FICA (Financial Intelligence Centre Act)
If you’ve done banking, applied for finance, or exchanged currencies in South Africa in the past, then you’ve probably come across references to “FICA”. You probably also found that when FICA is mentioned, paperwork is involved. But what exactly is FICA, and why is it necessary?
FICA, or the Financial Intelligence Centre Act, was introduced in 2001 (Act 38) as a measure aimed at the prevention of financial fraud and money laundering, as well as other potential crimes. According to the Act, every customer of every bank in South Africa has to positively identify themselves for the purposes of their financial transactions. This is known as “KYC” (Know Your Customer), and if you haven’t been KYCed by a bank they cannot do business with you.
What this means in practice is that before you can obtain finance, open a bank account, or exchange currency, you need to provide the bank or financial institution with the original of your ID book or passport and proof of your residential address. The institution or bank will then make their own copies of these documents, and apply a special stamp to the copies, making them FICA compliant. It is important to note that you cannot make the copies yourself, and certification of the copies by a commissioner of oaths does not make them FICA compliant either. It can only be done by an employee of the financial institution that you are dealing with.
It’s a small step, and it shouldn’t take longer than a few minutes of your time, but it can go a long way in preventing crime in South Africa.
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