So you’re searching for a business bank account in the UK.
Of course. The UK is well-known for its extensive, world-leading financial services. Indeed, it’s the financial capital of the world.
But being a non-resident foreigner, you wonder if your application for a business bank account would be accepted by a traditional high-street bank.
Fret not. There are options for a non-resident foreigner — let’s see how to open a UK business bank account for your company.
This article at a glance:
Opening a business bank account can be challenging for non-resident foreigners of the United Kingdom. That’s because UK residency is usually required by traditional British banks. The problem is that you’re a limited company — you need a business bank account. Virtual banks are one of the most convenient options for entrepreneurs, as onboarding is fast and banking services are offered fully online.
Sole traders and freelancers aren’t legally required to have a separate UK bank account.
The UK’s tax authority, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), states that, while business transactions records must be kept separate from personal transactions, sole traders and freelancers don’t need a different business bank account. With that being said, having a separate business account makes your life easier when tax seasons comes around.
But using your personal accounts for your sole trader or freelance business purposes is still subject to your bank’s terms and conditions — essentially, certain banks prohibit their customers from doing so.
All limited companies registered at the Companies House are legally required to have a dedicated business bank account.
Legally-speaking, a limited company has its own legal obligations and finances — being a separate, distinct legal entity. However, it’s not mandatory that a UK company holds a UK bank account — you may choose to maintain your own business bank account outside of the UK.
As we’ll explore, there are innumerable advantages to opening a UK business bank account as a non-resident foreigner. Save time. Build your credit rating. Look professional in the eyes of suppliers and clients. Gain access to more business support, tools and resources.
Pros of opening a business account as a non-UK resident:
1) Ease of managing finances: A business account helps in keeping business finances separate from personal finances and enables efficient tracking of income and expenses.
2) Access to banking services: Non-UK residents can access a wide range of banking services such as merchant services, international money transfers, and overdraft facilities.
3) Improved credibility: Operating with a business account can help to improve the credibility of a company among customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders.
Cons of opening a business account as a non-UK resident:
1) Complex process: Opening a business account as a non-UK resident can be a complex process that involves extensive documentation and identification requirements.
2) Limited options: Some UK-based banks may not offer business accounts to non-UK residents, so the options available may be limited.
3) Higher costs: Banks may charge higher fees for non-UK resident accounts due to the additional compliance and due diligence requirements.
I’ll be honest, it’s not easy for a foreigner and non-UK resident to open a UK business bank account.
For one, there are strict anti-money laundering regulations in place in the UK. Most British high-street banks either don’t offer business bank accounts for non-UK residents, or make it difficult to open one.
The challenges are plain to see. A high level of background and credit checks. Close scrutiny on non-resident directors.
Obviously, working and living in the UK is the best way for the high-street banks to offer you a business bank account as a foreigner.
Your next best alternative is to bank with an international institution that has a presence in both your country of residence and the UK, such as HSBC, Citibank and Santander. They might be able to offer you a specialist UK business bank account for non-residents. Another option is virtual banking for your business, which we will cover later below.
This can vary depending on the country where the business will be established and the requirements of the chosen bank. In general, the following steps may apply:
1. Research and choose a bank that offers business accounts for non-residents.
2. Check the bank’s requirements for documentation, such as proof of identity, proof of business registration, and other relevant documents.
3. Prepare the necessary documents. This may include a passport or other government-issued identification, proof of business registration, tax identification number, and other relevant documents.
4. Contact the bank to inquire about their account opening process and schedule an appointment.
5. Bring the required documents with you to the bank appointment.
6. Complete the account opening application forms and provide the required information.
7. If approved, deposit the initial funds required to open the account.
Please note that the process and requirements vary greatly among banks and countries. You may wish to consult with a banking specialist or legal advisor who has experience in setting up business bank accounts for non-residents in your country of interest.
As a non-UK resident, finding the right business bank account can be challenging. To help you make an informed decision, we recommend comparing the options available and paying close attention to the following:
As a non-UK resident, consider these options when trying to open a UK bank account:
Most of the virtual banks and payment platforms also issue credit cards, and allow HMRC VAT refunds to be credited into the accounts. You can send and receive payments, withdraw money from an ATM, make bank transfers, and connect to marketplaces like Amazon to receive payments.
Virtual banks don’t have physical branches, reducing costs in the form of rent and staff salary. They pass on these savings to their customers, and so offer more competitive exchange and transfer rates compared to traditional banks.
Additionally, they also handle accounts in multiple currencies and across different channels — sending and receiving payments with a Silverbird international business account can be done almost instantaneously.
Virtual banks are fully online, offering flexibility to business owners to complete their transactions anywhere and anytime. Setting up a virtual business account with Silverbird, for example, can be done 100% online, onboarding takes a matter of days — not weeks — and a non-resident company director doesn’t need to visit a UK bank branch in person to open one.
Virtual banks employ a digital-first strategy to banking. These are some of the common features of a virtual bank account:
If you want to open a Silverbird multi-currency account, for example, these documents are required from all ultimate beneficial owners, directors, or legal representatives of your company:
In some jurisdictions, they may ask you for more documents, including:
Yes. It’s really that simple.
Managing a business account from abroad requires access to the internet and the right tools to stay connected with your team and your financial transactions. Here are some steps to manage your business account from abroad:
1. Use Online Banking: Check if your bank supports online banking services and set up an online bank account. This will allow you to monitor your finances, check your account balances, make payments, and transfer funds from anywhere in the world.
2. Use Cloud Accounting Software: Use cloud accounting software such as QuickBooks, FreshBooks, or Xero that allows you to manage your finances, create invoices, and track expenses from any location with an internet connection. By using cloud-based software, you can also give your bookkeeper or accountant remote access to your financial reports.
3. Use Communication Tools: Stay connected with your team and clients through communication tools such as Skype, WhatsApp, Slack, and Zoom. These tools will enable you to have meetings, communicate with your staff, and update customers on your business.
4. Plan Ahead and Stay Organised: Set up alerts for upcoming bills, payments, and other financial obligations that require your attention. Keep track of deadlines, receipts and reports, and keep them organized digitally so that you can access them from any location.
5. Hire a Virtual Assistant: Consider hiring a virtual assistant who can help you manage day-to-day tasks, such as responding to emails, scheduling appointments, and making phone calls.
6. Ensure Security: Protect your business account and financial information by using secure networks and avoiding public Wi-Fi. Use a VPN when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks to ensure secure and encrypted connections.
The time that it takes to open a virtual bank depends on each EMI (Electronic Money Institution). Usually, you can open a virtual business account in minutes. However, your access to the banking services would be granted within a few days, after identity and document verifications.
At Silverbird, your international business account opening is simplified and no branch visit is required. You don’t need to send in any paper documents either. You would submit your application online, the processing of which takes minutes, and our team will contact you within a few business days to welcome you onboard. Contact us today to discuss with us your business' banking needs.
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