We’ve all heard the stories of frozen bank accounts and the inability to access your own money in the UAE but many are unclear exactly why it happens and if it does, what to do about it.
When an expatriate dies in the UAE, his or her assets are frozen, including any joint accounts. It can take months for the accounts to be unfrozen as Sharia Courts must first clear all possible debts and payments.
If you’re involved in a car accident and are arrested for causing injuries to someone, your bank account may be frozen until such time as the charges are dropped or resolved.
Similarly, if you work for a company and become responsible for damages, your bank account may be frozen until such time as the charges are dropped or resolved.
Most bank accounts are linked to your employer and residence visa so when you are due to leave your employment, in whatever circumstances, your bank will mark your last salary payment as ‘final payment’ from your employer. Be aware that if you have outstanding loans, your bank will need to be confident that your payments will be maintained before unfreezing the account.
Leaving the UAE
Tips to safeguard bank account freezing:
- Given that UAE local laws do give the government the right to freeze bank accounts and the often long process in having it unfrozen, it’s a good idea to keep money off shore. Contrary to popular belief, off shore accounts aren’t just for the super wealthy but are a practical and easily accessible solution for those living abroad.
- If you do have a joint account, make sure the account is “and/or” so in the event of your death, your spouse should be able to withdraw funds before the death is made public and the account frozen.
- Alternatively, for personal accounts, sign a blank cheque and keep it locked and sealed with clear instructions to your spouse to withdraw the funds from your account before your death is made public.
- If you’re married, it’s advisable to have individual bank accounts with funds to cover you for at least six months, should the worst happen.
- If accounts are frozen due to death, having a will in place does speed up this process of account unfreezing so ensure you keep your will up to date.
- If moving jobs, ensure you show your bank evidence of your new job and they should unfreeze your account immediately. Evidence should be in the form of a stamped letter from your new employer, confirming your new salary.
- If moving jobs or leaving the UAE, before your final salary is paid in, withdraw plenty of cash to keep you going during the interim.