Can a non-Kenyan open a bank account?

I'll be in Kenya on a tourist visa for a few months from August.
As a tourist, can I open up a bank account and receive money from the US?

As a non-Kenyan I have a joint account with my Kenyan wife at Barclays, Hurlingham branch. We opened it when we were not married yet and I was legally on a tourist visa. So I suppose it should be possible even for a single person. You might want to call them.

Excellent, thanks for that. Do you remember the requirements for opening an account at the time? I'll make sure I contact them also.

Yes you can, but I am unsure whether you now need a PIN from Kenya Revenue Authority to open an account as a foreigner.

I have opened accounts with KCB and Chase Bank in the past.  You used to need someone who was already a customer to refer you, but now I believe that banks do a credit check.

Hmm that's too bad. The problem I have is my local bank won't allow me withdraw more than a certain amount per month (due to currency exchange laws in my country). So, I can only withdraw a certain amount via my ATM but in the event of an emergency, I may get stuck.

I just opened an account with DTB, all they needed was my passport and a local personal referral.

You can open an account even if you only have a tourist visa. But you need a reference person in Kenya. With that and your passport you should be ok. The reference person is not a guarantor, so no risk. Be careful which local bank you choose. Don't choose KCB in Nairobi if you rely on service and physically seeing them. I changed from KCB to Standard Chartered in Westlands and am now a very happy customer. You can avoid waiting queues by using online banking. Check banks' charges. If the banks have begun demanding a KRA pin, you can get that from Kenya Revenue Authority.

Hmm perhaps the rules have changed? Or Chase is not tourist friendly? I messaged Chase on FB yesterday and this is what they replied with "To open an account, work permit is mandatory if you are not a citizen."

I will check for you at my bank. However, are you sure you really need an account for six months if you are not 100% sure you will stay on after that time? Why not use your foreign visa card and put the money on mpesa? You will be charged for atm use of course but often you lose more on currency deviations and transfer charges by sending money from abroad.

Thanks Torewest. That would help a lot!

I actually want to eventually get citizenship there but for now, I can only stay for a maximum of 6 months (if I extend my 3 month visa) at a time so I will have to re-enter every 6 months.

So, eventually, I will have my employer deposit my salary into my Kenyan account (I work remotely, via the internet).

Ok, nice. It is possible that the bank asks for work permit to confirm hour address. If you don't have an employer in Kenya, you can bring proof of address in the shape of an electricity bill or tenants contract in your name, with a formal address. But you often need to be referred by a person who is already a customer in the bank and who confirms that he/she has known you for a year.

Sorry, Standard Chartered just told me there are new rules coz of terrorism. You need a residence permit at their bank. So I would recommend you open an account in another country and use a visa card at atms.

Ah, that's too bad. I'm limited by how much money I can withdraw with my debit card due to currency exchange laws in my country. I'll figure something out.

Thanks Torewest. That was really nice of you.

The M-Pesa idea is a good one though.  If you don't already know, this is a mobile banking platform operated by Safaricom.  You need a passport to register.  You can transfer cash into your account from your home bank account (at least you can from the UK).  You can use M-Pesa to pay for most goods and services, in Kenya.  There are also savings account options which pay up to 7% interest.  Its very handy and we use this more than we use our bank account.

Is Mpesa safe? I was thinking I'd open up two bank accounts. One with my savings (without a card) and the other for my months spendings (with a debit card) and only carry that one debit card around. That would be quite safe in the event I was robbed. But I hear robberies are less common now.

I usually receive my payments from my employer via Transferwise. I should look into the possibility of Transferwise working with Mpesa. That would actually work nicely. Thanks.

Oh yeah, MPesa is quite safe.

I am a non kenyan to......i now have a account with national bank.....i tried several other banks without maybe try there

What were the requirements for opening a bank account with them?

there i only needed a pin......its easy to get.......there was no bribe......usually that s the only way to get things done there..........before i opened the account at national bank i used barclays bank......there it was even more easy to open one

You can open a bank account at Standard Bank international, USD and GDP available with debit card.
Account is kept in a safe financial durastriction.

Hi, can a German citizen living in Germany open a joint account "together with a Kenyan citizen living in Kenya"  with a Kenyan bank and have access to the account " online" while in Germany?

My impression is that various banks have different policies. But the major international banks like Standard Chartered and Barclays have stricter rules than the local banks. If I were you I would contact KCB or some of the bigger local banks and just ask them.

Thanks Torewest for the advice...ill try it

I was not permitted to open an individual account with KCB, only a joint account with my husband,
They wanted to see my passport and keep a copy of this for their records, they explained I would have to be a citizen to open my own account.  I'm interested in hearing about other banks, which ones permit us to open one individually.

wondered if this might be useful,

Thanks for the info Snowmoon. Seems like it is becoming stricter. Well, you can open an account if you are a permanent resident also, so not only citizens. It's kind of weird that Nairobi wants to be the financial hub of Africa south of Sahara (excl South Africa) and the government doesn't even allow a foreigner to open a bank account. Totally counter productive.
There might be smaller local banks which will allow you, but then your funds might not be safe. Once in a while a local bank goes bankrupt. Before I got a local bank account I used to draw money from ATMs and then put it on Mpesa, which worked quite nicely. It is a little bit more expensive than transferring money from abroad to a local bank account, but practically it's not so bad. You can normally draw up to 40.000 shs from an atm at least twice, so you can immediately put 80.000 on your mpesa. For rent and other high costs, you could just transfer from abroad directly to the landlord's account.

Interesting: When putting money on M-pessa. My experience of trying to buy a phone with sim required personal ID, Kenyan friends stepped in..
ATM is costly Exchange rates in banks another issue entirely!. I find myself having to shop around with each transaction, some bank tellers go so far as to 'alter' exchange rates after you've agreed to hand over money!. In which case i demand the return of my cash. Keeping your eyes open moves to another level.

You just need your passport to buy and register a SIM (it's a legal requirement to register a SIM using ID).  You can also use your passport to register with M Pesa.

Through M Pesa, you have savings options through M Shwari, the savings account pays interest up to around 5%.  You can use it as you would a bank.  There's no upper limit on the amount you can have on your M Shwari savings account.  On your MPesa account its max Ksh 100,000.  I tended to transfer money directly to MPesa, from my UK bank account via 'World Remit', rather than relying on ATM's or over the counter exchange.  It's a bit cheaper doing it that way.

With ATM's only some banks impose a withdrawal charge, but the actual exchange rate tends to be very competitive, but you should watch out for withdrawal charges imposed by your own bank. 

Over the counter cash exchange is less competitive.

It does seem to be counter productive for a bank to insist on you being a citizen in order to open an account and I am not sure that KCB is correct in saying this.  There are lots of foreigners doing business in Kenya.  Surely they can open bank accounts???

Yes you can.

Please share how this might be possible, it would be very nice to have this facility. I have a number of accounts in the UK but none in Kenya where I hope to make my home.

Hi. I think you should be able to do that ,using your passport as identification.

Dear Snowmoon,
Yes, it is possible using your Passport as Identification.
But there are many other ways to easily send and receive money from abroad without necessarily having to open an account although it's the easier way. Good luck!!

Hello everyone here.  I just want to ask if possible to me to get a bank account as foreigner from Rwanda stayed in Kenya for almost 4 years but I ever tried then things came hard when I was asking for KRA pin then they sent me to Immigration office again. Mhn it's can't be easy when you know you have everything like ID and Passport to make things and we all know that M pesa wouldn't giant for everything.  Everyone can help please about how to get in easy way.  Thank you


You do need a KRA PIN to open a bank account.  You can apply for this online (nothing to do with immigration).  You used to also need a referee, who banked with the bank that you are interested in using.  I don't know whether this is still the case.

Once you have a KRA PIN you will be in the Kenyan tax system for ever more, meaning that you have to submit annual tax returns.