American Setting Up UK Bank Account
August 26, 2010 8:12 AM   Subscribe

I am an American who would like to set up a legitimate bank account in the UK and I have some questions

I am interested in purchasing shares in a favorite football (soccer) team in the UK, but to do so I must have a UK bank account. From what I understand it is perfectly legal for me to have such an account. I will be in the UK in December, but wonder if there is a way to do this online. The account would probably only need to have about US$1,000 in it, unless there are minimum account balances of which i am unaware.

Can you all help me:

1) What UK banks have an online account set-up process?
2) Do you have a preference for any particular bank and if so why?
3) If I can't do this online, what things/paperwork will I need to bring with me in December in order to set up an account?

Are there any other things I should know about this process?

posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience, you won't be able to open a normal high street bank account as a non-resident*, but you will be able to open an "international" account. HSBC is very good for catering to expats and anyone else who wants offshore banking help. It looks like Barclays also have an option. There's one caveat - in my experience, these accounts require very large initial deposits. I've looked into the HSBC account in the past, and I think the requirement at that time was around £10,000. If that works for you, you might try there first.

* this is based on my own experience -- when i first arrived in the UK i practically had to sign over my firstborn to get a bank account. They require multiple proofs of address, are very strict about what you can use as a proof of address, and generally make opening an account quite difficult.
posted by ukdanae at 8:38 AM on August 26, 2010

In answer to point 1, I don't think there are any banks that will let you sign up without seeing your passport and some proof of address. That's not going to happen over the internet with any of the major banks.

The online only banks (IF/Intelligent Finance, egg and FirstDirect spring to mind) may allow you to post or fax through copies of your ID, but I'd have guessed not.

For 3, when I last set up an account it was photo id (drivers license / passport) and two bills or bank statements with my address on it. As a for'ner it may well be significantly more than this, but it certainly won't be less.

You may have more luck if you already have an account with a sister bank in the USA - HSBC springs to mind and I think they also run FirstDirect.
posted by twine42 at 8:42 AM on August 26, 2010

1) None. You always need to at least mail documents proving identity/address. It's part of anti-money-laundering legislation, not open to interpretation by banks.
2) You may find it easiest to find a HSBC or Barclay's branch in your own country and open a UK account there.
3) I just opened three accounts in the UK, so I actually have this text on hand. This list is quite standard (I was asked for the same thing by all three). None of these accounts accepted non-UK residents though, so this list may be different for the kind of accounts you're talking about. If you're physically taking these documents to a branch, you don't need notarized copies: they will check the originals there and then.
We will need to see two original documents - one from the Personal identification list and one from the Address verification list. Please do not send original documents to us in the post. If you send original documents to us, we cannot accept any liability for the safety of these documents whilst they are in the post.

Copies of documents must be certified as being a true copy of the original by any one of the following:

Post Office Official
UK Lawyer
FSA Regulated Financial Intermediary
Accountant, or
Minister of Religion
Individuals retired from these professions are not able to act in this capacity. Each certified copy must be signed by that person and must appear with the full name, qualification (where applicable), job title, address and telephone number and date of certification (please see example below).

Certified as a true copy by John Paul Smith (full name and signature)

Saffron House, 1A Market Street, Saffron Walden, Essex CB10 1HX
0800 072 1100
Date certified: 29/06/2008
The identity documents cannot be certified by any party to the account or their relatives.

Personal identification - one item
Current full signed UK/EU passport
Current UK photo-card Driving Licence + paper counterpart (full or provisional)
Current UK full (old style) Driving Licence (provisional not acceptable)
Firearms certificate or shotgun licence
Inland Revenue Tax notification/demand/assessment (less than 12 months old)
Letter from Benefits Agency confirming entitlement to benefits or state pension (less than 12 months old)
Address verification - one item
Council Tax bill or statement (valid for current year)
Utility bill or statement issued/dated in the last three months/current year for water bills (mobile phone statements are not accepted) (internet prints are not accepted)
Bank/Building Society/National Savings statement or passbook containing current address (issued/dated in the last three months and not issued by the Society) (internet prints are not accepted)
posted by caek at 8:46 AM on August 26, 2010

I have generally good experiences as an expat Brit in America maintaining a HSBC account, if that helps.
posted by Artw at 9:20 AM on August 26, 2010

As an expat Brit living in Italy I tried very hard to open a checking account (current account) in the UK with no success. Some banks didn't even reply, others replied that I needed to be UK resident. Even trying to do it through opening an account at Barclays in Italy first was no back door entry to opening another account with Barclays UK. The bottom line: I would have to show up physically in the UK, show somehow I was resident there, and provide all the documentation listed by others upthread. It looks to me as though you won't be able to do this until you are in the UK in December.

In a different context, I was able to open an offshore account with AngloIrish's Isle of Man opeation, but that was not a current account, but a deposit account, and it did not require residency. But I don't know whether this type of account is acceptable for your purposes.
posted by aqsakal at 10:20 AM on August 26, 2010

My family spent last summer in London and here's what we found out:

You can apply for a bank account at any UK bank online. BUT, you have to actually be physically present to open the account and you must have a valid UK address for the bank to use to send the initial statements/security codes. Once you have the account, you can change your address to the US, which is what we did when we came home. So we still have a UK bank account to use for the next time we go over.

ukdanae is talking about the HSBC Premiere account, not the Passport account, which doesn't have a minimum deposit requirement. You may be able to open a Premiere account long-distance; I can't remember. You definitely have to be present to finish the opening steps on the Passport account.

To finish the application process once you're there, you'll need to take to the bank your passport and one of these things: driver's license; letter from the UK home office confirming your right to work in the UK; valid national identity card; overseas bank statement (or credit union or building society, dated in the last 4 months); letter from a UK employer on official letterhead (must be in English); letter from a UK university, college, or known language school; overseas gas or electricity bill (dated in the last 4 months); overseas telephone bill (not mobile phone, dated in the last 4 months)

That said, the Isle of Mann and Jersey have different regulations than the mainland. You might find something there that suits your needs.

If you have any questions, feel free to mefi mail me.
posted by cooker girl at 12:54 PM on August 26, 2010

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