Published: 01/03/2019

At a glance

  • Proof of address and identity are always needed to open a current account.
  • This can prove a particular problem if you’ve been living abroad or have no credit history.
  • If you’re unable to open a current account, a basic bank account could still be an option.
  • Prepaid cards can also often be used like a bank account.

When opening an account with a bank or building society, you will be asked to provide evidence of your identity and confirmation of your address. However, if you’ve been living abroad and are planning to move or return to the UK, this can pose a problem.

Having no credit history in the UK and no proof of address can hinder efforts to set up a new current account, which is often necessary to enable your employer to pay your wages.

Although most banks and building societies expect you to have a UK address before you can open a bank account, there are some specialist products that have been designed for foreign nationals, which could be an alternative if you do not meet the standard account criteria.

For those who have lived in the UK all their lives, having proof of residence can still be a problem if, for example, you’ve been renting a property with a partner and all the bills are in their name, if you've rented a room in a shared house and don't pay any bills, or if you are not on the electoral roll.

Before applying for a bank account, be aware that:

  • Passports, National Insurance cards or birth certificates are not classed as proof of address as these do not state your address, just your identity.
  • Passports, national identity cards and travel documents must be current, i.e. unexpired.
  • Letters should be of recent date, or, in the case of students, the course dates stated in the letter of acceptance should reasonably correspond with the date of the account application to the bank.
  • All documents must be original.

What can I use as a valid proof of address to open a bank account?

Utility bills

  • a gas, water, electric, TV or landline phone bill (not mobile) that's less than three months old.

Local authority

  • a council tax bill issued within the current financial year.

Banking

  • A UK bank statement that's less than three months old (internet statements aren't acceptable).
  • a UK credit card statement that's less than three months old (internet statements aren't acceptable).

Housing

  • a tenancy agreement or council rent book (must be current).
  • a UK mortgage statement that's less than three months old (internet statements aren't acceptable).

Shopping

  • a catalogue or mail order statement that's less than three months old.
  • a hire purchase statement of account.

Personal

  • your pension book.
  • a UK photocard driving license with your current address and its full paper counterpart.
  • a medical card / NHS card.

Insurance

  • a motor insurance or home insurance certificate that has been issued within the last 12 months.

Basic bank accounts

If you can't meet the normal address verification requirements to open a current account, you may still be able to open a basic bank account.

There are alternative methods of identification which can usually be used to open a basic bank account. A full explanation is given in this UK Government booklet here:

People claiming benefits

  • Entitlement letter issued by DWP, HMRC or your local authority, or an identity confirmation letter issued by the DWP or local authority.

People in care homes/sheltered accommodation/refuge

  • Letter from care home manager/warden of the sheltered accommodation or refuge.

Homeless people

  • A letter from the warden of a homeless shelter, or from an employer if the customer is in work, should be sufficient evidence.

People on probation

  • Letter from the customer's probation officer, or a hostel manager, would normally be sufficient.

Prisoners

  • Letter from the governor of the prison, or, if the applicant has been released, a letter from a police or probation officer or hostel manager would normally be sufficient.

International students

  • Passport or EEA national identity card and letter of acceptance or letter of introduction from the institution at which they are going to study.

Foreign nationals working temporarily in the UK (whose lack of banking or credit history excludes them from being offered anything more than a basic bank account)

  • National passport, or a national identity card (for nationals of EEA and Switzerland only).

Potential alternatives for proof of address:

  • We can't comment on every single branch, but some banks may be more lenient than others and sometimes do not require the standard verification as proof of address. Call the bank and find out what you need to bring in with you before you apply.
  • If your employer has provided you with a contract of employment or payslip with your current address on it, you may be able to use that. Alternatively, your HMRC P2 'PAYE Coding Notice', which notifies you what your tax code is, is usually accepted as proof of address alongside a current driving licence or passport.
  • If you don't drive, you could apply for a provisional driving license at the Post Office (check that you qualify first). There is a charge for this and the DVLA takes around two weeks to send this through to your address. You can then use this as a valid proof of your address.
  • Speak to the person you're living with. Ask if it would be possible for you to take on one of the bills in your name. This could take a month for the change to come through on a paper-based bill, which you can then use as proof of address.
  • Alternatively, apply for a prepaid card. These cards are great for students and those who have little or no credit history. Once the card is sent to your home, use the letter that comes with it as proof of address.

A prepaid account card can also be the perfect alternative to a bank account

Some prepaid cards allow you to use them like a bank account and have your wages paid directly into your card's account, without any links to any other account you may have.

There are no unexpected bank charges and very little paperwork to fill in to get such an account. Just use it like a regular bank account – you can pay bills online and set up regular payments for everything from your gas and electric bill to your broadband.

However, be aware that many prepaid cards do not offer the same level of protection as bank accounts under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Moneyfacts tip

Moneyfacts tip Leanne Macardle

Basic bank accounts allow you to pay in your wages, benefits, tax credits and state pension. They give you a cash card to withdraw your money and some offer standing orders and direct debits. Unlike normal bank accounts, they do not give you a cheque book or overdraft facility.

Disclaimer: This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts recommends you obtain independent financial advice.

pile of pound coins

At a glance

  • Proof of address and identity are always needed to open a current account.
  • This can prove a particular problem if you’ve been living abroad or have no credit history.
  • If you’re unable to open a current account, a basic bank account could still be an option.
  • Prepaid cards can also often be used like a bank account.

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