**EDIT: It is amazing how quickly the legislation around bank accounts is changing after Brexit. Since first writing this post the restrictions around the proof of address needs are even stricter. A utility bill and lease agreement from a registered letting agency (not private landlord or “agency”) is the only way you will be accepted for a bank account. You may be able to get away with a letter from your employer. HOWEVER, Barclays only take the letter on a specific letterhead with a company that has been registered through the UK government (so big companies only). Utility bill and lease agreement are your only options.
You’ve heard the rumours, cringed at the horror stories, and maybe thought the process really couldn’t be that bad. Well through my experience over the past week I can tell you it is. But with the right preparation – and there is a huge emphasis on the key word there RIGHT – getting a bank account in the United Kingdom will be okay.
There are two banks that are generally recommended for opening a bank account in the UK; Barclays and Lloyds. In this article I have outlined what each bank will accept and not accept based on my experience and what the website says – because yes, they are different as I know they have been for others as well.
The confusing, never ending circle all began in 2012 when major UK banks were caught up in a money laundering scandal. Drug cartels were involved and the banks had to foot the bill for their own negligence. Not to mention £53billion worth of fines for misconduct over 10 of the biggest scandals in UK banking’s modern history.
With the bigger picture in mind and the continuous crackdown on money laundering efforts by law enforcements you cannot fault the banks for being thorough.
It’s just the process is not efficient yet, with missing communication links and information pot holes developing throughout the customer journey.
I have two web pages for Barclays and Lloyds linked for you to go into detail that list acceptable documents points of identification. BUT as I will highlight both banks have specific, unstated, requirements.
Where the circle starts.
To have a bank account, you need a UK address.
To show you have a UK address you require a bank statement, tenancy agreement, council tax bill (paid monthly to your local council in Manchester and other major cities such as London), or utilities bill with your current address in the UK.
To rent a property through an agency you need an account to link direct debit through. If they do not accept non-UK accounts you’re in a pickle.
To use a tenancy agreement it has to be through an agency, not a private landlord.
Most private landlords will not put your name on bills if rent is included and TV licences do not count. If you are living in a House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) where bills are included, it is up to the landlord to pay the Council Tax and utilities bills. Therefore, you will not be able to receive a bill to show the banks with your current address.
But then if you do find an agency that will let you a property you have to be living there for at least a month and wait for the bill to arrive before you can use it.
Like I said, circles of pickles.
I knew for three months I was going to be moving overseas, and yet I was still bumped around in between details. So as much as I am all for the research there is only so much you can do before you are overseas and sitting at the bank branch.
What you can do to get started.
Book an Airbnb home for at least two weeks, ask the owner if it is okay to use that address to apply for a bank account, and if they are change your bank address to the Airbnb UK address. Send the most recent statement within 3 months to the UK address a few days before you leave and make sure your hosts are aware of the incoming letter. Complete the online application process of Barclays and have a reference number so half the process is already completed. As soon as the letter arrives take your passport and the letter to Barclays first thing in the morning with your reference number and go for it!
If you are going over with a job have your employer write a detailed letter of your employment. This must include:
- Their official company name and logo on a company letterhead
- Their registered business number, contact details, and address in the UK
- Your full name, date of birth, visa details, and passport number
- Your UK address and phone number
- Your job title, salary, small description, and contract length
- Your start date and, if you can, the date you will be first paid
The more well known they are the better. Just make sure all of the information is there, spelt correctly, and dated by your employer.
Lloyds options do not include non-UK bank statements.
Despite what Lloyds Bank website states, and the customer service attendant told me to bring when they greeted me in the store, the easiest way for you to open an account is with a bill of some kind (Council tax bill, utilities bill, TV licence bill, home phone or broadband bill) or your National Insurance Number with a letter of employment from your employer.
If you do want to use a bank statement to open a bank with Lloyds, you must understand they do not take overseas bank statements as of December 2016 when new rules and legislations came into effect. Even if the statement has your UK address clearly stated on it, it will not be accepted.
The Barclays loophole.
While Barclays do not accept every application or bank statement they do accept them if you have some form of internationally recognised credit rating, your statement has all of the information required such as your full name, address, bank branch/sort code and account number, and dated within 3 months.
Even so, there is still no guarantee. You also need to be aware that if your application is declined for any reason you will not be able to apply for a bank account with that bank for the next 3-6 months. If this happens, you must find a way to get your name on a bill or get a job and a letter of employment with your NIN and apply through another bank.
- Rent with an agency if you can and not through a private landlord so you have bills in your name within a month or so of signing a contract.
- Bring multiple bills to the bank if you can and have them scan all of them for your proof of address and all of the pages. It may seem excessive, but it doesn’t matter. You want to give yourself the best chance.
- Apply for your NIN straight away and have it ready for when you get a job (because it will happen!).
- Don’t give up on the job search and make this your number one priority to getting a bank account.
- When you get a bank account, buy something online for yourself because you are amazing for picking your life up and moving overseas.
Getting a job and receiving your first pay check will be your best bet next to having utility bills. But if you have the cash to survive without a bank account for a month or two see the positive side of it – you will know exactly how much cash you have on you at any one point and you may even save a little while you wait!