How Foreigners Can Get A UK Bank Account

Jul 21, 2015


Clients who set up UK companies sometimes want a UK bank account. UK companies deal in GBP, so a bank account which can accept GBP is a natural fit. UK-based clients of UK companies find it easier to wire money to a UK bank account.

Problem: How can a resident of Poland get a UK bank account for his UK LTD?

Answer: Not easily, but certainly not impossible.

There is a worldwide crackdown on money-laundering which runs from the highest (HSBC) to the lowest (small traders with Swiss bank accounts). Governments desperately need funding; taxation is a major part. Governments want to stop smuggling and drug trafficking; capital flow must be regulated. So you can’t just apply online and then start depositing cheques. Banks are very sniffy about who they will deal with in 2015-2016.

So, what to do? Here are some options:

First, before forming a company, confirm that you are likely to be accepted by contacting the bank directly. Find out what their acceptance criteria are this month. This will save time and money later on.

Whatever bank you sign up with will ask you to supply ID and company registration documents.

Typical requirements:

Passport;

Proof of address: Utility bill showing the signatory’s name and address. It should be no more than 3 months old;

Company registration documents;

Banker’s reference;

Board resolution appointing signatories to the account.

Collate these. Foreign documents will likely have to be apostilled. Find out how to do this where you live.

NB: Do not post original documents anywhere! Get copies notaried and post those instead.

You will likely need to provide additional information about your business. Banks want to know where your money will be coming from.

Nominee directors.

Most banks won’t accept these, due to KYC (Know Your Customer) regulations. You should forget about trying clever tax-dodging tricks. They can cause big and multiple headaches later on. Any banks that do accept nominees e.g. in Cyprus, the Caribbean and Latvia, should probably be treated as no more than a temporary place to lodge your money. If they go bust, what can you do to get your money back? Answer: nothing!

So which banks can you get an account with? Here are some options:

HSBC

Suitable for UK LTDs whose directors and shareholders are all non-resident.

Applicants will have to present ID documents in person at a UK branch. Owners (shareholders) of the company must visit the UK to meet with the bank’s representatives.

LLoyds

Lloyds Bank may allow you to open an account if one of the account signatories lives in the UK.

Applications can be made online or by telephone. The UK director must present photo ID and proof of address at a Lloyds branch. Overseas account signatories and company owners must post copies of their ID and proof of address documents to the relevant Lloyds branch. These will have to be legally certified (apostilled) beforehand by a solicitor, government body, banking official or notary.

Barclays International (Isle Of Man)

Suitable for companies whose directors or shareholders are all non-resident.

Barclays may offer you an account if you provide an initial security deposit of £10k GBP. This account is classed as offshore.

After opening, however, the account will be based in London. Clients get the same facilities as any other bank account: credit cards, debit cards, cheque books, online banking and telephone banking.

Your Local Bank

Your local bank may have a presence in London. So through them you may be able to get an account at their UK branch.

An International Bank With A Branch Near You

They will have a branch in the UK. Call them and find out who can set you up with an account at their UK branch.

Online Payment Providers

Paypal.com
Cashflows.com
Skrill.com

These offer merchant account facilities, Mastercards and some kind of banking facilities. They are not ideal, due to their fees and they are not banks, so banking regulations do not apply to them.

The absolute worst way to get a bank account is to call in to random banks and ask the guy at the till complicated questions. Find out what department you need to deal with and, ideally, which named person will handle your application.

It’s much easier to get an account if you’ve done your research first. Find out what will satisfy your target bank and have your documents in order before you set out.