Opening a bank account in the UK as a foreigner or non-resident
Yes. Foreigners moving to the UK to live, work or study can usually open a bank account.
It’s a relatively simple process to open a bank account in the UK if you’re migrating, studying or working here. If you’re on a tourist or visitor visa you may be able to open a bank account with one of the e-money digital banking providers. If you live in another country and don’t intend to move to the UK, you can speak to a local bank that has international ties with a UK bank. We have separate guides on opening a bank account as an international student, opening a bank account without a standard type of ID and opening a bank account without proof of address if you don’t have permanent residence here.
Compare bank and e-money accounts for non-UK residents
How do I open a bank account in the UK?
You can open an account online before arriving in the UK, on the phone or in person at the branch once you arrive. If you decide to open an account in a branch, remember to bring valid forms of ID with you. This includes your passport or driving licence, and maybe an overseas credit card or student ID, a Visa and a letter proving where you are living in the UK. If you don’t have ID, you won’t be able to open an account however the range of documents that banks can accept is wider than you might think. We have created a list on this guide. A lot of banks, especially the high street banks, require proof of address to prove you are living in the country. This can take the form of a recent utility bill or other documents.
Opening a bank account via a high street bank
Opening an account with a high street bank will give you access to face-to-face banking in-branch, but you’ll usually be asked to provide proof of UK residency.
However, some banks, such as HSBC, Lloyds and Barclays, have international arms, enabling you to open certain accounts as a non-UK resident. The downside is that you often need to have several thousand pounds saved or invested with the bank, and you might need to meet minimum income requirements too.
You can usually open – or at least, start to open – these accounts online in selected countries across the globe. With the Barclays Bank Account and Premier Account, for example, you can start your application online before arriving in the UK and you then have 90 days to complete your application in a UK branch.
If you open an account with a UK bank, your money will be protected up to £85,000 by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).
Opening a bank account with a digital bank
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to open a bank account as a non-UK resident is with a digital bank. You’ll need to be happy completing your application and managing your account online or via an app. But if you are, providers such as Revolut, Monese, Monzo, Suits Me and Starling don’t require proof of a UK address. You may, however, still need proof of residency in the EU/EEA or another country and you’ll usually need a UK address so you can receive your payments card.
Opening an account with one of these online providers is quick and easy – you can often have your account up and running the same day. Many will include spending and budgeting features on their app, but to access a greater range of perks, you’ll usually need to select a plan with a monthly fee.
Just be aware that not all of these providers have FSCS protection. Revolut, Monese and Suits Me are e-money institutions, which means your money is protected by a process known as safeguarding. But it won’t be covered by the FSCS.
Opening a multi currency account
It’s also possible to open a multi currency account with a number of e-money institutions, such as Wise, Revolut and Monese. The major advantage of this is that you can hold multiple currencies in your account and should you need to transfer funds globally, you won’t be charged extortionate fees for doing so. What’s more, Wise, Revolut and Monese don’t require proof of UK residency to open an account – which you can do quickly and easily online.
Again, though, you’ll need to be happy banking online or via an app and you won’t get FSCS protection on your money. What’s more, the best features are usually included on the accounts that charge a monthly fee.
What if I don’t have proof of address?
You could open an account with a challenger bank – these are digital banks without branches and you open the account online. This usually takes a few minutes and requires a UK address and a proof of identity (passport or driving licence), but usually no proof of address.
Monzo, Monese, Starling Bank and Revolut will all help you set up a UK account without requiring proof of residency. Exactly what you’ll need will vary but in some cases, it will only be an email address, phone number and an ID document such as your passport. Note that you will still need a UK address so that your card can be sent to the right place.
Which kinds of accounts are available to foreigners and expats arriving in the UK?
The type of account depends on your personal situation, your reasons for being in the UK and how much you’re willing to pay for additional services and add-ons. Students pay limited or no management fees, since their accounts are quite basic. Professional people may require more elaborate account types, like those that allow for joint accounts and access to loan and investment facilities. Here are a few of the account types available to foreigners.
Basic current accounts
A savings account pays you interest on the money in the your account: the more you have in this account, the more interest you earn.
Since these funds aren’t intended for everyday use, account holders are usually penalised with loss of interest when withdrawing from this account. Also keep in mind that most savings accounts can’t be opened from overseas, as they require you to have at least a UK residential address.
What are the benefits to opening a bank account in the UK?
While there are lots of online money transfer services available for foreigners to send and receive money internationally, there are some advantages to having a local account.
- Immediate access to your money. If you transfer money to your the UK bank account before you leave, you’ll be able to withdraw from the account as soon as you land in the UK. You’ll be asked to present positive identification when collecting your bank card.
- Lower fees when using domestic services. Moving or withdrawing money between international and UK accounts incurs high fees, whereas you’d pay low transaction fees when using a local account. These kinds of fees are usually waived for students.
- Professional advantage. If you open an account before leaving for the UK, you can provide a future employer with your banking details straight away, saving yourself time on administration.
What should foreigners and expats look for in a bank account?
The type of bank account you choose will depend on how you like to manage your money and what you’ll be using the account for. Here’s a few of the main things to consider when choosing an account:
- Low fees. Make sure the account charges low or no account fees.
- Branch access. If you’ll be making in-branch transactions (such as depositing foreign cash or cheques), make sure you go for a bank with lots of branches in your local area. Some banks, such as First Direct, Staring and Monzo, are online only, with no branches.
- International transfers. It’s likely that you’ll need to send money back home from time to time, so check what the fees are for transferring money internationally, as well as the exchange rates.
- Hold multiple currencies. Some bank accounts let you hold several foreign currencies in the one account. This could be really handy if you’re going back home regularly and need the local currency there.
Opening a bank account in the UK if you’re an expat is usually a simple process, especially if you’re moving, studying or working here. People in the UK on a tourist visa can open an account by visiting a local branch and providing their passport.
It can be a little trickier to open a UK bank account if you don’t intend to live in the UK. You’ll usually need to speak to a local bank that has international ties with a UK bank.
The type of account you’ll be able to open will depends on your personal situation, your reasons for being in the UK and how much you’re willing to pay for additional services and add-ons. For example, students applying for student accounts won’t usually pay any account management fees limited, since their accounts are quite basic.
As a major financial centre, the UK’s banking system is broadly open to foreigners looking to open accounts here.
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