Singapore positions itself as one of the most influential financial centers in the Asia Pacific region. Additionally, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the country ranks high on the Financial System Stability Assessment due to its strong economic policies and robust financial framework with an emphasis on committing to enforce international standards.
For this and many other attractive features, international companies and startups opt to set up businesses in Singapore. In this article, we will discuss opening an offshore account in Singapore, as well as other steps and considerations of the process.
But, before we get into the main topic, we must start with the definition of the “offshore” concept.
What is an Offshore Bank Account?
In recent years, the term offshore has been used to refer to running opaque business operations, and it has even become a synonym for tax avoidance in a faraway land. Nevertheless, what does the concept of offshore refer to? An offshore can refer to anything outside the borders of the country of origin of a person.
In this sense, when people talk about an offshore company, it can refer to an entity that operates in another country, for example, a U.S. company with a subsidiary in China. In the same line of thought, offshore bank accounts are the same, for example, a corporate bank account that was opened in a jurisdiction different from the one of the parent company to serve the operations of a subsidiary.
There are many countries or jurisdictions around the world that have different tax and financial systems that may present incentives to conduct business. However, it does not automatically mean that operating an offshore company or offshore accounts will lead to tax evasion, money laundering, or other illicit activities, as offshore banks require a high level of compliance.
Offshore Banking in Singapore
As we have seen in the previous section, an offshore bank account is a bank account under the regulations of a foreign jurisdiction. In this sense, the banks located in Singapore can be counted as offshore banks from the perspective of a foreign national, meaning someone who is not a local Singaporean. Nevertheless, it is important to highlight that both the local regulations of the home country and the foreign jurisdiction should be followed at all times to avoid conflicts or legal liability.
Now that we have explored more in detail the root of the offshore concept and what it involves, we can move into the next section that answers the question, how can a foreign national open offshore bank accounts? More details will be discussed in the next section.
Offshore Bank Account Opening Requirements
As the financial services in Singapore are quite diversified, the financial institutions, either foreign banks or Singapore banks, can offer different services and varieties of bank accounts. Nevertheless, these services might be mostly available to residents or the owners of businesses registered in Singapore.
For this article, we will refer to corporate or business accounts in Singapore.
Most of the banks, located in Singapore, have similar requirements when individuals request the service of opening a bank account to run a business. Here we will enlist some general aspects to consider:
- Interview with the directors and signatories: it is a standard requirement that the directors go to an interview with the bankers and be physically present during the process to sign documents. International banks with overseas branches might allow the directors to do the interview and signing of documents without going to Singapore, although this is only in very few or special cases.
- Corporate documents: as the bank account to be opened is going to be used to run a business, several documents need to be provided to the bank to evaluate the case and decide whether it is feasible to provide the service to the owners.
- Identity documents: particulars of the individuals involved in the internal structure of the company may also be requested by the bank authorities as part of their compliance standards.
Depending on the banking institution chosen, there might be further requests or documents needed to be provided to complete the assessment for the bank account opening. Also, some banks might request a minimum initial deposit for the bank account, and this fee might not be refundable. As we have analyzed some of the requirements, in the next section we will focus on the steps to take to start the process of opening a bank account in Singapore.
How To Open An Offshore Bank Account
Before listing the steps to open an offshore bank account in Singapore, it is important to make the distinction that to try to apply for a corporate business account in Singapore, you would need to have an established business entity that is recognized under the jurisdiction of Singapore.
One of the most standard ways of carrying out the process is by opening a Singapore offshore company, in other words, having a subsidiary company.
Now that we have clarified the above-mentioned point, we will enlist the steps to take to start the application process for a corporate bank account in Singapore:
- Search for the banking institution that best suits you and your company's needs.
- Check the requirements from the bank and prepare the supporting documents.
- Arrange an interview appointment with the bank.
- Getting the directors and the signatories to go to the bank interview.
- Wait for the bank to communicate if the interview was successful or if there might be some more clarification needed.
- Activation of the bank account, if the case was successful.
Remember that different banks offer different services and perks in their bank accounts, such as multiple currency accounts, personalized customer service, and other financial and banking services. Furthermore, depending on how fast the document can be prepared and submitted, will impact the timeline for the account opening. Nevertheless, it usually takes around 1 to 2 months after the submission of the documents.
Documents Required For Opening An Offshore Bank Account
Normally, before an interview appointment is made, the bank officers assigned to the bank will review the supporting documents from the applicant, this is normally known as the document package. This document package can include:
- Bank account opening forms.
- Director's board resolution for the bank account opening. This is normally prepared by your Company Secretary.
- Bank form for the authorized signatories.
- Certificate of Incorporation. A certified true copy needs to be provided.
- Company’s Business Profile. A certified true copy is needed.
- Memorandum and Articles of Association (MAA). A certified true copy needs to be provided.
- Passports and residential address proof of the directors, bank signatories, and the Ultimate Beneficial Owners (UBO). A certified true copy can be provided by your Company Secretary, in case the original documents cannot be provided.
- Corporate documents and support documents from the business back in your home country. Transaction invoices and purchase orders might be needed to be provided to the bank.
It is important to mention that the incorporation documents are provided by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) since it is the maximum authority that oversees the matters related to registering entities in Singapore. Additionally, Banks may request additional documents as they see fit and according to the specific case of each company.
As we have seen in this article, getting a Singapore offshore account is not an impossible task, although without enough preparation it can become a complicated situation.
In this scenario, it is better to approach your Company Secretary service provider that can guide you with the process and the preparation of the documents needed.
It might be a complex journey, but having a corporate bank account in Singapore can be the key to helping your business to conduct its operations without much trouble.