If you want to open a bank account in the UK, you’ll be asked to prove your identity and residence. 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 in the UK can be tricky for some customers. Especially if you’ve just arrived, 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. You could also consider a multi-currency account from Wise, which allows you to choose how you verify your identity.
Before you get started, a word.
When you’re making an international transfer, banks and money transfer providers usually charge you a fee. It’s hidden and built into their exchange rate, which allows them to make extra profits.
Check out how to make your first international transfer with Wise. And give it a try.
Now, back to what you came here to read.
Here’s a guide to getting a proof of address in the UK.
To put it simply, proof of address is a document that states your identity and your current address. Like its name says, it shows where you live at the moment.
Banks in the UK require confirmation of their clients' identity and residence for security reasons. This means that they ask customers to prove who they are before allowing them to operate a bank account. This process often includes showing a valid photo ID and proof of address.
They have a duty to limit the chances of people using accounts for illegal activities. These include fraud, money laundering, or funding crime. One way they do this is to make sure that accounts are not opened under false identities. Instead, it’s important that each account can be linked and connected to an individual.¹
So, if you’re asking yourself “What can I use as a proof of address?”, here’s an answer. Each bank has a slightly different process, but in general, they have the same steps.
You’ll have to show 1 or 2 original documents which prove your residential address. Besides some kind of personal ID, various documents could serve the purpose. Some of them are recent utility bills, mortgage statements, council tax bills, etc. But more on that a bit later.²⁺³
Each bank has its own list of acceptable documents and its own set of processes which might differ a little from the next. Some will allow copies of documents or printouts from electronic sources.
For example, a printed copy of your bank statement taken from online banking could do the job. Other banks will only accept original documents. But something they have in common is that these documents have to be from official sources.
Different documents also have different validity times. For example, in most cases, a bank or credit card statement or a utility bill is only valid if it’s 3 to 4 months old. And a council tax bill or water bill has to be from within the last 12 months.²
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. In these specific cases, they might be able to accept an alternative document.¹ᐩ²
- 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
It’s worth calling your chosen bank to confirm exactly what you need as proof of address in the UK. There’s also an option of sending the necessary documents instead of bringing them personally. For example, if you can’t physically go to the bank, here’s a list of what NatWest accepts as a proof of address by post:⁵
- Council tax bill/demand letter/exemption certificate issued within 12 months
- Bank/Building Society statement
- Benefits entitlement letter issued within the last 12 months
- Credit union statement
- HMRC Tax notifications & correspondence
- UK utility bill (gas, electricity, water, telephone landline)
- UK/EU/EEA Mortgage statement / Mortgage correspondence issues within 12 months
- Tenancy agreement from local council or housing association issued within 12 months
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 bank account in the UK. You may not have been in the country for long enough to have 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 following¹⁺²:
- 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, used to allow EU citizens to open a limited, basic bank account. Due to Brexit, that has changed, and most of those accounts have been closed.⁶ So, starting recently, being a UK resident is a must when opening a bank account. Make sure to check for recent updates when it comes to this situation.
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
But, if you can’t provide anything from their regular list of acceptable documents, there could still be a solution. It’s helpful to know that most banks encourage you to call them to discuss your options.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulates banking in the UK. They publish a list of ideas about documents that 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. Also, international students in the UK can use their passports along with their letters of acceptance. The full FCA guidance can be found on their website.⁷
Another great option is to get a multi-currency account from Wise. It allows you to keep your money in over 50 currencies. You can switch between them when you want and make and receive payments in different currencies. Also, you'll get a linked Wise debit card which you can use in 200 countries, for all your day-to-day spending.
There’s no subscription fee and to get started, you’ll have to provide a proof of identity - such as a copy of your passport. You can then choose between two options when it comes to proof of address.
You either supply the proof from a standard list of documents or send 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. It’s good to know that there are some alternatives out there if you can’t provide some of the most common documents.
Check out the Wise multi-currency account as a great way to manage your money while in the UK. It allows you to choose how to prove your identity and get up and running with a convenient and flexible account.
- HSBC - basic bank account identification and address verification
- Barclays - identification for bank accounts
- Lloyds - proof of identity
- Statrys - how to get a proof of address in the UK
- NatWest - proof of identity and address
- Barclays - Brexit and the EEA
- FCA - opening a bank account
*All sources checked on April 28, 2021
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
Booking the Life in the UK test should be a fairly straightforward process. Check our guide on how to go about it.
If you’re an expat living in the United Kingdom, you might be considering taking up British citizenship. Here's our guide on how to go about it.
This guide outlines the cost of living in London and what you can expect in terms of living costs.
Check our step-by-step guide on how to move to the UK to work, study, or just to have an adventure.
Getting married in the UK is sure to be an extraordinary event for you and your loved ones. Check our complete guide on estimated costs.
If you’re expecting a new baby, you’re probably experiencing a range of emotions - excitement, apprehension, joy, and confusion. If you’re a visitor or expat...