How to open UK bank account as a foreigner?

If you have recently moved to the UK, you’ve probably already noticed that the bank account will be essential for you if you plan to stay longer in Great Britain or even if you are there only for few months for work. In many cases you can’t even rent a flat or house without a proper British bank account. This is a significant drawback and in a way paradox for immigrants, as you can’t easily open a bank account without local residence address.

Fortunately, in recent years, banks and other financial institutions have become more flexible and helpful for the newcomers in terms of what documents they require and accept.

What documents do I need to open British bank account?

The rules and requirements are different for every bank, but in general, you need a valid ID and proof of address.

Proof of identity

The first required document doesn’t seem like a problem, as you can use a passport, driving license or even your original ID if you are from an EU country. Alternatively, you could provide also:

  • Original Birth Certificate
  • EEA member state identity card
  • Current UK or EEA driving license
  • Registration card for self-employed individuals
  • Resident Permit issued by the Home office to EEA nationals

Proof of residence

If you are new to the UK, the proof of address may be quite problematic. The bank accepts:

  • a tenancy agreement or mortgage statement;
  • a recent electricity or gas bill;
  • a recent bank or credit card statement that’s not printed off the internet; or
  • a current council tax bill.

If you don’t have any of them, your employer or work agency can write a letter to confirm your details.

If you are a student, your university can also write a letter to confirm your address.

The financial regulators explain that alternatively you could provide the banks with:

  • a letter from a care home manager or warden of sheltered accommodation or a refuge
  • a letter from the warden of a homeless shelter
  • a letter from a probation officer or a hostel manager
  • a letter from a prison governor
  • if you are a traveller, a letter from the local authority that verifies your address
  • if you are an asylum seeker, an application registration card

What if I don’t have the required documents?

If you have troubles with providing proof of address or the banks you’ve tried don’t accept people who have just come to the country, there are other ways to handle your UK finances or recieve a British bank address.

Some platforms have prepared interesting offers aimed for the immigrants who come to the UK for work and can’t open regular bank accounts because of lack of documentation. You could try to open an online account with a platform, which grants you a debit card and account number. This could make renting a flat easier. Your employer could also send your salary directly to your account.

You can look through our list of platforms and banks, which allow you to make international payments, so that you could cheaply send the money back to your family in your home country, while still working abroad.

UK bank accounts and online alternatives

Which UK accounts are good for newcomers?

There are actually more than ten big financial players on the UK market, therefore the offer is quite versatile and can be overwhelming for someone new to the country. The biggest four of UK banks include Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC and RBS or NatWest.

Barclays, which is one of the oldests banks in the UK, allows you to pre-apply for the account, even if you haven’t arrived to the country yet. That way, you can prepare everything before your arrival to the country.

Another easy to register with bank is Lloyds Bank, which helps newcomers opening their first UK current accounts with only their passports.

Online bank account alternatives

Recently, Revolut has become a popular platform in the UK to handle your everyday and international payments. It is a digital alternative to regular bank account. It also allows you to get a regular debit card connected to your Revolut account. We’ve researched their card offer and explained the fees in the Revolut Review on our platform.

Other alternative may be “Borderless” Transferwise account, which allows you to store GBP and other currencies at the same time. You can also order a card to make easier purchases at stores. You can read more about Transferwise international transfers and multiple-currency account in our review of their “Borderless” account.

There are also platforms like Monese, N26 or Monzo worth researching, as they can set you up with an online UK bank address, without proof of residency.

Can I open a UK bank account while staying in another country?

You can easily open the account for online independent financial platforms like Revolut or Transferwise without any problems, no matter where you live.

When it comes to the regular banks. Many British banks offer international banking support and some of them may even have local branches in your country. Therefore, you could try to open a British bank account, even if you live in other country. You can even apply for an international account online. However, it may not be the best option if you don’t plan to move to the UK in the future, as there may be harsher requirements or limitations and the monthly account maintenance costs could also be very high, compared to your local financial institutions.

The bank may ask you to make a large initial deposit and require you to topup the account with a particular sum each month. There could also be restrictions preventing you from simply closing the account and switching to a better deal for a period of time.

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