If you want to open a bank account in the UK, you’ll be asked to prove your identity. Often this means showing a valid photo ID, such as a passport, and another document to prove where you live. This is a bank security measure, and helps make sure that accounts can’t be opened for criminal purposes.
However, getting a proof of address can be tricky for some customers - especially if you’ve just arrived in the UK, and don’t have bills or a bank account registered in your name yet. In this case, you have a few options. Some banks will accept a limited range of alternative documents - or you could consider a borderless account from TransferWise, which allows you to choose how you verify your identity. More on that later.
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Now, back to what you came here to read.
Here’s a guide to getting a proof of address here in the UK.
Banks in the UK have a duty to limit the chances that accounts are used for illegal activities like money laundering or funding crime. One way they do this is to ensure that accounts are not opened under false identities.
This means that banks ask customers to prove who they are before they'll allow them to operate a bank account. This process often includes showing a valid photo ID, and proof of address¹.
Each bank has a slightly different process regarding proof of address - but in general, you’ll be asked to show 1 or 2 original documents which prove your residential address. These usually have to be from official sources, such as a driving license, or council tax bill¹.
Each bank has their own list of acceptable documents, and their own set of processes which might differ a little from the next. Some, for example, will allow copies of documents, or print outs from electronic sources, such as a printed copy of your bank statement taken from online banking. Other banks will only accept original documents.
Different documents also have different validity times. For example, with most banks a bank or credit card statement or a utility bill can’t be more than 3 to 4 months old. And a council tax bill or water bill has to be from within the last 12 months. Before you submit any documents, it’s worth checking with the specific bank, what kind of rules they have for the validity of documents.
If you can’t provide any of the documents from the list below, the majority of banks give the advice to contact them, as they might be able to accept an alternative document²⁺³⁺⁴⁺⁵.
- Valid UK driving license
- Recent utility bill (gas, electricity, water or landline phone)
- Council tax bill
- Recent credit card or bank statement
- Recent Building Society or Credit Union statement
- Tenancy agreement
Getting a proof of address can be a little trickier if you’ve just arrived to live, work or study here, and want to open a local bank account in the UK. You may not have been in the country for long enough to have a registered address, or bills in your name, for example.
However, some high street banks do offer a solution. You’ll need to check what your preferred bank might accept, but some common options include the following²⁺³:
- A letter from your university, college or language school if you’ve come to the UK to study. Your UCAS details or a letter from the Student Loan Company might also be acceptable in this case
- A letter from your employer confirming your address
- A letter referring you from an existing customer of that bank, who can verify your address
Some banks, such as Barclays, allow EU citizens to open a limited, basic bank account, by proving their ID and a European address. This allows people to open a sterling denominated account before moving to the UK, although the terms of the account are somewhat restricted. The documents required in this case are a little different - details can be found in the source links below.
All of the main UK banks ask for a proof of address to open a bank account. Here’s what you need to know about getting a proof of address for these major high street banks:
- HSBC proof of address
- Barclays proof of address
- Natwest proof of address
- Lloyds proof of address
- Halifax proof of address
- Santander proof of address
- Nationwide proof of address
However, it’s helpful to know that if you can’t provide anything from their regular list of acceptable documents, most banks encourage you to call them to discuss your options.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) - which regulates banking in the UK - publishes a list of other ideas about documents which a bank might accept, depending on the situation. This might be a letter from a hostel or refuge, from a probation officer, or proof of your status as an asylum seeker, for example. The full FCA guidance can be found in the source links below¹.
Another great option is to get a multi-currency borderless account from TransferWise. This account allows you to keep your money in any of dozens of popular international currencies, including British pounds, and switch between them when you want to. You can make and receive payments in different currencies, and get a linked debit card for your day to day spending.
There’s no charge to open a borderless account, and no monthly fee for operating it. To get started, you’ll have to provide a proof of identity - such as a copy of your passport. You can then choose to either supply a proof of address from a standard list of documents, or to send in a selfie, in which you’re holding your proof of ID. This can be a great alternative, if you’re still waiting to move to the UK, or haven’t yet got bills and other paperwork registered in your name.
So there you have it - everything there is to understand about the proof of address process in the UK. If you’re just moving to the UK, or don’t have bills and other paperwork in your name for any reason, it’s good to know that there are some alternatives out there. Check out the TransferWise borderless account as a great way to manage your money, which allows you to choose how to prove your identity and get up and running with a convenient and flexible account.
Sources used or this article:
*All sources checked on January 16, 2019
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