Opening a bank account in the UK
At the very beginning, I would like to emphasise that it is not easy to open the bank account in the UK. I would even dare to claim that it is almost close to discrimination of foreigners. There is no system of what, when, whom and how to do open the account.
The British authorities are very carefully checking the people who want to open the account. Only after all these checks, it is possible to open the bank account in the UK (all the “traps” are based mainly on the law preventing money laundering).
I have dozens (even hundreds) of examples of officials that my clients met and therefore I would like to describe a general instructions, how to easily open the account.
What is required by the British banks?
A) A proof of name
- Identification card (ID)
- Driving licence, even from other EU member states (there are sometimes issues with that)
- Residence permit
The best is always passport or the ID.
B) A proof of address
And the issues start here. There are often complications with the proof of address, as not every proof is accepted by the bank.
You must bring one (in better case even more) from the following:
- An account statement from another British bank (having such statement will allow you to open a bank account immediately, together with passport or ID)
- A confirmation that you are having a bank account at another British bank (however, very often they want also the account statement)
- A rent agreement from you house or flat (however, this is usually accepted only from the Local Council, not from an agency or individuals)
- A confirmation that you paid for the TV Licence
- Occasionally, the banks accept an agreement from the Internet too
- The utility bill, the owner/lesser of the house or flat should add you to the agreement (he or she is not obliged to do so), it takes a lot of time and in 99 % of cases you face opposition from the owner/lesser
- A letter from the Local Council or Police
- A letter with your National Insurance Number (NIN) and address where you live (the letter comes in 3 – 4 weeks from the NIN meeting)
- An official letter from your employer proving that you are working there – there must be all information about the employer, your name, your address, stamps and signature
Specifically, I am mentioning the two last points, as they concern 99 % of newcomers to the UK.
The previous confirmations are almost impossible to get. However, you get them later and you might open another bank account with them or use them as a proof of your address.
How to proceed?
A) You get accommodation at the place, where the banks already have contacts
This for example regards the agencies that are providing the accommodation, or the owner of the house. In most of the cases, we are speaking about the agencies. In short, the agencies pass you all the materials you need, arrange the meeting at bank and you open the bank account within an hour. I am not on purpose not speaking about a specific bank, as all the agencies have their own contacts.
B) You deal with the issue yourself
Lately, my clients open their bank accounts mainly in these four banks:
- Lloyds bank – Passport/ID, the minimum of letter with NIN
- Barclays bank – Passport/ID, the minimum of confirmation of the letter from employer
- HSBC bank – Passport (there is the Passport bank account)/ID, the minimum of confirmation of the letter from employer
- Santander – Passport/ID, the minimum of letter with NIN
These banks do not complicate the opening of account as others, which might require for example the bill for water, TV or account statement from another UK bank.
Be aware that you might go from one bank to another. Sometimes, you are refused in 6 different offices and finally successful in the 7th. It can also happen that there is three of you and each of you go to a different clerk with the same documents. Finally, only one of you might have the bank account opened. As I have stated above, there is no system or general logic in this. To put it shortly, it depends on the mood of the clerk and his willingness to allow you to open the account.
Very often, you might have a problem that the employer requires the British bank account. On the other hand, you cannot get the letter on the official paper proving that you are working in the specific place. Therefore, you get into the vicious circle, when you go from a bank to another trying to open the account and wishing to have the account in one of them. Some clients struggle with this for up to a month.
All of the banks require some of the following documents:
- Passport or ID
- The letter from employer on official paper stating:
- The full name of the company, including contact details,
- Your name and surname,
- Your British address,
- Confirmation that you are really working in the respective company.
- The letter with NIN (National Insurance Number), not older than 3 months,
- The proof of address that you get from the person you are accommodated by. However, this is very often refused. Nevertheless, the more documents you have, the better.
- Any other proof of address that I mentioned above.
Usually, it takes from 30 minutes up to an hour to open the bank account. During the next 5 working days, you get the bank card, PIN and all the materials for the Internet banking. Opening the current account is for free.