Business bank accounts for non-UK residents

Opening a business bank account in the UK is not easy if you live abroad, but there are some options.

If you are planning to open a branch of your international business in the UK, you are going to need a local bank account at some point, to manage payments and invoices.

Opening one as a non-UK resident will probably be less than straightforward, so make sure you plan everything well in advance. We’ve put together some tips and information on how to go about finding the right business account for you.

Can you open a business bank account in the UK as a non-resident?

There are no laws or rules against it, but it is also true that most banks will only accept applications from company directors living in the UK. They will ask for a proof of address too.

This is because anti money laundering regulations are quite strict and accepting overseas clients can be a bit of a compliance nightmare for banks.

So, you will need to shop around a bit, and perhaps try a couple of different banks before getting it right. It might also take quite a bit longer than usual.

What options do I have?

Unfortunately, there is no straightforward list of banks that do or do not accept business account applications from non-UK residents; much depends on the business and on the bank, on a case by case basis.

But here are some options you can try:

  • Big UK banks. Think big brands like Barclays, Lloyds and so on. They might accept your application, but expect it to take time (maybe a few months) and quite a bit of paperwork.
  • Digital providers. Digital-only banks are known to let you open a business account online without too much administration. Some only accept UK residents, some are more flexible. Revolut, for example, doesn’t have being a UK resident as part of its eligibility criteria for business accounts, although your business does need to have a “physical presence” in the United Kingdom or in the rest of the EEA.
  • Your own bank. This is such a simple solution that it may not have crossed your mind. Does your current business bank have branches in the UK? Can it help you open an account there?
  • International accounts. Rather than an actual UK business account, you could look at a business account that supports pounds (as well as other currencies). Many big banks offer international accounts, but the exchange rate and fees are not always the most advantageous.

Digital-only providers can be an especially good solution if your business is relatively small and does not need to deal with much cash. They’re often cheaper too, and in some cases you might be able to secure a multi-currency business account with one of them, which can be great for international trade.

How do you open a business bank account in the UK?

Traditional banks usually require you to visit a branch to open a business account, while you should be able to do everything online with a digital-only provider.

Normally, these are the basic details and documents you need to open a business account in the UK:

  • Your business name and address
  • Companies House registration number if you’re a limited company
  • Certificate of incorporation
  • Your own personal details and contact information
  • A form of ID
  • Proof of address
  • Estimated business turnover
  • Personal bank or financial statements

As you are not a UK resident, some of these may vary. For example, you may be asked to provide proof that your business has a physical presence in the UK, with things like your office’s rental agreement or bills.

How to manage your business account from abroad

Whatever option you choose, you want a bank account with a slick mobile app and a good digital banking interface. These days, you should really be able to do most of your banking online, from wherever you are in the world.

It’s also a good idea to ask about telephone banking and more, and what customer service the bank provides, in case things were to go wrong.

Finally, if you have employees in the UK, consider giving one of them signatory power on the account, so they can deal with the bank in person for you if necessary.

How to compare business accounts for non-UK residents

You can find more information on UK business accounts and how to compare them on this page. However, as a non-UK resident, your options will likely be reduced and you may have to compromise on some things.

Taking this into account, these are our top three things you should really check out before committing to a bank:

  • Fees and charges. Business accounts can be quite expensive, and even more so if there’s currency exchange involved. Make sure you are fully aware of how much maintaining the account and carrying out transactions will cost you.
  • Application process. Ask how long it’s likely to take, then ask again. If you think it’s taking too long, try shopping around a bit more.
  • Managing the account online. Even if you choose a traditional bank, there is really no good excuse for poor digital services these days.

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