanks to the great O who certainly looked after the 1%. Those other 99% sheeple can go to hell as far as he’s concerned.

Hi Claire,

You would need to contact the banks directly to ask them if they allow accounts to be opened by post. But as far as I know, no Singapore banks will do so at the moment (indeed, few banks in any reputable financial jurisdiction will do so any more). It might be possible in some cases to open an account through a branch of the bank in your home country, but direct postal applications don’t seem to be accepted (mostly because it’s too difficult to do identity verification and anti-money-laundering checks).

Regards
Cris

Well let’s assume I can open a bank account in DBS, and then one day I am planning to withdraw the lots of money from the bank (let’s say SGD 500,000), what are the conditions needed to do so? Will the government intervene in such condition in order to prevent the money going out from their country (such as making the requirements harder)?

Thanks in advance.

Singapore doesn’t have capital controls, so taking money out of the country again shouldn’t be an issue (subject obviously to any money-laundering or security checks a bank might need to do on large transfers). Obviously, there’s no guarantee that will always be the case, but the same is true in any country and Singapore has historically been very committed to having an open capital account due to its position as a financial centre.

I am a British Citizen and have very large deposits in Germany and even in England. I would like to open an account in Singapore and want to invest some assets. Is there any limitation I can wire from my banks? Please advise me.

Thanks in advance

Merchant

You’d have to contact the banks directly and ask them. Large deposits may raise questions about source of funds and hence require proof that they are from a legitimate source. Banks are rightly very concerned about being used for money laundering and/or tax evasion.

I am a US resident and will start working for my company’s Mother Company which is in Singapore. I will continue to be a US resident but will be getting paid from Singapore with Singapore dollars. Can I open up a simple banking account just for deposit of my salary? I am not looking for investments, but will need a bank account for my salary and to be able to transfer money to my main account in the US.

Thank you

You’d have to contact the banks directly and ask them. I don’t think that being paid by a Singapore company would mean special treatment in terms of local vs foreign status, but it might help in terms of introductions and a legitimate reason for wanting an account.

You’d have to contact the banks directly and ask them. As with individuals, it seems they have become less willing to open accounts for offshore companies with good business reasons.

I would like to know how can I open an offshore account in singapore of my company in Bangladesh?
To make or receive fund transfer from vendors/ supplier. Or maybe use the fund to make investment to support operation in other country.

You’d have to contact the banks directly and ask them. If there’s a legimate business reason for opening the account, that might make it easier.

No idea I’m afraid – in this kind of situation, the only thing to do is to call/email as many as possible as ask if they will accept you. Be prepared for inconsistent answers, unfortunately – I’ve heard of people being told they will be accepted, so travelling to open an account and then being rejected.

How safe is putting money into a local branch with Citibank or HSBC in terms of the capital ratio, liquidity, capitalization, bank management, history of good banking, and stability of the bank? Where can I get this info? Also are these international banks structured separately by country? Does their capital remain separate such that insolvency in the US doesn’t affect the solvency in Singapore? Also do regulations like Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) or TIEA or MLATs or foreign exchange controls affect international banks like Citibank and HSBC differently than local Singapore banks? It seems like the local Singapore banks like POSB / DBS, OCBC would be better, but I’d like to hear your opinion. How easy is it to move money internationally with just a local bank?

All these info can be obtained from their respective annual reports, research reports etc. via online search. Cris here is not the best person to answer such bank-specific financial analytical questions. All banks in the world would need to be in compliance with the local authorities where they are operating, hence solvency in one country does not affect another, unless there is a huge cross border guarantee involved. FATCA itself affects all banks in Singapore across; whereas in terms of procedure, foreign banks are more tedious, although it doesn’t tantamount to better service or package after the account is opened. There’s no difference in moving funds internationally in Singapore; all are equally monitored. It’s more important for you to convince why the bank should allow you to open an account with them rather than you establishing which bank is best to bank with, before you have established your track record.

I opened one at citibank just by sending things to them and calling. They told me that they would have to come, then eventually they opened up while I was waiting. Maybe it was a mistake on their part, but worked for me.

Yes, anecdotally I’ve heard from a couple of readers that they seem to have made the process easier again. Suggests they are definitely worth trying for anybody who meets their criteria (seems to be $10,000 min balance).

Is it easy to open an account for non-residents in Singapore ? I need to open an account to get my
internet marketing incomes from Google Adsense and Clickbank . What type of account should I open
and what is the initial minimum deposit ? which bank is better ? I read your article and it says S$1000 for balance ,I need DBS email address but I can’t find it through their website . please give me the email address to ask them . Thanks

No, unfortunately it’s become increasingly difficult for non-residents to open an account, as mentioned in the article. Some people are successful, some aren’t. Having a solid reason for opening an account is likely to be helpful, but you’d need to ask the banks whether yours is likely to be accepted. As far as contact details go, it’s best just to go to the bank’ websites and get them from there.

Does citibank or hsbc allow open bank account at their home country without personally visit Singapore ?

I’ve been told that they will sometimes – not sure if this depends on how big a customer you are. And policies change, so it’s hard to keep track of. The only solution is to contact them directly and ask.

I’m planning to send my son for tertiary education in Singapore in the next 2 years and I want to open an account with OCBC to start saving funds for his expenses now. Would OCBC accede to such request?

Suppose I keep my saving in Singapore.
If I die, is it difficult for my spouse to inherit the money if both of us are foreigners?
How about if both of us pass away, would it be easy for our children to inherit?

I’m emphatically not an expert on estate planning, but I believe distribution would be governed by the laws of the country the deceased is resident in, not Singapore law. If the deceased were to die intestate, then some Singapore provisions on inheritance come into play (which in the case of a parent with no surviving spouse and children seems to be that the money would be equally divided between the children). Singapore has no inheritance tax. But you should get expert legal advice – cross-border inheritance is an extremely complex topic.

Hello,

Any advice on a Canadian opening a personal bank acct in singapore? Can I do this remotely and what info is usually needed.. The way that Robert opened his account, could I do the same?
Thanks!

You would need to contact the banks directly to ask them if they allow accounts to be opened by post, but as far as I know non of the local banks will allow it remotely at present. I believe that local branches of foreign banks (eg Citibank and HSBC) may be able to do so through branches located in your home country – again you’d need to check with them.

Thank you for this very informative article.

I am a resident of Spain. I do not plan to have a stockbroking account. I only need a safe offshore bank account for my funds. What is your opinion on opening a bank account in a high rated bank in Dubai, instead of Singapore? I have heard that it is easier to open an account in Dubai banks. Another advantage is that Dubai does not have any control on physical export of currency. When leaving Singapore, it is required to declare any cash amount over SGD 30,000, or equivalent. No such requirement exists in Dubai. Any of your comments would be very helpful…

As far as Dubai goes, I’m afraid I don’t have any background or information. I invest in Asian markets, which is the basis of my interest in Singapore providers – I’m not a specialist in offshore banking as such, so I haven’t researched Dubai because it doesn’t meet my other needs.

Almost certainly – I’ve certainly heard from readers who’ve been told a bank will deal with them if they put a certain balance on deposit (or put it into the bank’s investment products). That said, there doesn’t seem to be be a fixed rule on this – I still hear from people who manage to open accounts with lower balances.

Hi,

I will travel to SG soon and I want to open a bank account also in SG , I’m from Philippines. I’m not PR just a tourist and want to know more about the stock industry of SG and may invest with just minimum amount. Is this possible?

Thanks

Rose

It is increasingly difficult to open a bank account, as noted above. You should contact the banks before traveling and try to establish their requirements to avoid the risk of them not being willing to open an account when you get there. That said, my impression is that wanting to open a brokerage account is sometimes considered a valid reason and makes the process simpler.

Minimums vary between brokers. For example, OCBC requires a S$2,000 non-tradeable deposit from non-residents. Phillip requires S$5,000 initially, but that’s tradeable and you don’t need to keep that balance indefinitely. (Those figures were current the last time I checked – they may have changed since, so again you should check with them.)

What documents are required for a malaysian to open a savings or fixed deposit ac jointly with a family member? What are the legal implications should one of the two or three account holders pass away…

No idea I’m afraid, this is a very specific topic. You’d need to ask the bank directly about its requirements.

I opened a bank account at DBS; they asked me to indicate the average amount I would put and get. I declared a low one (6.000 SGD per month).
Now I need to get a bigger payment from an offshore company (50.000 SGD) instead of monthly money.
As far as you are aware, is there any specific limit/control/prohibition to do that?

I am a South African citizen and would like to open a bank account in Singapore. However, I am not able to travel to Singapore at the moment. How can I do this?

What are the documents needed for a Malaysian and Spanish to open an offshore bank account with USD currency in Singapore? Any bank recommendation?

I am interested in opening a bank account in Singapore. What is the maximum cash deposit allowed by any Singapore bank without reporting documentation?

Hi. I was wondering if you have heard of any recent news from readers who are us citizens? I was told by dbs that they only open accounts if you have a work permit and uob wanted $250,000 USD as a deposit

a lot of misinformation here you CANNOT open an account at any Sing bank for love or money, unless you are legally resident/working here.

I would like to open a foreign currency account in Singapore, and remit my hard earned US Dollars. Would I be able to withdraw USD dollars in Singapore?

Appreciate your feedback.

I’d like to use a Singapore bank account to receive online earnings.

I’m not a US citizen, travel enough that I’m never a legal resident anywhere, and do not intend to work within Singapore’s tax territory, so as far as I know, I’m not subject to any income tax.
So there’s no tax evasion at issue here, just tax optimisation. Is this still considered a legitimate reason to open a Singapore bank account, or do they consider mildly disreputable things to be illegitimate?

Good morning

I”m a Brasilian Citizen….can I open a Singapura”s Bank”s account …….???

And if I can……this can give some troubles with the Brasilian Government ???

Thanks !!

I am Austrian can I open offshore account bank to Singapore but I can not travel because my Sohn are Disabled . Now my money are to dubai can I acoount online open what for document need .please to answer me

Hi Cris , are u certain as foreigners we can open a bank account in Singapore. It’s getting hard. To open dbs or post. Do u know anyone can walk me through ?

I travel frequently visit my son who is studying there. I would like to open an account. I was push away not allowing me to open an account there. It would be great full if you can tell me what excuse to tell the bank why I want to open an account in Singapore.

Thank you

Yes, it has become much more difficult for non-residents to open an account in Singapore than it used to be. Some readers still say they have been successful, but many aren’t. I can’t say what reason would be acceptable. At one point, wanting to open a stockbroking account (and hence wanting a bank account to link to it) was helpful, but that may not still be true.

This is an old article and I’ve left it up for reference, but as the introduction now says, the process is difficult and the only thing to do is to contact several banks, explain your circumstances and see if they are willing to deal with you.

i guess this could be a key question today. if there was a bail-in declared by let’s say citibank or hsbc
how might this affect any accounts in singapor
I just need clarification you suggest that the insured accts at singapor banks will not be covered by insurance ( Note that foreign currency deposits are not insured.)
if it is a foreign depositor? or did I misread thanks

Deposits that are in a currency other than Singapore dollars are not covered by the deposit protection scheme. As far as I know, there are no restrictions based on the nationality of the depositor. The FAQ for the scheme is here.

Chris,

It is going to continue to get worse as time goes on. Do you have any idea if it is going to be easier to open an account in hong kong ? I will be a non resident on a tourist visa. Other than having a job in HK, what are the other means to become a resident?

The Western world is bankrupt and these KYC rules are just another form of capital controls..

Thanks.

Unfortunately, I understand Hong Kong is even harder to open an account now. The authorities there began to tighten rules a bit earlier and have gone further. I gather even opening a business account as a small business is very tricky, let alone an individual non-resident.

Hi, i have just incorporated a company in hong kong as i will be dealing with chinese and european clients but im starting from the ground so i wont have years of trading history etc…. I have a work permit and currently live in singapore. How difficult would it be to open a corporate bank account here in singapore for my hong kong company as i cannot open my bank account there as you need to be a resident nowadays . Would appreciate your help thks

Is there a realistic way/possibility for an average US citizen to open a bank account in Singapore? I do not have a passport and do not plan on traveling there (likely at all). Is there options for a standard US citizen like myself to open an account with 1-2k? Thank you.

-BR.PDX

Hi Chris,
Good day to you,
I’m from Malaysia, intent to open an account in Singapore to transfer Forex money. Pls advise what are the procedure.

Hi,

I am a Zimbabwean citizen and want to move all my money over seas, at the moment the thought is Mauritius but as I understand it the fee for transfering it is quite significant and I won’t be getting interest once the money is there.

Now my question is will I be receiving interest if I transfer my money to Singapore or would it be a negative interest situation. I understand it may depend on the bank itself but I’m unsure if there is a general set up on outside investments.

Thanks.

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