Thinking of moving to the UK? Maybe you’ve just arrived, ready to start an exciting new chapter of work or study. If so, you might be wondering if non-British citizens are eligible for a UK bank account.
The short answer is usually yes, but although it’s not particularly difficult you’ll need to know a few facts first. Let’s take a look.
A non-resident is someone who (either temporarily or permanently) lives in a country that isn’t the one they were born in. Many people move all over the world all the time, for work or study reasons, to set up a business, or to be with loved ones.
Whether you are a UK resident or not is important when it comes to determining your tax status. Sometimes you might be classed as a non-resident, even though you aren’t physically located in the country where you pay tax. An example of this is if you have a permanent address in one country, but your main residence is in a different country.
If you’re thinking of moving to the UK for work or business, it’s recommended you speak to an expert tax advisor beforehand so you’re clear on your position.
What are the benefits of having a UK bank account?
You don’t have to have a UK bank account, and not all UK residents have one. Other money management options include credit unions, National Savings & Investment accounts (which used to be called Post Office Savings accounts), and building societies.
Having said that, opening a UK bank account will probably make life much easier for you. You will likely need it to pay your rent or mortgage, as well as your utility bills and any other business or personal payments.
It’s worth noting that UK limited companies must have a separate business bank account.
Even if you have bad credit, there are lots of basic accounts you can still apply for, so it’s well worth doing your homework. Big high street names include Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, Santander, and NatWest.
How do I choose the right UK bank account for me?
Deciding which UK bank account would work best depends on your individual needs and circumstances. There are a few things you need to consider.
Any monthly fees
Many UK bank accounts are free of charge, but some come with monthly fees. Often called “packaged accounts” some banks also offer things like a mobile phone or travel insurance as part of the monthly cost.
Certain savings accounts will also require you to save a fixed amount per month in order to keep the account open – well worth reading the small print.
International payments and currency exchange
If you intend to run a business that takes payment from overseas, or you want to link your account to others abroad, again do your homework. It’s a good idea to check international and multi-currency account options alongside international money transfer services.
Are there any promotions on that are designed to attract new customers? For instance, some banks offer up to £250 to switch to them.
How easy is it to access your money? For example, are the app and mobile banking services simple to use, and are there any branches in the area you’re looking to live or operate in?
Range of products and services
What other services does the bank offer? This might be things like credit cards, loans, mortgages, and other business and financial services.
If you live abroad and want to open a bank account in the UK, you need to prove your identity and residency. You will be asked to give information about your salary or wages and any other sources of income, as well as anything else the bank asks for.
What documents will I need?
The exact list of documents the bank needs does vary depending on who the provider is. Some UK banks, such as HSBC and Barclays, will allow you to open a UK bank account even if you’re still living overseas. This can be useful if you want to get it all sorted before your moving date.
Opening an account takes around 10-15 days, but again this varies between banks. Some will let you open an account online, while others will ask you to visit the nearest branch in your home country. You’ll usually need your passport/ID, proof of income and proof of address.
You may also need to make minimum monthly deposits. Additionally, you might have to provide other documentation such as visa details if you currently live in a non-EU/EFTA country.
Finally, if you’re planning to start a business remember to have separate business and personal accounts. It’s not a legal requirement for sole traders, but it is strongly recommended. You’ll be glad you did when it comes to completing tax returns!
It is difficult to open a bank account in the UK as a new resident?
One area non-UK residents often find themselves coming unstuck is in proving their address. Many people also stay with relatives for a while after arriving in the UK, which tends to mean they don’t have any rental contracts or household bills in their name.
Quick tip: If you’re finding it hard to open a UK bank account due to proof of address issues, some of the online services like Monzo and Revolut could help.
They’ll still offer you a UK account number and sort code, as well as a debit card which can be used in shops and online, but with less emphasis on proving your address. Each one has different rules though, so read up on what’s available before signing up.
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About The Author
An experienced business and finance writer, sometimes moonlighting as a fiction writer and blogger.