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FICA: What You Need to Know

By Bidvest Bank
29-09-2015
When you open a bank account in South Africa, banks insist on collecting certain documents and information from you in order to go through the FICA process. Because most people run their lives online these days this may seem like an unnecessary hassle, but it is actually being done with your safety in mind.

So, what is FICA? FICA stands for the Financial Intelligence Centre Act and it came into effect in 2003. It brought South African financial legislation in line with other countries in the world, with the aim of curbing criminal activities like money laundering and terrorist financing activities. 

It’s not just legislation though – in a nutshell, FICA also exists to prevent identity theft.  Going through these checks and collecting the required FICA documents allows us, as a bank, to check that your ID belongs to you and that it has not been tampered with. In addition to this we require your proof of residential address and there are certain time frames in which these documents are valid. For example a water and lights account has to be less than three months old. 

We also need to obtain your signature as a way of mitigating risk. We also use this to indicate that you are starting a relationship with the bank and you are required to keep your information regularly updated. For example if you move you will need to supply us with a new proof of address. You will be asked by the bank to verify that your details provided to the bank on record are still correct and current. 

You have to present the following FICA documents in order to complete the process:

  1. Show your green bar-coded ID or the new ID card. In exceptional circumstances you can supply us with your passport (for example, for foreign nationals).
  2. Supply us with proof of address, such as a utility bill or bank statement less than three months old. You can also supply us with a current signed lease agreement, a tax return, a valid TV licence document or a retail account statement not less than three months old etc. Note that most of these need to be less than three months old, but you should check with your bank on what exactly can be used as proof. If you can’t supply one of these, you’ll need a letter from the person you are living with confirming this, as well as proof that they live there (such as a bill or one of the above) and their ID.
Once you’ve opened your bank account, you can provide your bank with an electronic waiver so that you can do all future transactions online, such as opening an additional bank account.  

It may seem like a little bit of hassle but the reality is that you’d rather do this than have a criminal steal your identity. Gathering the FICA documents and information, which is  a little bit of paperwork at the start of a relationship, is the only way of opening a bank account in South Africa, so it’s a necessary process that must be followed.

Need to open a bank account? Our Bidvest Bank Account costs only R82.00 a month and has a minimum balance of just R50.  Read more about it or get in touch.