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Money Transfers for Expats in the United Arab Emirates

Submitted: December 2013

The UAE imposes no general restrictions on money transfers to and from the United Arab Emirates.

The easiest way is transfer money to the UAE is to have a UAE bank account opened, and then to proceed with an international bank transfer. Alternatively, you can withdraw money from a cash dispenser in the UAE.

It is also possible to ask your foreign bank to issue a cheque (or banker’s draft), which can then be cleared in the UAE. This process is quite lengthy though, and it may be expensive.

In any case, it is advisable to check if your financial intermediary is reliable enough, be it in terms of quality of service or value for money.

Fees

Your bank is likely to charge you for international bank transfers and banker’s drafts, although fees may vary greatly. You might wish to check the applicable charges and restrictions at your bank.

Alternatively, you can use the services of a money transfer company. To save money, you can also use a price comparison website specialised in money transfers. Typically, your charges are largely passed on to the applicable foreign exchange rate.

The fees charged by a company specialised in money transfers are without prejudice to the fees that your bank may charge on transfers to the money transfer company.

Cash control rules

You are free to hold as much cash as you like when you cross the UAE border. However, you must make a declaration to the customs authority if the amount exceeds AED40,000 (or currency equivalent).

Cash control rules cover hard currency and traveller’s cheques, but not international wire transfers.

Exchange rate regime and capital controls

Currently, the Emirati Dirham is pegged to the US dollar and capital is freely mobile. From a macroeconomic point of view, currency pegs are not known to be the most stable solution over the long run. Consequently, tomorrow’s monetary system in the UAE may be largely different from that of today.

Most importantly, UAE policymakers are concerned about the possibility of a speculative attack on today’s US dollar peg. Should this happen, capital controls may be imposed to deter “hot money” flows to or from the UAE.

Typically, a Government needs to impose capital controls when people (including expatriates) really want to make international money transfers, not when they don’t. There are three basic rules to know here:

  1. do monitor how badly the monetary system is doing
  2. do anticipate if capital controls may be imposed, and

do remember that once capital controls are in place, it’s too late.

 

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