Have you ever thought of moving to the United Kingdom (UK) but seem a little confused by all the paperwork that you would need to sort out along the way? Well, fear no more as in today’s post we are going to take away some of that stress by explaining to you just how easy it has become in recent years to open a British bank account.
What documents do you need to open a British bank account?
Good news: you only have to present two documents in order to get a bank account; proof of identity (passport, driving licence) and proof of address in the United Kingdom. If you are a European national then an identity card from your home country would also be valid as proof of identity as it has come from the European Union. In terms of proof of address, the most common documents would usually be: a tenancy agreement or mortgage statement, a gas or electricity bill which is less than 3 months old, or a council tax bill which is also less than 3 months old.
Ok, so you have your paperwork. Now let’s take a look at a typical dialogue that may arise when you try to open a bank account:
Bank Clerk: Hi Sir/Madam, how can I help you today?
Customer: I’d like to open a bank account.
Bank Clerk: Okay, I will need to see some proof of identity such as your passport and proof of address.
Customer: I have a gas bill dated to last week.
Bank Clerk: That’s perfect.
Customer: Okay, here you go.
Bank Clerk: Thank you very much. I will get this processed for you now.
Customer: Thank you.
Bank Clerk: Okay, I have opened an account with your details. I need you to sign here to confirm that you agree with the account’s terms and conditions which include a 100 pounds’ interest free overdraft limit.
Customer: Great! Thanks.
Bank Clerk: That’s everything sorted, Sir. Your card and PIN (Personal Identification Number) will be posted to the address separately and should arrive within 5-7 working days at the specified address.
Customer: Thank you very much
What if you don’t have any of these documents because you just arrived?
Many people wonder how they can prove their address if they don’t have any of the requested documents because they have not been at their property long enough to have received any letters, but don’t panic! Just keep reading.
Nowadays banks readily accept letters confirming a person’s address from Jobcentre Plus which is where foreign citizens have to go to get their National Insurance number (the British equivalent to a social security number in order to work legally). On the other hand, maybe you are in the United Kingdom to study and not to work and you may not be able to get a letter from Jobcentre Plus in which case you should ask your University or institution to provide a letter confirming your address, which would also be accepted by a bank to open an account.
Plan ahead before you arrive in the United Kingdom
If you know that you are going to be going to the United Kingdom to work but think that you may have trouble obtaining the relevant documents needed to open an account when you get there then make sure you plan ahead.
It is advised in these circumstances that you see if your home bank has a correspondent banking relationship with any UK bank so that they can try to set you up an account before you go. This course of action is not only useful for people who could have trouble proving their address but in reality could save everyone trouble upon arrival in the United Kingdom because everything related to the opening of a bank account would already have been organised.
In addition to correspondent banking relationships, there are many British banks which offer international accounts and have a presence in many countries around the world. A few examples of these would be HSBC, Barclays and Natwest, to name a few. If you are lucky enough to have one of these branches in your town then go in and speak to them before you go to the UK. Maybe they will be able to open a British bank account for you before you go which will save you a lot of hassle.
What should you do next?
If you have plans to move to the United Kingdom either to study or to work then definitely see if you are able to open a bank account before you, especially if English is not your first language and you want to avoid any potential mix-ups. Alternatively see if you can open an international bank account with one of the aforementioned British banks if they have a branch near you in your home country. If none of these options are possible, wait until you arrive and follow the steps we mentioned. Luckily, nowadays, it’s much easier to open an account than it ever was before. Enjoy your time in United Kingdom whether it be for work or study.
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