This web page is an introduction to who can hold a UK bank account and does not cover all the issues. For more detailed information and legal guidance, download the full fact sheet at the side and bottom of this page.
This page provides information on who can and cannot open, hold or access bank accounts in the UK. Some of the information below changed in January 2018.
Who is able to hold a UK bank account?
Not everyone in the UK can open or hold a current account with a bank or building society. Since 2014, the ability to open or hold a current account is restricted for anyone who needs leave to remain or enter but does not have it. In cases where an individual without leave to remain faces ‘legitimate barriers’ which prevent them from leaving the UK, the Secretary of State may ‘exercise her discretion’ and enable that person to open an account.
The Immigration Act 2016 requires banks to undertake immigration checks for those who hold current accounts, and to freeze the account of any customer who does not have the correct legal status and notify the Home Office. These checks have been temporarily suspended.
Who is not able to hold a UK bank account?
In most circumstances, a person is unable to open a new current account if she or he does not have leave to enter or remain (is a ‘disqualified person’). Since January 2018, ‘disqualified persons’ are also disqualified from holding an existing account, and banks are now required to carry out checks on existing customers. ‘Disqualified persons’ include individuals who:
- never had leave to enter or remain,
- had leave but stayed after it expired or was revoked, or
- are European Economic Area nationals with a deportation or exclusion order.
As well as not being able to open a new current account, disqualified people are also prohibited from:
- making applications for a new current account operated by a micro-enterprise or a charity (with an annual income under one million pounds),
- making applications for a joint account,
- making applications for an account to which that person is to be a signatory or a named beneficiary, and
- instances where the disqualified person is to be added to an existing account as an account holder, signatory or named beneficiary.
In order to open a new current account an individual must prove their identity and their address. Having no credit history in the UK and no proof of address are, in practice, serious obstacles to setting up new bank accounts.
Proof of identity
Each bank or bank or building society may have different rules regarding what documentation is necessary, and should indicate what needs to be provided when an application is first made. Normally this includes documents such as a passport, driving licence, statement or bill from a utility company, or document confirming rental or ownership of a property. Note that original documents should be provided in all cases.
For circumstances under which the requested documents cannot be provided, a bank or building society may consider the following:
- an entitlement letter or Identity Confirmation issued by the government or a local authority if receiving benefits
- a letter from a care home manager or warden of sheltered accommodation or refuge
- a letter from the warden of a homeless shelter
- a letter from a probation officer or a hostel manager
- a letter from the prison governor
- for travellers, a letter from the local authority that verifies her or his address
- for international students: a passport or European Economic Area National Identity Card and letter of acceptance or of introduction from a body on the Department for Education and Standards list
- an Application Registration Card (ARC) issued to asylum seekers
Proof of address
The following documents can usually be used to prove a person’s address in the UK:
- Utility bills: gas, water, electric, TV or landline phone bill (not mobile) that is less than three months old
- Local authority: a council tax bill issued within the current financial year (1 April to 31 March)
- Banking: a UK bank statement or credit card statement that is less than three months old (internet statements are not acceptable)
- Housing: a tenancy agreement or council rent book (must be current); a UK mortgage statement that is less than three months old (internet statements are not acceptable)
- Shopping: a catalogue or mail order statement that is less than three months old; a hire purchase statement of account
- Personal: a pension book; a UK photo card driving license with current address (paper counterpart no longer valid as of 8 June 2015); a medical card / NHS card
- Insurance: a motor insurance or home insurance certificate issued within the last 12 months.
When might a bank account be frozen or closed?
Since January 2018, banks and building societies have been required to carry out checks on the immigration status of existing current account holders. As a result of these checks, an individual may have their account frozen or closed if they are found not to be eligible for a current account due to their immigration status. These checks are currently suspended.
A bank is also required to restrict access for a disqualified person to an account to which they are a signatory, or to a joint account held together with an eligible person.
How to appeal
If a bank or building society refuses an application for a current account under the provisions of the Immigration Act 2014, it must usually explain why. The duty to inform the person of the reason for refusal is to enable the person, if relevant, to contact the Home Office if they consider that they are not, or should not be, disqualified from opening an account.
If a person has been turned down for a current account for another reason, for example, due to credit checks, it might be possible for them to open a basic bank account. More information on this is provided by the Money Advice Service.
If a bank has frozen or closed a person’s account because they have assessed them to be ineligible, then the only way to challenge this is to contact the Home Office, using the details below, to give them information to demonstrate eligibility to hold a bank account:
Complaints Allocation Hub
UK Visas and Immigration
20 Wellesley Road
Phone: 0300 123 4979
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