Opening a UK bank account while living permanently in the EU

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Los Alcazares, Murcia
August 24

To the Editor,

The following experience on my recent visit to the UK may be of some interest to your readers re opening a UK bank account while living permanently in the EU. For a long time UK banks have been making it impossible for expats to either open a bank account or switch banks.

Since September 2018 the UK banks have agreed to end this practice, however they do not make it very easy as I found on my last trip to the UK. I went to the UK to put this to the test and I am pleased to say I was successful in acquiring confirmation that I could now do so.

I first choose three banks, Santander UK, Nat West and TSB, then went on line to check their websites. All three did in fact offer a basic account to any one permanently living in the EU, but outside of the UK, and without a UK address.

I first rang NatWest’s head offices to double check the details which they confirmed were correct, also to make an appointment to visit my chosen local branch. With the other banks I just cold called at one of their branches.

My visit to the first two banks was very disappointing as both replied in much the same way, that it was not possible for me to open or change my UK account, and that there was no such account available. ‘Not one to be put off’, I then asked them to check their website or to ring head office who would confirm that I was correct, this they were both reluctant to do.
The first bank I visited in fact refused to speak to head office or check their website. The second bank at first did the same but as I was now talking to the manager and he conceded my point. That it would be better to check rather than to have head office confirm that he was in fact wrong. Also the fact that the customer had to resort to a complaint to get the right answer would not look good.

I was then ushered into an office while the accounts manager rang head office, I am pleased to say I was proved to be right. The accounts manager had a very uncomfortable look on her face when it was confirmed there was such an account. I then ask her to please down load an application form for me as proof. There was no apology forth coming but I did get my application form and proved a point.

The last bank I visited was the TSB Bank, this was quite a different experience. While the lady I spoke with had not heard of this account she was very willing to try and find out. She found the account on the bank’s website, which was not that easy even for a bank employee. She then rang head office to confirm, and to answer one or two questions that I had. ‘Top marks to TSB’ I will be changing my bank account to them on my next visit to the UK.

You do have to be patient some banks ask for impossible documents, (as many have not yet done this exercise) for example they may ask you for an EU driving licence with your address on it, the address is now on a chip and not visible unlike the UK version.

As I have said the account is not easy to find on some bank websites, one problem is it does not show up on a web site menu. The way to find it on all the bank sites that I have visited is to first go to new accounts.

Then look for the most basic account they have on offer, next look at details it should then disclose itself. If it does not then go to apply, where it should say available to those who are not resident in the UK but resident in the EU, wording will vary from bank to bank.

So if anyone wants to try, after first checking the bank website, check with head office and let them make an appointment for you with your favoured branch. With reference to I D checks, while banks will differ, all you need for your UK I.D, is a UK passport, and for your address in the EU a utility bill with your EU address on it or a bank statement from your EU bank.

I do not know why, but they will not take a water bill, but any other utility will do, and some may ask for more. If like me you already have a UK bank and only want to change to another bank, then a UK bank statement as long as it has your address in the EU should do, along with your passport.

If you feel you can use this info in any way, please feel free to edit as you see fit.

David Lees

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