The Debt Panel: ‘Can I keep my UAE bank account after UK move?’

The Dubai resident wants to continue making monthly payments for loans worth $15,520 to creditors in the Emirates

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I live in Dubai but have been seconded to a company in England from February for two years. The return date may be extended.

During these two years, I have obligations to repay loans worth Dh57,000 ($15,520) to UAE-based individuals, who have lent me money over the past few months.

My salary from the company I have been seconded to is enough to enable me to repay this over 24 monthly instalments.

These obligations are not secured other than on my word.

My Emirates ID expires in February and I will no longer have a UAE employment contract.

My creditors and I have accounts with the same bank. I do not owe this bank or any other bank money. My only obligations are as described above.

I’m told that my bank account will be closed once my Emirates ID expires. I would like to keep the account open as it is far simpler for me to pay into that account from a UK bank and for the UAE lender to disperse these funds to the individuals.

My bank has been making these payments each month upon receipt of my salary until now.

On several occasions, I have contacted the bank asking whether I can keep my account open for these payments, but they seem to ignore my question.

Would you know how I can keep my account open? If not, can I switch to another lender in the UAE for making these transfers? CR, Dubai

Debt panellist 1: R Sivaram, executive vice president and head of retail banking products at Emirates NBD

A customer can continue to maintain a current bank account in the UAE as long as their residency status is active.

As you will no longer have a UAE employment contract and, consequently, no UAE visa, your residency will move to non-resident status.

Most UAE banks allow non-resident customers to maintain an account, however, this must be a savings account and not a current account.

If you want to continue repaying your obligations to individuals in the UAE, you would need to close your current account and request your bank to open a savings account for you.

The payments to creditors can then continue from the non-resident savings account.

Debt panellist 2: Jaya Ratnani, managing partner at Freed Financial Services

Under UAE Central Bank guidelines, non-residents can open a savings account but it will not include a cheque book.

Most banks will issue an ATM card and you can access the account through internet banking.

However, you need to ask the bank if it has other requirements, such as a minimum balance.

Most banks allow non-resident customers to maintain an account, however, this must be a savings account and not a current account
R Sivaram, executive vice president and head of retail banking products, Emirates NBD

It is important to speak to your bank before you exit the country to find out if you can convert your existing account to a non-resident account.

Once the visa is cancelled, the bank will request your know-your-customer documents. If you fail to submit the documents within 30 to 60 days, the account will become dormant.

Because you are relocating to the UK, you can convert your current account to a savings account. This can only be done after your visa cancellation and gratuity is received from your employer in your existing salary account.

You will need to visit the bank after your visa cancellation and submit an application, as well as documents including copies of your passport, cancelled visa, new employment contract and proof of residence in your home country.

You can use this account to remit funds to your creditors in the UAE through internet banking.

Debt panellist 3: Alison Soltani, founder of Leap Savvy Savers

Congratulations on your impending move to the UK. Most banks in the UAE will allow non-residents and people who still have financial obligations or conduct business here to keep their accounts open.

If your current bank does not offer this, it is possible for you to open an account with another bank.


Watch: Best apps for transferring money in the UAE

Best apps for transferring money in the UAE

Best apps for transferring money in the UAE

However, it may be worth going to a branch or calling your bank to follow up on whether you can keep your current account, as you already have the arrangement set up, so it will be more convenient for you.

You are right to check this before you leave, as the bank may freeze or close a salary account when it receives the end-of-service benefit, which is often titled “final salary” or “final payment”. They will need to be informed beforehand if the account is being kept open.

Some banks have certain conditions for non-resident bank accounts, such as a minimum balance requirement or an obligation to make at least one transaction every month or quarter.

Most banks will also render an account dormant and freeze it if there is no activity for a certain period of time; this could be anywhere from six to 24 months.

This should not cause any issues for you if you are paying back your loan in regular instalments.

You will have to provide the bank with an up-to-date passport copy to keep the account open. Most banks will also require information about your residence overseas, your employment status and income, and your bank account in your country of residence.

If funds are regularly being received from overseas, you may be asked to provide proof of the source of incoming funds.

Finally, ensure you have considered the costs of transferring money regularly from the UK. You may lose money in fees and exchange rates when making regular transactions.

If possible, save up and leave part of the loan amount in a lump sum even if you are paying it monthly. You can then save and transfer every quarter to reduce exchange costs.

Research various options for transferring money — exchange houses such as Wise, Revolut and Lulu Exchange offer competitive rates for international transfers.

Compare the fees and rates of at least three exchange houses and banks before deciding your preferred method of transfer.

You may also be able to negotiate reduced fees if you transfer funds regularly.

The Debt Panel is a weekly column to help readers tackle their debts more effectively. If you have a question for the panel, write to

Updated: January 11, 2023, 5:00 AM