While some of the major UK banks, such as Halifax, won’t let non-residents open a bank account there are a few that do. These include large traditional banks like Natwest and Lloyds as well as mobile banking services like Monese. Here’s a short breakdown of your options when it comes to opening a bank account in the UK for non-residents and some alternatives you might want to consider.
Choosing an account
When it comes to choosing an account your options depend on if it’s a business or personal account and whether you live in the UK for some of the year, for example while studying.
Studying or occasionally living in the UK
If your main address is abroad but you stay in the UK for some of the year then it’s worth seeing if you can get proof of a UK address. This is because proof of address is one of the main documents needed to open a bank account in the UK so will give you a far greater choice of accounts.
Common forms of proof of address documents include a:
- Utility bill such as gas, electricity, water or phone bill
- Mortgage statement
- Bank statement
- Driving licence
If you rent a property for some of the year then a bank may accept your tenancy agreement as proof of address. If you study in England then the bank may accept a letter from your university admission’s office with your UK address on. You might also be able to change the correspondence address for the bank in your main country of residence to your UK address. When they then send you a bank statement you can use this as proof of address.
Once you have a UK proof of address you should be able to open an account with either a traditional high street bank or an online banking service like Monzo.
Living entirely outside the UK
If you never temporarily stay in the UK and therefore can’t provide any sort of UK proof of address, then your options depend on if you live inside or outside the EU.
If you live in the EU, Natwest will let you open a Foundation or Select account. Both accounts have no monthly fee and come with a visa debit card. This is the only account of this kind we’ve come across, not least due to uncertainty around UK bank accounts for non-residents after Brexit. There have recently been reports in the British media of EU residents being told their British bank accounts will be closed at the end of 2020 because of Brexit.
Lloyds bank offers an international current account for non-EU residents. It has the benefit of a choice of three currencies and a visa debit card, but you’ll need to pay a monthly fee and have a deposit of at least £25,000. Barclays also has an international bank account which seems to be for both EU and non-EU residents; however, it also has a £25,000 minimum deposit. HSBC has an expat account for those living abroad, but this has an even higher minimum deposit of £50,000.
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Doing business in the UK
If you’re a freelancer working remotely from outside the UK, your traditional banking options will be similar to opening a personal UK bank account for non-residents. For example, an international bank account with Lloyds or Barclays.
If you run a company and need a UK business bank account for non-residents then HSBC offers international business accounts. At the time of writing HSBC had frozen applications for HSBC business bank accounts for non-UK residents due to unprecedented demand and therefore the application criteria to open a bank account is unclear.
Tide offers internet banking via a mobile phone app. You can open a business account online without being a UK resident as long as you’re a director of a company registered with UK Companies House. Similarly you can open a Revolut online banking account as a non UK resident as long as your company is registered and operates from the EEA or Switzerland. Revolut is a strong contender for a UK business bank account for non-residents as it offers multi-currency accounts and you can send and receive funds in 28+ currencies (although this is at the real (interbank) exchange rate).
Documents you’ll need
To help prevent fraud, UK banks ask you to provide proof of identity. You’ll need to send copies of these documents with the account application form or as part of the internet banking online application process.
Common forms of proof of identity:
- Driving licence
- National identity card
Before you send off your documents for opening a UK bank account, it’s worth checking if they need to be certified copies. You might also need to provide proof of address either for outside or within the UK – see the ‘Studying or occasionally living in the UK’ section above. Check your chosen bank’s website for more details on the documents they require when opening an account.
Trying an alternative to banks
With the high deposits needed for international bank accounts and the limited options for those without a UK proof of address, it’s well worth looking at what other financial services can offer.
If you need to make or take business payments from outside the UK, the WorldFirst World Account is an easy alternative to a bank account. You can open one or multiple local currency accounts online with no need to have a local address. Opening an account is free and easy, with no monthly account fees and no annual transfer limits. You can open a World Account online now.
If you need to transfer money from your UK bank account to your main account in another country, fees can quickly stack up. Using a specialist FX platform like WorldFirst can save you money and it’s usually faster than traditional banks too. WorldFirst offers same-day international payments with no payment fees.
How can World Account help you?
WorldFirst can provide instant access to new markets by providing one or multiple local multi currency accounts, as well as a seamless payments infrastructure through the World Account. With a free World Account, you can access a global account solution across 10 markets, without the need for local banking relationships.
For example, if you want to set up a USD account in the US this can be a very arduous process without a physical presence, but WorldFirst can provide a USD currency account the very same day. All from the comfort of your home office. This is critical, as waiting for payments to be settled following a customer transaction is one of the biggest challenges faced by SMEs. World Account allows for more timely and efficient payments to be made, enabling you to speed up your supply chain with same day availability on 97% of currency pairs actively traded through the platform, giving you more value with faster same-currency and cross currency payments (cut-off times apply).
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