If you own a business that’s registered in the UK, or you’re considering starting one, it’s a good idea to look into the possibility of opening a UK business bank account.
There are several ways to open a bank account in the UK if you’re a non-resident. If the bank doesn’t need to see you in person, they’ll still require ID and proof of address before opening the account. You may also have to make a large initial deposit and agree to pay a certain amount into the account each month.
Different UK banks have different ways of setting up an account. Before choosing a bank, make sure you’ve looked into each offering and considered which suits your business needs. In the rest of this article, we’ve provided some general tips on the different options to consider.
Getting an account when one or more stakeholders are UK residents
Opening a UK bank account is simplest if one of the business’s stakeholders is a UK resident. If this is a course of action available to you, many major banks will liaise with the UK stakeholder in person to open the account.
If this is the option you choose, be aware that you’ll still have to send ID and proof of address to the bank if you want to be associated with the account. It will be hard to open a UK account in any way if you can’t send these documents, so make sure you have a legalised copy to send when required. You don’t want to risk sending the documents themselves if you can help it.
Getting an account when all shareholders live outside the UK
If you’re the sole stakeholder in a UK company or all the other stakeholders are non-residents as well, sending a UK resident will probably not be an option for you. If this is the case, you’ll be able to set up an account with some banks by sending over ID and proof of address. Other banks will require you to come and meet them in person as well, so be prepared to travel.
Remember that you need to look at international bank accounts if you don’t have a permanent UK address. This way you’ll be able to register with your current address instead. You should also bear in mind that any application will likely be subject to a credit check before the bank agrees to proceed.
International bank accounts also tend to require large initial deposit – sometimes as much as £10,000 or more – so you’ll have to have the cash available before you open the account.
Alternatives to a UK business bank account
If you’ve looked into UK business bank accounts and decided that they’re not feasible for you, you do have some alternatives. The most straightforward is checking to see if your local bank has a presence in the UK. If so, they may be able to set you up a UK account without too much trouble.
Another option is to go through an international bank that has a branch in your country of residence as well as a UK presence. While it will still take time to open a new account in this way, it’s not as laborious as having to send off legalised copies of your ID or fly to the UK for the purpose of meeting with a bank.
A final option is to set up a business account in your country of residence. In order to do this for a UK-registered company, you’ll need a Notary to draw up Apostille certificates. These documents essentially let non-UK banks know that your business is an official, legal entity in the UK.
Opening a business bank account in your country of residence should afford you the same business benefits as a UK bank account. It will still provide a way to keep business finances separate from personal affairs and may well prove cheaper.
Other alternatives are online merchant accounts. These are easier to open and provide similar functionality, but do not have the same legal protection and are often more expensive.