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How To Open a Bank Account in the UK as an Immigrant

The UK is a top-rated destination for immigrants. Some seek to move to the UK permanently and want to remain in the country for the foreseeable future. Others move to the UK for a while before returning to their home country or moving somewhere else.

Whatever the situation, access to a UK bank is necessary for those who wish to live and work in the UK. In this article, we will discuss what's involved in opening a bank account as a foreigner.

How To Open A Bank Account In The UK As A Foreigner

Why opening a bank may be more difficult for newcomers?

Opening a bank account for anyone who is a citizen or a resident of the UK is a simple process. Opening a bank account is also pretty much straightforward for people new to the country. However, it might be a bit more tricky for them to access the required documents as they are new to the country.

What Documents Are Required?

The documents and paperwork required are the same as what a UK citizen will need to open a bank account. Firstly, you will need to provide proof of identity. It is to prove who you say you are! Suitable IDs include a passport, a driving licence, and for EU residents, an EU/EEA ID card.

The second requirement is proof of address. Documents that can act as proof of address include a utility bill (gas, electric, water, etc.), your tenancy agreement, a credit card or bank statement, and a council tax bill.

Proof of address is usually the most challenging part for foreigners opening a bank account in the UK. For anyone new to the country, it is unlikely they'll have a local utility bill or a bank/credit card statement.

Therefore the best option is a tenancy agreement. Your landlord would have given you a contract that you can use to prove your address. Alternatively, you could use a letter from your College or University's admissions department or your employer.

For those without any of these documents, some online banks, like Wise, allow customers to open accounts without proof of address.

How to open a bank account?

To open a bank account in the UK, you will have to fill in a simple application form in the bank you've chosen. You can apply online or in person at a branch. For the latter, an appointment is required and is more time-consuming.

What Sorts Of Bank Accounts Are Available?

There are many different types of bank accounts available. Some of the common ones are listed below.

Basic Account

It would typically have the features required for the usual everyday banking. These accounts have a debit card and access to online banking (including mobile and apps). There is no monthly fee, and there are no chequebooks or overdraft facilities.

Current Account

It is the most common type of bank account in the UK. It facilitates everyday banking and comes with a chequebook and a debit card. Online banking facilities, mobile banking, and banking apps are also available. Depending on your status and credit score, it may be possible to arrange an overdraft facility. Some current accounts attract a monthly fee.

Student Account

These accounts are similar to current accounts but will have other facilities attached. There is a debit card, chequebook, and online banking facility. You could receive an interest-free overdraft, gift vouchers, railcards, and other benefits. However, banks may not easily allow an overdraft facility for overseas students.

Savings Account

Savings accounts offer interest on your money. These accounts are for the longer term and are not for everyday usage. For new people, their best option is to open a regular account and consider a savings account after settling in the country.

Joint Accounts

Two or more people share these accounts. Joint accounts are suitable for married or cohabiting couples as it allows people to share their financial burdens. Like current accounts, it comes with debit cards, chequebooks, online banking services, and overdraft facilities.

Which Bank To Choose?

The UK is filled with an endless number of banking service providers. The top 4 banks in the UK are Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC, and Natwest. Additionally, and as we mentiond before, some banks exist only online and allow people to open an account without proof of address. Such a feature may be attractive for a person new to the country and without all the documents in place.

Before choosing a bank, it is a good idea to consider what types of services banks offer and whether it suits your needs. You will need to look into things such as:

  • • Fees. Is there a regular monthly fee for operating the account? With some banks and certain types of accounts, a person must pay a monthly fee to use it.

  • • Products and services. Does the bank offer the services you require? For example, does the account offer interest-free overdraft facilities?

  • • Sign Up Offers. To entice customers to join, banks regularly offer incentives. It could be cash bonuses, vouchers, a high-interest rate on balances, and so on.

  • • International Banking Facilities. You may want to carry out financial transactions with your home country, such as sending money back home. It is prudent to check facilities such as reasonable transfer fees and rates.

International Bank Accounts

Due to business or lifestyle, some people regularly travel between countries and do not spend a great deal of time in any one place. There is another group who wish to run businesses in the UK without actually being a resident in the country.

If someone does not plan to spend much time in the UK, opening an international account (known as an offshore or non-resident account) might be the better option. To open this type of account requires a person to deposit large sums of money. Often thousands are required to open such an account. Banks in the UK, such as HSBC and Barclays, facilitate these types of accounts as well as many banks from other countries.

Banks Want Your Business!

The reality is banks want as many customers as possible as it makes their business more profitable. Though banks have to check on people to prevent fraud and illegal activities, opening a bank account as a foreigner is mostly straightforward. You can quickly open a bank account in the UK by providing your identification and proof of address.