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Opening a bank account in the UK can be extremely easy and quick… or a bit of a nightmare, depending on your personal circumstances and what documents you have.
If you are unable to provide a passport or a UK driving licence, you might think that getting a bank account will be close to impossible, but it’s not quite like that.
As you can probably imagine, the short answer to this is no.
Banks need to verify your identity before letting you open a bank account. That’s anti fraud policy 101, and protects you too; you wouldn’t want a random person to be able to open a bank account in your name.
This applies to digital-only banks as well as traditional ones. Even if you try to open an account online or through an app, you’ll be asked to submit a picture of your ID as well as a video of yourself.
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Most documents counting as ID will display both your personal details and a picture of yourself. If you have a UK passport or a UK driving licence, you are sorted; any bank will take them.
If you don’t, here is a list of alternative IDs that banks will normally accept:
Many of these documents actually require you to provide an ID when you apply for them. But they can still be helpful, for example if you find yourself having lost your passport and urgently needing to open a bank account before you get a new one.
Also, this is a general list, and different banks may have slightly different policies.
Finally, it’s worth noting that if you have one of these “alternative IDs”, especially the less straightforward ones (e.g. a benefits letter), it will probably be easier to get an account at a traditional bank such as Lloyds or Barclays rather than with a digital one.
Sometimes, you may be able to apply for and open a current account online from a traditional bank, without ever having to provide proof of identity or popping into a branch at all.
However, this usually means that your identity has been verified digitally through a credit reference agency, by conducting a so-called “soft check” that will not leave traces on your credit record.
For banks to be able to verify your identity this way, your credit report needs to contain enough information about you to allow it. So if it’s the first time you apply for a current account or any other type of banking product, don’t expect it to work.
Also, be aware that most traditional banks will perform a full credit check (not just a soft one) when you apply for a current account, particularly if it comes with an overdraft facility.
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