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Opening a UK bank account for an international student

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When I was told that I had been chosen out of many female students to go on an exchange trip to the UK, I was overjoyed! Of course, I literally fell in love with this country. I had read so much about it as a child and dreamed of travelling there! But it turned out that the most ordinary things in an unfamiliar country are not so easy to do - for example, I could not even open a bank account on my own. Then acquaintances advised me to consult Imperial & Legal.

Gulnara, 19 years old
A student from Kazakhstan
Clients’ names and photos have been changed

Gulnara came to the UK from Kazakhstan. It was quite spontaneous: the institute where she was studying had launched a student exchange programme. As an excellent student, she was asked to collect a portfolio and apply for participation. Unexpectedly, Gulnara found herself among the lucky ones who were selected to go to England. Of course, the girl was not going to refuse this opportunity.

She remembered how she had read Harry Potter books as a child and dreamed of being one of the heroines of the famous saga. Even though Edinburgh University was not Hogwarts, Gulnara still felt like she was in a fairy tale.

Of course, in a children’s book, no one describes the paperwork that students have to go through before they start classes. But in reality, it takes a lot of time, and overcoming some difficulties takes as much effort as winning a Quidditch championship.

While the main paperwork was taken care of by the organisation that dealt with the exchange of students, Gulnara had to open an English bank account on her own. She tried to apply to the bank nearest to the university, but they refused her, and the girl did not quite understand why.

According to discussions of immigrants in thematic communities on Facebook, the girl had the impression that British banks do not trust foreigners very much and often refuse to open an account on any formal grounds. She needed the account to receive money from her parents in Kazakhstan and to pay for household expenses.

Friends who had already used Imperial & Legal’s services advised Gulnara to contact our company so that the specialists could tell her how to deal with the situation.

Our client

Gulnara is 19 years old, a student from Kazakhstan.

The challenge

Open an English bank account.

The solution

Our lawyers explained to the girl that in the UK, all retail banks – that is, those whose offices can be found on the high street – are happy to open accounts for student visa holders. And she had most likely been refused because of the wrong set of documents.

In order to make the account processing easy and fast, you need to bring your passport, a letter of enrolment from the university and a BRP (Biometric Residence Permit) plastic card that confirms your student visa.

It is also most often necessary to confirm the address of residence in Britain. If the student lives in a dormitory, it should be a letter from the university administration. If the student is renting a flat, then a rental agreement or utility bills in his or her name will do.

After consulting with Imperial & Legal, Gulnara decided to try again to open an account on her own. She chose a bank close to campus and, armed with expert advice, went to the nearest office.

This time everything went well. The bank made a favourable decision, providing the girl with an account and a card linked to it, which even had a small interest-free overdraft.

Gulnara opened an English bank account in one month

12 October
Gulnara gets in touch with Imperial & Legal
+1 day
The client received a comprehensive consultation
+1 week
Collection and preparation of necessary documents
+2 week
Opening a bank account
+3 days
Receipt of plastic card by post
7 November
Gulnara successfully opened a bank account in England


Despite their wariness of immigrants, British banks have no problem opening accounts for international students who live in the country on the appropriate visa. Some banks even have special student rates and benefits for those studying at universities.

In most cases, unless it is a student account, the accounts of children under the age of 18 are linked to their parents’ accounts. Upon reaching the age of majority, the child has the right to change their account and card type to a regular current account.

You should be aware that some banks ask you to deposit a pre-determined initial amount of money into the account straight away. The account itself can be in sterling or multi-currency.

Online bank accounts have become increasingly popular in recent times. These include Revolut, Monese, Starling bank, Monzo, etc. These are licensed financial institutions like classic banks, but without physical branches and clerks who sit in offices and communicate directly with customers. Accordingly, all interaction with the bank, including account opening, takes place via the internet.

For some people it is more convenient because they do not have to blush in front of the employee because you do not understand what he wants from you, but rather study the contract and all the requirements on the website in peace. Someone, on the contrary, considers it a disadvantage, because you cannot ask a qualified specialist about everything directly and have to understand the legal intricacies yourself.

It is also worth checking what type of financial licence the institution holds. All financial institutions with a banking licence are required by current legislation to insure their customers’ deposits up to £87,000.

In any case, you can always contact the support service — a chatbot will answer an easy question, and a call centre operator will sort out a disputable situation.

Whichever option you choose, Imperial & Legal will be happy to advise you on opening an account in the UK and, if necessary, handle the task.

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