46

In the UK, to prove your address you can usually use your bank statement. But to get a bank statement, you need to get a bank account, and to get a bank account, you have to prove your address.

While there are other ways to prove your address, most of them are hard to get, especially if you just moved to the country, or actually require an existing bank account, or a way to prove your address.

What is the easiest way to get out of this catch-22 situation?

  • Related: similar question about France – choster Mar 12 '14 at 23:04
  • 2
    First thing you do when you arrive in UK is go direct to Home Office to apply for NI, do not pass start and do not delay. After several days you will get a letter to your address, can be anywhere, your mum, nan, sharehouse, etc. Take it to the bank with passport, and many banks offer free banking. You have to visit as many as possible because it changes very often. That's how I did it, and my brother just opened an account with out proof of address at Barclays. After first statement he moved to Natwest. – Piotr Kula Oct 31 '14 at 10:26
  • Allegedly Barclays opens bank accounts on-line without any proof of anything, letting people use account for up to a month before they're required to provide documentation. Thus a favorite bank of on-line scammers. – vartec Nov 7 '14 at 0:24
  • 1
    We need a 'Catch-22' or 'Kafkian' tag. – Calculus Knight May 4 '15 at 9:37
  • 1
    @Ulkoma why do you think that? – SztupY May 9 '16 at 19:04

10 Answers 10

30

The Simplest Way

See the note by ppumkin below this answer for what seems like the simplest solution. It wasn't possible at the time I arrived in the UK - though perhaps things have changed. If you have success with that method, please upvote it and note your success.

I'm leaving the remainder of this as an alternative method (especially since I thought it was a neat hack :)

The Simple Way

Some banks have specific accounts that are designed for your situation. Here are two, but I'm sure there are others.

These accounts can be opened with just a passport. The major disadvantages are:

  • The accounts are expensive relative to a standard account.
  • You get fewer benefits than a normal charged-for account.
  • You are frequently tied into a year contract.

The Engineered Way

I found a neat way of resolving this when I moved to the UK:

  • Using internet banking, log into your overseas bank account back "home".
  • Adjust the address on file on your non-UK bank account. In my case this was an electronic process with no requirement for proof of address.
  • Once the change in address had gone through, apply for a "duplicate statement" from your non-UK bank.
  • The duplicate statement will now be delivered to your UK address.

Once it arrives you now have a bank statement that nicely matches the requirements of for opening a new account in the UK: a bank statement with a UK address on it, albeit from an overseas bank.

In my case, I then took this duplicate statement to a UK bank and applied for a standard account. They were willing to accept my original bank statement as proof of address, even although it was from an overseas bank.

I'm sure it helped that my original overseas bank was "HSBC Offshore", and the bank I was applying at in the UK was "HSBC UK". However, you might be able to do the same thing with your bank, if that bank is a recognisable entity to a bank manager in the UK.

I'd also like to echo other respondents to this question: initially, you should consider banking at a branch frequented by other expats if possible. Our immigration lawyers suggested that the HSBC branch closest to the UK Border Agency in Croydon would certify bank statements - while two branches of the bank assured me they would do no such thing (Note that I didn't test this, as it wasn't actually necessary in our case).

  • Hah, I've never seen a Lloyds branch where opening an account was that asy as described on their page. Yes, this includes online applications. Also note that a lot of Central/Eastern-European banks don't really know the notion of having a non-local address. – SztupY Mar 20 '14 at 19:33
  • 3
    This answer is ludicrous. You can open a FREE bank account with passport and a letter from HMRC (ie, after getting your NI) within 3 weeks of arriving in the UK, or 4 weeks after paying your first bill if renting private, or mobile phone bill if living in share house. By any nationial. -1! This is complete nonsensical approach to complicate your life. – Piotr Kula Oct 31 '14 at 10:22
  • If your non-UK internet bank has the option of printing the statement yourself, "the engineered way" could actually be the quickest one as you don't have to wait for any letters. – Imre Jan 5 '15 at 6:33
  • Both HSBC Passport and Lloyds New to the UK accounts are now gone. However, both banks offer a "basic account" that does not include a cheque book and credit card. With HSBC you can apply to it directly but in Lloyds you have to be denied any other account to get the basic one. Still, it is a very valid option. – Alexey Zimarev Mar 3 '16 at 20:37
16

What I went through

I've been researching this for a number of months ahead of my move and didn't come up with much info, until I actually got to the UK and started 'shopping around'.

Tried and failed..

I actually tried the 'Engineered Way' mentioned here, however neither of the two banks would accept it as valid, as their requirements clearly stated, they need both a Sort Code as well as the Account number. The Sort Code is the equivalent to the Routing Number (in the US at least). My statement (from a US bank) only included an Account number. Thus it wasn't a valid bank statement they would accept as valid proof of address. Their requirements are they need a Bank Statement, but explicitly from the UK to be precise (by virtue of needing it to have the Sort code).

The holy grail..

Turns out it's a lot more straightforward than I initially realized (and if I knew about the following sooner, I would have opened my account quicker rather than wait almost a month for the engineered way to be delivered, tried and tested).

This should work for you if you are employed by one of the companies that is recognized by uk.gov as having the ability to sponsor employee's. Most companies are recognized if they are major enough, and there are several tens of thousands of companies on the list. Here's the full list:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/register-of-licensed-sponsors-workers

If you find your company on the list (it's a huge list so take your time searching through it), all you need is to ask your HR department to write you a letter stating your info. Their word as proof is enough for the major banks (at least for the two I tried near central London). Of course you also need your passport for proof of identity, but this should be the least of your troubles if you managed to come to the UK :-)

The exact info wanted varies by bank but to be as complete as possible, you'll want:

  • Full (Legal) Name
  • Address currently residing
  • Previous address (even if abroad)
  • When you started working for the company
  • Your current salary

My experiences with two major banks..

Barclays for example didn't need all this, HSBC did.

Barclays was content with just the first two items in a simple letter format (and possibly the 4th, as it was part of my letter but the 3rd and 5th item weren't, and i got no push back). The branch I went to was 114 Fenchurch and I eventually opened my account by "David" there (don't recall his last name). They were very helpful (albeit David was a bit serious, didn't seem friendly initially, and not until the end did i even see him crack a smile, i blame it on the "British reserve").

Contrary to my solemn (but productive) experience at Barclays, HSBC were at least super friendly (and the lady who helped me was quite attractive), but weren't very helpful in being to accomplish much initially, and I had to go back several times to get them all the info to them in the exact way they wanted. The branch I went to was at 60 Fenchurch (across the street and down a block from Barclays).

HSBC didn't like the initial letter I brought them, and even gave me a template of what the letter ideally would look like for them: a template of what the letter ideally would look like for them

Will my account exist long term?

Possibly as a result of being also a US citizen, at the end, they asked me for my 'National Security Number', to which i responded with a blank stare. They weren't referring to my National Insurance (NI) number as it was related to foreign jurisdiction they told me. They said it's a new policy, because of some agreement with the US and the UK. Barclays didn't ask me for this at all (maybe just because Barclays doesn't do retail banking services in the US).

I asked them if they actually meant a social security number? They would accept that but weren't sure if that's what they needed (and couldn't really elaborate on what this number is for).

I eventually declined to give it to them (the US Gov't already encroaches too much on people's rights stateside, I don't want them poking their nose in my business abroad also), and they reluctantly accepted my refusal but told me that if their back end folks aren't happy with that, they may contact me about closing my account (how's that for making you feel welcome). I really am not impressed with HSBC (and I told them that), and as long as I can keep my credit card account (to build credit) I won't miss HSBC. Maybe i'll use their statement to open/switch to another bank (see below).

I need an appointment ??

HSBC (and Barclays at one point) prefer if you make an appointment for another day to sit with the bank representative to open an account (HSBC insisted on it because they invasively ask you a bunch of questions about your life and financial situation, Barclays recommended me to make an appt just so i don't have to wait but weren't as nosy.. i was able to see someone by waiting a little bit). If you've banked in the US, this is somewhat unheard of. HSBC really made me feel like i was just a number to them with all this attempting to sell extra services (despite them trying to make up for it with friendliness), Barclays was a lot more accommodating and straight to the point, and while I initially had reservations about them, they were the better experience. It was Barclays afterall that told me about the list of companies that if i work for one of them opening an account would be a cinch, HSBC made zero mention of this.

Why HSBC?

My initial preference was with HSBC, because I already have an HSBC account in the states. They claim they can import your credit history. This was totally misleading in that, when i see the word 'import' i think of certain things, yet here there is no actual making it available in the UK (like 'import' i thought would imply). The US credit history (and this by the way, is only limited to your US HSBC credit account not your other institutions' credit histories) is merely referenced one time, only by HSBC UK for opening an HSBC credit account.

The problem for me was, I initially thought this was the answer to all my concerns about having a blank slate of a credit history in the UK, that when I went to rent a flat, it would show at least some useful, re-assuring info to the UK rental property managers doing a referencing check on me (and the size of the deposit they ask you for, is based on this, i was informed). Unfortunately this is not the case at all, and the wording on their web site is rather misleading. As such, i may now have to put down 2-3 months rent as a deposit (when normally only 4-6 weeks is asked for if you have good credit, in the UK).

Another service of HSBC i investigated was having them actually open the bank account for you before you arrive in the UK. This service is free for Premier accounts, $100 for Advanced accounts, $200 otherwise. This turns out takes 4-6 weeks, although when i first called several months before the move, they initially told me 10 days, so i called two weeks before my departure and was pretty disappointed.

Come to think of it, disappointment and HSBC go hand in hand, but that's another rant (their online banking looks like it was invented in the 90's and never quite got updated to modern web technology).

The Fee-Free catch..

My other main interest in HSBC was that there's 'free' (aka no Fees) for transferring money between my US bank and my UK bank (both HSBC), using their Global Funds Global Transfer service. This again is a misnomer, as they inflate the exchange rate 3% (so rather than charge you a flat fee, they just skew the rate they give you is 3% off the market rate in their favor, perhaps this is just what everyone does, not sure yet). Oh and they told me that it would be free outright (in the UK). Sure enough, when i tried it, from the US to UK didn't have any extra fees (except the crappy exchange rate), BUT when i tried from UK to US, it states I'd be charged 5 GBP on top (and that fee this time is skewed 4%). Now i don't know if that's because i have HSBC Advanced in the US and not in the UK (and HSBC Advanced isn't available in the UK at the time of this writing, i'm told this will change next month (Nov 2014)), but being let down by HSBC is a constant theme.

What's next?

My next bank I will visit is Citibank and they also told me about the fee-free international transfer between Citi accounts (and i have a US one already so just need to see if the UK one will live up to the hyper). Will see if this fee-skew happens there too.

Also, i highly recommend spending some time on this site, as there's a load of financial related advice and information, that should help you with your financial life in the UK. Here's the section on credit cards:

http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/credit-cards/

But they cover other topics such as bank accounts, ISA's, etc.

Anyway hope this helps other people, so they don't have to go through the struggles I and many others have had to go through.

  • Citibank also charge a similar spread on transfers between their different-currency accounts. You can however use various currency exchanges / brokers to beat that, eg pay GBP to broker, exchange, pay USD back into your Citi UK USD account – Gagravarr Nov 7 '14 at 8:59
  • 1
    I've used a commercial service called TransferWise.com for transfers between the UK and South Africa - and they offer a similar service for the USA->UK. They charge much less than HSBC or other highstreet banks in my experience. I've also had same-day transfers to South Africa (admittedly on my 3rd transfer) – oskarpearson Mar 4 '16 at 22:18
9

I've opened it with my work address and my passport. As long as they have an address where to send you correspondence (and debit card, etc), you should have no problem.

So I used my work contract as "proof of address".

For transparency, I've opened an account with Barclay's.

9

There are two ways that I and other fellow Kiwis (New Zealanders) found:

  1. Open it from our home country. I went to Travelex and they were able to open an account with HSBC in the UK from New Zealand, using my NZ address. Then 6 weeks later, I was able to pick up my card in HSBC Regent Street in London. Of course, this requires forward planning and it's too late if you're in the UK already.

  2. Second choice was to go to one of the central banks. Ask around with expats, or even at some of the bank branches who may tell you of other ones, but for example HSBC Russell Square was rumoured to do this for you. You had to give a passport and other evidence, but it was possible.

Bonus option: I don't know if this would actually work in the UK, but a receipt from a hostel or hotel showing that you're staying there for a few weeks may work. Indeed, this is how I opened my Australian bank account - I used my hostel address.

8

The way they handle customers can change a lot, and not just between banks, but between branches as well. From what me and some of my friends went through I think the following apply:

  • It is easier to get a new account in Central London, than in the suburbs. Branches in the suburbs are more conservative when it comes to validating your identity, and might not accept valid verifications other branches accept. Central London branches usually accept work contracts, especially if it's from a company in their catchment area, while suburb branches might let you down with a completely valid rent agreement, and require you to get something else.
  • There can also be huge differences in what you will get after you are considered valid between branches. For example the LLoyds near Oxford Circus will give you a proper Current Account when you only show them your work contract, but the LLoyds near Piccadilly Circus might only give you a Cash Account for the same set of papers.

So if you have a job, and you are in Central London, your best bet is to find a branch there. If they don't want to give you an account, you might want to search further. If you need a proper Current Account, and are not happy with the basic Cash Account, you might still want to check another branch, as they might be less restrictive.

If you don't have a job, then your best bet is to get at least one of the utility bills to have your name on it, as a rent agreement is usually not enough.

6

Be flexible, since going by other answers in this thread different banks (even different branches of the same company) apply different rules.

In my case, a UK bank refused to accept my home address because I didn't have any satisfactory paper proving that it was my address. They said they would have accepted a recent bank statement (which I didn't have with me that day). They wouldn't accept my work address even with a very official-looking letter from one of the biggest employers of the city either, they wanted a residential address. However, they did eventually accept the business card of the hotel where I was staying.

Getting my address accepted was the sole hassle — they didn't require me to show that I had a single penny to my name, let alone deposit anything. Your mileage may vary.

My recommendation is to be prepared to give your home address. Be sure to have a couple of bank recent statements as well as perhaps other corroborating evidence (but note that unlike in some other countries, utility bills alone are generally not accepted as proof of address in the UK).

  • They accepted a business card? Not a letter confirming your stay but simply a business card? – kiradotee Feb 12 '17 at 3:52
  • @kiradotee Yes. They accepted a piece of paper that said “hotel” and that had no mention of me. It didn't make any sense to me either. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 12 '17 at 14:39
5

It is possible to open a bank account without proving your address. For example, HSBC provides a helpful service

The HSBC International Banking Center provides customers options to open personal deposit accounts outside the U.S. as well as inside the U.S. for non-U.S. residents

You have to have a current account (and I think you have to have had it for 3 months). The service is free to individuals with their "Premier account" and 200 USD for regular customers. I don't think there is anything special about HSBC and many of the other big banks likely offer similar services.

If you need to prove your address it is possible to find accommodations that do not require a UK bank account. Many landlords will waive the need for a bank account if you pay the entire 6 month lease up front. You will then have a lease which serves as proof of address. There are also some short term executive housing options (e.g., SACO) which don't require an in country bank account. If you do not have enough cash on hand in some cases your line manager (or maybe a colleague) might be willing to act as your address.

5

It depends from bank to bank.

My brother come to UK from South Africa as a Polish national. I went to my bank that I have been with for several years, Natwest. And they told him they want a bank statement with proof of address in UK.... umm what?

OK- I left him to go and explore the other banks. Barclays just wanted his passport and opened him a bank account on the spot.

When I opened my bank account with Natwest I also didn't need a proof of address, since I used my Polish ID and had a special Polish/English account opened that was decommissioned 2 years later and I got converted to something else.

Just shop around, somebody is going to want your business. They all offer the same stuff anyway.

4

When I opened my I went to a bank in central London and I just needed to show them my passport. Then they are going to ask you an address where to send you your documents but they did not require me any proof.

  • 2
    Can you tell us which bank this was? – Flimzy Mar 12 '14 at 23:05
  • I opened an account with Barclays (Tottenham Court Road branch) and I gave them a temporary address of the place where I was living while I was looking for my apartment – mariosangiorgio Mar 12 '14 at 23:06
  • 1
    Can you provide a more concrete example? I know that you have a higher chance of success in Central London than in the suburbs, where sometimes even two completely valid utility bills weren't enough for them. – SztupY Mar 12 '14 at 23:07
  • I should add that I had with me my employment contract, but I cannot remember if I showed it to the clerk or not. – mariosangiorgio Mar 12 '14 at 23:11
  • 1
    so basically you don't really remember what you provided. I don't think this is very helpful. – eis Jan 14 '15 at 20:44
4

From my own recent experience, the banks did require a proof of address. The question is, what could be a better alternative as a proof of address other than a bank statement? Some banks would accept a letter from employer as a proof, as long as the letter is addressed to your address. But other banks would not accept this as a proof. Apparently it depends on your nationality as well. For certain nationalities, the requirement is stricter. What finally worked for me was the council tax letter which you can get from the city council once you have a permanent address.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.