Failing to research properly and making the wrong choice can create headaches down the line. Switching business bank accounts as your business scales can be a painful, time-consuming process.
If you're a non-resident looking to open a bank account in the UK, we’ve created this guide to help you learn about your options.
This guide at a glance:
- You don’t have to be a UK resident in order to open a business bank account, but there are specific requirements you must meet.
- For non-resident business owners, there are over 300 UK banks meaning there are options to fit your needs.
- The key documents you need to apply for a UK business account as a non-resident include photographic ID, proof of address, and evidence of trading activities. Be aware, some banks do require more though.
What are the benefits of opening a business bank account in the UK?As a non-resident, you might want to open a business bank account to sell goods and services into the UK more easily and serve and invoice your local customers and suppliers. You may even feel the UK is a more tax-efficient location for your needs.
Alternatively, the UK might be an appealing option because many banks offer introductory offers on business accounts (meaning free business banking for a period of time) as well as free or low-cost electronic transactions.
Do you need to be a UK resident to open a business bank account?
There’s no requirement to be a UK resident in order to open a business bank account –– but it makes the process much simpler.
To qualify as a resident, you’ll need to live in the UK for half of the year (183 days) or more and provide proof of a residential address (not an office or commercial property). If physically residing in the UK doesn’t fit with your plans, don’t worry!
There aren’t any legal or compliance regulations stopping UK banks from opening business bank accounts for non-residents. Still, it’s vital to understand that British banks are very cautious when working with people outside the UK. Ultimately, this is to manage risk and minimize their exposure to fraud.
On the surface, setting up a UK business bank account as a non-resident might seem complicated, but it can 100% be done.
To find out if you’re able to open a UK business bank account as a non-resident, fill out our questionnaire today.
What are the top banks in the UK suitable for entrepreneurs?
Around 300 banks operate in the UK today. For non-resident business owners, that means you have plenty of options to find a bank that will be a good fit for your organisation’s needs.
Below we’ve highlighted a few of the options available.
Non-resident business leaders can open an account with HSBC, but all company owners must visit the UK and present photographic ID, proof of business address, as well as proof of residential address.
Lloyds Bank offers a number of international services, but have strict eligibility guidelines to determine who they work with. To successfully open an account, they expect a minimum sum of £25,000 or equivalent to be deposited within 30 days of the account opening.
You can open a business account at Barclays online without being a resident in the UK. Like Lloyds bank, as part of their international banking division, you’re expected to deposit the equivalent of £25,000 into your new account with Barclays.
The emergence of innovative British FinTechsNo matter the size, leading FinTechs in the UK have made accessing UK business banking services easier for international entrepreneurs and businesses.
Although not always a complete end-to-end solution, FinTechs enable international businesses to accelerate their UK entry, fulfil their compliance requirements with HMRC, and pay and receive funds.
Metrobank has a variety of business accounts to choose from including a Foreign Currency Account that makes it easy for businesses to send and receive payments overseas on a regular basis.
To open a Foreign Currency Account, you'll need to have a Metro Bank Business or Commercial account already. Unless you’re a UK, EU, EEA, or Swiss national the only way to open a Metrobank account is with a valid passport containing your residency visa and proof of address in the UK (which must be done in-store, not online).
To be eligible for a Starling Bank account you need to live at a UK address for the majority of the year, but the good news is you don't need to be a UK tax resident to apply. Starling Bank offers international business banking through a variety of multi-currency accounts, and has the capacity to onboard new customers fully remotely.
What documents are required to open a UK business bank account?
You’ll be happy to hear the documentation needed is straightforward. To open a UK business account, you’ll need:
- Photographic ID (passport, national ID card or photo driving license).
- Proof of address, such as utility bills or recent bank statements.
As well as that, you’ll need to provide your company details, including:
- Full business address.
- Contact details and addresses of key stakeholders and the director.
- Company trading activities within the UK (including currency used, turnover, expenditure, outgoings, and potential suppliers).
- Anti-money laundering data (proof of identity).
- Details on where your business is resident for tax purposes.
We understand there’s a lot to consider. That’s why we’re on hand to help you from one end of the journey to the other. Book a 15-minute FREE consultation
with one of our experts today.
Are there any major bottlenecks I should be aware of?
On top of anti-fraud policies, banking laws and regulations have also become much more strict in recent years. Unfortunately for non-residents, this has created more obstacles.
To avoid large penalties for not following compliance rules, UK banks have introduced strict guidelines and due-diligence requirements for working with non-residents.
Information sharing agreements such as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) enable banks to streamline the process of sharing client information with tax authorities. Be aware that every bank has a slightly different process for opening a business account for non-residents. In some cases, you must have:
- A company representative living in the UK (usually a director or key stakeholder), to act as the account signatory.
- A UK business plan demonstrating why you need a business bank account in the UK.
- Proof of your own personal financial situation, with documents that show a clean credit and banking history.
The impact of COVID-19 on opening business bank accounts
The pandemic has proved to be a bottleneck for non-residents looking to open UK business bank accounts. For example, due to demand, HSBC has scaled back the number of bank accounts they’re opening, creating a waitlist.
National lockdowns have also closed bank branches, meaning in-store visits to provide proof of identity and residency may be delayed. Make sure to research how each bank is responding to COVID ahead of time.
What’s the cost of opening a business bank account in the UK?
Typically, UK business bank accounts will charge annual fees ranging between £60 and £150.
Generally, the more transactions made in and out of an account, the higher you should expect transaction charges to be (even if they’re automated through newer bank models). Many UK banks come with an introductory offer (such as free business banking for a year with HSBC or Barclays).
Opening a UK business bank account as a non-residentIf possible, make incorporating a UK company your first step to opening a business bank account.
If your circumstances mean this isn’t possible, start by gathering all the essential documents together — including your photographic ID, proof of address, evidence of residency, contact details of all key stakeholders, as well as any proof of your company’s current and intended trading activities.
Packaging those documents together and preparing a business plan to present to the bank is key to success.
Remember, UK banks require a lot of proof to keep themselves compliant and won’t just open an account without knowing their customer. Rather than struggling alone, work with Open. We can help manage your application and increase your chances of account opening success.
Get your UK business bank account up and running with Open.
We know all the ins and outs of working with banking partners. We have the tools to help you avoid costly mistakes and make sure you have a business bank account open in the blink of an eye.
Take advantage of our win-win guarantee, where you either open a business bank account, or you don’t pay us anything at all.
Fill out our questionnaire to get started.