One of the most common questions we receive is “what do you need to open a bank account in the UK”? And, it’s no surprise. The UK is one of the biggest and most stable economies in the world and London is the biggest European financial center. So it only makes sense that anyone interested in international banking might want an account here.
To open a bank account in the UK, you need government-issued proof of identification, a UK address, and proof of that UK address. Identification requirements typically include a passport or identity card. However, proof of address requirements vary from bank to bank and are problematic for many non-UK resident applicants.
But, before diving in, if this is your first time visiting GlobalBanks, don’t forget to download your free non-resident banking starter guide. It’s designed to help non-residents open accounts in top banking hubs around the World.
First of all, let’s start with the standard bank account opening process in the UK.
Most importantly, the UK uses a credit scoring system very similar to the United States. But, in the UK, banks actually run a credit check when opening accounts.
In other words, if you don’t have UK credit history (or have bad credit), it will be very difficult to open anything more than a “basic” bank account. Unless, of course, you’re doing private banking.
But, depending on your requirements, a “basic” bank account might meet your needs. Such accounts will still allow you to send and receive bank transfers and grant you a debit card. But that’s about it.
This is something that might surprise non-UK readers: you may not be able to apply for a current account until you establish credit history in the UK. This is because current accounts have overdraft facilities, which is considered a form of lending. So, if you don’t have any UK credit history, a basic account might be your only option.
Of course, while this is a shortlist, many requirements hide behind these documents.
For example, it’s extremely difficult for non-UK residents to obtain valid proof of a UK address if they don’t legally reside in the UK. And, many non-residents are unsure about how to even acquire a proof of address that will be accepted by UK banks.
This is an important point because failure to provide a valid proof of address is one of the top reasons applicants are rejected for personal accounts in the UK.
That said, some banks will have additional requirements and may (or may not) accept “alternative” documents depending on your client profile. So, choosing the right bank is extremely important, especially if you have limited documents available.
Not surprisingly, every bank has slightly different requirements when it comes to what documents are deemed “acceptable” as proof of address. And, this is a major stumbling block for those new to the UK, expats, and non-residents.
Typically, acceptable proof of address documents usually includes a utility bill (assuming it’s less than three months old), a council tax bill, an HMRC tax notification, or a bank or credit card statement tied to a UK address. A UK driver’s license will also work, but that’s a difficult document to get if you’re a non-resident.
In select cases, a letter from an employer may also suffice as proof of address. Likewise, for students, a letter from the university will do the trick. And if you’re lucky, the bank may also accept a tenancy agreement, though this is becoming increasingly rare.
Lastly, while banking rules are very similar across the UK, Scotland does not accept mobile phone or cable TV bills as proof of address. And there are several English banks that don’t allow mobile or cable TV bills as acceptable address proofs either.
It’s also important to remember that some UK banks will require one to two documents to verify your address. So, if you’re struggling to get more than one proof of address, you may want to avoid banks that require two proofs of address, as this would trigger a rejection.
If you don’t already have what you need to open a bank account in the UK, there are a number of creative workarounds and alternatives available. The workaround that best suits you will depend on who you are, and the type of account you want to open. We share valuable insights and account opening hacks like this with our premium members inside GlobalBanks IQ and GlobalBanks Insider. But, more on that below.
Minimum deposit amounts vary wildly for these accounts. From £25,000 for US residents to £250,000 for Russian residents through £100,000 for Hong Kong SAR residents. If you can afford the minimum in the latter two cases, it may be worthwhile to look at private banking options.
We talk about this in greater detail in our free guide to International Private Banking.
That said, other banks do offer non-resident banking options but with different eligibility conditions. Likewise, some institutions are happy to waive the deposit requirement if the account owner(s) can justify a certain salary. In most cases this salary requirement is around 50,000£ to 75,000£.
The most challenging part of opening a bank account in the UK is acquiring an acceptable UK address and being able to prove that address with acceptable documentation. Unfortunately, this is a challenge that most people cannot overcome, at least not without expert guidance.
So, what can you do if you are unable to obtain an accepted address and the necessary documentation? We’ll share several options for you to consider below.
Several large UK banks offer international accounts to non-residents. So, if you’re struggling to open a bank account domestically in the UK or can’t acquire the right proof of address documents, this might be a better option.
Additionally, international banks with branches in the UK could be another alternative.
Likewise, opting for private banking or having a pre-existing relationship with the private banking arm of one of these major international banks can make account opening easier.
However, if you’re dead-set on opening an account in the UK as a non-resident, there are several other options available too. We discuss these strategies and opportunities in more detail in GlobalBanks IQ and GlobalBanks Insider.
As mentioned, several major UK banks offer international banking for non-UK residents. These accounts are designed for non-residents, provide multiple currency options (GBP, USD, EUR), global payment platforms, and debit cards. They also don’t require a UK address and accept international proofs of address.
Unfortunately, residents of certain countries are not always eligible for these accounts. The reasons for this vary since each bank has slightly different lists of banned countries and compliance rules.
In addition, anyone who is a resident of a country listed in the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act may be subject to increased scrutiny, higher deposit requirements, and may not be eligible for non-resident banking. Further, due to Brexit, some banks will not allow EU residents to open bank accounts.
Albania, Barbados, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cayman Islands, Ghana, Iran, Jamaica, Mauritius, Morocco, Myanmar, Nicaragua, North Korea, Pakistan, Panama, Senegal, Syria, Uganda, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.
If you don’t have the right documents to open a “brick and mortar” account in the UK, what are the alternatives?
Here are a few quick options to consider:
Disclaimer: Many fintech solutions are not a direct replacement for traditional banks. For instance, in some cases, financial institutions may refuse to remit bank transfers to fintech accounts. Plus, many fintech accounts come with account limitations and restrictions, limited customer support, and are more prone to account freezes and sudden termination. In addition, the industry is still relatively young, and many of these companies do not have banking licenses. Instead, they have “electronic money institution” or “payment institution” licenses, or simply sublease a license from a company that already has one. We’ve discussed in past articles why this puts your money at risk.
That said, the UK is still a major fintech hub and hundreds of fintech operate here. So, if you’re struggling to determine what you need to open a bank account in the UK (or acquire the right documents), you might find a fintech platform more accessible. Some have more lenient proof of address options and allow international addresses.
We break down the latest UK and European fintech options in detail in GlobalBanks IQ and GlobalBanks Insider, where you’ll get access to all our premium reports as well special reports focused on European EMIs for non-residents and international businesses.
That said, if you cannot (or don’t want to) use a fintech or EMI solution, there are still ways to open a UK bank account that you still might be able to access.
If you don’t have the right documents to open an account in the UK, look outside of the UK. In other words, if you desperately want (or need) a UK bank or GBP-denominated account, look abroad.
Likewise, UK banks with international or non-resident banking options are useful if you can meet the deposit requirements and afford the fees.
Below we’ve highlighted a few British banking hubs outside of the UK. If you don’t have what you need to open a bank account in the UK, banks here might be an option.
The Isle of Man allows remote opening of accounts and has low minimum deposits required.
Most importantly, the Isle of Man is home to some of the largest UK banks and is both politically and economically stable.
Additionally, the Depositors Compensation Scheme will protect depositors up to 50,000 GBP per account if the bank has to go through insolvency.
We’ve published several articles about opening accounts in the Isle of Man before. You can access our latest Isle of Man banking article for more information.
Jersey is another independent jurisdiction offering off-shore banking solutions. Just like its “brothers”, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, Jersey offers access to UK and SEPA banking.
A wide array of clients will find what they’re looking for in Jersey such as UK residents and citizens looking to move abroad, non-residents, clients interested in private banking, and many more.
To access our latest Jersey bank account opening article for more information.
Guernsey offers many of the perks that Jersey and the Isle of Man offer. However, it caters to a slightly different clientele.
Most companies establish themselves on the island of Guernsey before debuting on the London Stock Exchange. As such, the island’s financial sector tries to attract institutional investors, asset managers and high-net-worth individuals.
In some cases, persons looking for retail banking may find what they’re looking for in Guernsey. That said, if you are wondering what you need to open a bank account in the UK, you may not meet the requirements of Guernsey banks. Unless, of course, you are looking for private banking.
You can access our latest Guernsey banking article for more information.
As you can see, the three islands offer a great solution for anybody looking to deal with quasi-UK bank accounts. In most cases, these bank accounts will also allow you to apply for a mortgage for UK based property.
If all of the above options are non-starters keep on reading for our final suggestions.
When it comes to determining what you need to open a bank account in the UK, you can obviously find the answers in this article.
Or, you can access one of our membership services and get the help you need to find and unlock the best international banking options, both in the UK and abroad.
All of our premium services are designed to help non-resident individuals, foreigners, and their businesses open international bank accounts around the world.
So, whether you need personal, private, or offshore UK banking — we have an account opening solution that will work for you.
And, of course, this includes helping you identify what you need to open a bank account in the UK, without overpaying or wasting time.
If you’re ready to take action and start opening international accounts now, you can access GlobalBanks IQ, our dedicated international banking intelligence platform.
GlobalBanks IQ gives you everything you need to start finding and opening accounts for you or your business today.
When you join GlobalBanks IQ, you immediately unlock the GlobalBanks Database of international banks — home to 250+ banks in 50+ countries.
And, you get access to our library of premium (members-only) reports, including proven account opening strategies, country-specific banking options, and lists of banks for specific client types.
Plus, you unlock our account opening checklists, dedicated account opening alerts, and much more.
To get started, click here to see if GlobalBanks IQ is the right choice for you to start accessing the benefits of international banking today.