Finance and accounts.

all you need for relocation to scotland: edinburgh

Banking: Opening a bank account in Scotland 

Opening a bank account in Scotland will be more or less easy depending on whether you’ve been in the country for more than 3 months or less. This will also determine whether you can have a basic or current account

You’ll also find here which leading banks in Edinburgh make it easy for you to open a bank account even if you've just arrived. We will also explain the process for US and other non-EU citizens

EU citizens who have been living in Scotland for at least 3 months

warning-32.png Countries member of the European Economic Area (EEA) are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

This is the easiest situation for you. The bank will ask you to fill in an application form (your spouse as well if it is a joined account) to open a basic bank account only. This is because you are new to the country, perhaps without a job yet and more importantly without a UK credit history. 

Be honest with your response when you fill in the application otherwise it might be delayed or rejected. In any case, this won’t do any good to your credit history.

The bank here will make a number of checks, including with your bank in the country in which you lived, and it may take 3 weeks before your account is created. 

As a rule, you must provide 2 pieces of identification to open a UK bank account (although some banks may request more).

One proof of identity with your picture One proof of UK current address

Do bring the original documents and the customer service adviser will make photocopies

Valid passport
Valid ID card from a European Union member state
Valid driving licence

A utility bill (invoice sent to you at your legal address) issued within the last 3 months

Council tax
Bank or credit card statement

practical-info.png Practical info. Telephone bills and TV licenses are not usually accepted as a proof of current address. 

EU citizens who have been living in Scotland for less than 3 months

If you've only been in Scotland for a few days or weeks you'll find it difficult for obvious reasons to provide 3 months of utility bills, which is a requirement to apply for a basic bank account. 

  • Even if you stay with friends, this does not give you a proof of current address (the utility bills that your friends get won’t be in your name)

  • staying with friends or in a B&B until you get your own place adds to the 3 months criteria

  • even you have live in a rented accommodation (or bought your own place) since the very first day of your arrival, you must still wait 3 months before you can apply for a basic bank account. 

Basic (cash) bank accounts

These accounts are open to people who’ve been in Scotland for at least 3 months. Once you have built a (good) credit history, for instance by finding a permanent job,  it still takes between 6 to 12 months before you can open a current account.

gold-star.png The Money Advice Service produced an excellent table that compares the basic accounts offered by different banks.

Basic (cash) accounts features


A basic account is flexible enough to allow you to: However, a basic account won’t usually allow you to:
  • receive money (wages)

  • pay bills by Direct Debit

  • have a cash card to withdraw money from cash machines (ATMs)

  • check your balance at bank counters

  • go overdrawn (although some banks may allow a maximum £10 overdraft)

  • have a cheque book

  • have a debit card to make purchase online, over the phone or in shops (although some banks may). This means that if you want to go shopping you will have first to withdraw some cash.

Current bank accounts

Current accounts are used on a day-to-day basis and by far, they offer the most interesting features, probably similar to the ones you have in your home country.

Current bank accounts features

Current accounts may vary from one bank to another but usually include:

BACS (accepting money directly to your account e.g. wages)

Cheques book

Debit cards to use online, over the phone, shops, withdraw cash

Direct Debits (automatic bill payments direct from your account)

Insurances (e.g. travel)


Monthly interest on your money (the rate is usually low)


Standing Orders (regular set payments from your account to someone of your choice)

Telephone & online banking


Banks that make it easy for newcomers to open a bank account

We asked 7 leading banks in Edinburgh to explain what newcomers to Scotland should do to open a bank account, even if they don’t have a permanent address, let alone a job. 

Answers varied from one bank to another and the best answers we received came from HSBCBarclays, Lloyds TSB and the Bank of Scotland.

gold-star.pnggold-star.pnggold-star.png HSBC

The “world’s local bank” certainly makes it very easy and straightforward for people who are new to Scotland to open a Passport Bank Account, which is a current bank account, even you've been here for a few days.

So straightforward is the process that it applies to EU and non-EU citizen, students, and people who have a job or not!

HSBC Passport Bank Account

Opening a HSBC Passport Bank Account

•aged 16 or over to apply

•apply online if you already live in the UK, or have the intention to move to the UK within the next 3 months

1.If you are about to leave your home country and have a job waiting for you in Scotland then this Passport Bank Account is ideal. If successful with the application, you will have a bank account ready when you arrive. Follow this link to the HSBC website to apply online.

Be aware that some of the questions in the online application ask you to provide details about your job in Scotland such as employer’s address, nature of business, job title. 

warning-32.png When it processes your online application, HSBC will undertake its own credit assessment to determine whether or not you can open a Passport Account. 

2.If you don’t have a job waiting for you in Scotland or if your intention is simply to find a job after you have arrived here, you can still apply online. Leave the fields blank, however, it is impossible to predict what influence, if any, this will have on the bank’s decision to authorise you to open a Passport account. 

Alternatively, after you arrived, simply visit one of the bank’s branches in Edinburgh city centre to apply for a Passport Bank Account.

When you apply in person, you need to bring in 1 form of identification and 1 non-UK address verification (non-UK means your home country). This solves the whole problem of having to provide 3 months’ worth of UK bills.


Non-UK address verification  

 Valid Passport


 • Valid National Identity Card

 Valid Driver's Licence with address, signature and photograph


 Valid National Identity Card (ID cards cannot be used to both prove identification and verification of address)


• Bank, building society or credit union statement


 Gas, electricity or telephone (landline only) bill 


 • Letter in English from your UK employer on official headed paper


 If you are an international student: letter in English from a UK university, college or recognised language school, on headed paper with the school's address, signed and dated, stating the duration of your course and your non-UK address.

Once your application for a Passport Bank Account has been approved and that you are in the UK, 3 things will happen:

1.Your card will be ordered

2.You will receive your unique PIN number to your Scottish address (can be a friend, a B&B) within 3 to 5 working days

3.After you have made your first deposit you will receive a bank statement which you can use as UK identification.

The HSBC Passport Bank Account costs £8 a month, on an initial fixed term contract of 12 months and renewable monthly afterwards. The advantages it brings are significant:


•You can apply online from your home country or as soon as you arrive in Scotland

• You don’t need to provide a proof of UK current address

• Passport Account is open to EU and non-EU citizens and students

 You get a current account waiting for you in Scotland (not a basic one)

• You get a Visa debit card to purchase goods online, over the phone and in shops

• Telephone & online banking

• You can withdraw cash in the UK and abroad

• You can send money home at a discounted rate

• You get a £10 pre-loaded credit SIM card as well as 75 free international minutes

• You can use BACS (accepting money directly to your account e.g. wages)

• Direct Debits (automatic bill payments direct from your account)

• Standing Orders (regular set payments from your account to someone of your choice)

• Cheques book

• Loans

• Overdraft

gold-star.pnggold-star.pnggold-star.png Lloyds 

We received very helpful advice from Lloyds.  They too make it easy for non-British citizens to set up current and basic accounts even if you don't have yet a permanent address in Scotland.

did-you-know.png Did you know?

Due to changes that happened within Lloyds Banking Group in September 2013, Lloyds and TSB are now 2 separate banks, TSB in Scotland and Lloyds in England.

Lloyds bank account


1. If you are a European Union citizen moving to Scotland and you do have a job waiting for you here.

Simply bring your valid passport or a valid EU Identity Card to one of the many Lloyd’s branches in Edinburgh. Do bring a copy of your contract or, if you don’t have one, a letter from your future employer stating what your job title is, what the company is, when you will start and – if possible - whether your contact is permanent and full-time. The more details, the better.

You will be able to apply for a normal Lloyds account straightaway and no proof of address is required. If you know someone in Scotland who is happy for you to use their adress then you can use this for any correspondence with the bank. Because you have a job waiting for you, other types of current accounts may be available based on your circumstances. For example, if you transfer money from the current bank account you have in your home country to your new one in Scotland, this can only help to build your credit history and open the door to a wider range of accounts.


2. If you are a European Union citizen moving to Scotland and you do not have a job waiting for you here.

You still need to bring a valid passport or valid ID card to one of the branches. Just like many other banks, Lloyds can offer you a basic (cash) account however, you do not have to worry about providing a proof of address. 

Once you have a job with money coming in regularly to your account, you should make an appointment with the bank to discuss how soon you could open a normal account. You need to build a good credit record which often takes up to a year however, if you can demonstrate that you are not running any overdraft, that you pay your bills on time, etc then you are likely to be able to open a current account sooner rather than later. 

3. If you are not a European Union citizen 

It is advisable to make an appointment with the bank who will discuss what options are open to you based on your invidualy circumstances. 

However, do bring several forms of identification with your picture on it e.g. valid passport, identity card, driving licence. Also bring your Visa, any letter from the UK Border Agency stating that you are entitled to live in the UK, any work contract, letter of offer for a job or place in a university, birth certificate, marriage certificate, bank statements from your bank in your home country. 

Lloyds International Account


This is by far the account which offers the most flexibility and opportunities. 

LLoyds Premier International Account is ideal if you:

• Need fexible worldwide access to your money

• Need an account in Sterling, Euro or US Dollar

• Need to make regular international transfers



• Current accounts in Sterling, US Dollar and/or Euro

• You can set up your bank account from your home country before you arrive to Scotland or the UK (only open to some countries e.g. France, Germay...)

• You may get your bank account on the same day you apply

• Visa debit cards available in all three currencies – for easy worldwide access to money

• Free international transfers* through the bank's International Moneymover Service, saving money when making or receiving electronic payments, to anyone, anywhere

• 24/7 Internet Banking and PhoneBank 

• Worldwide family travel insurance - only available to customers who hold a Premier International Account denominated in Sterling

• No monthly fee on balances above £2,500/€2,500/US$3,500. 

*Excluding charges levied by the correspondent bank and recipient bank abroad.


• You must have a job in Scotland or waiting for you

• You need to provide a UK address (it can be your employer's or someone else) 

• You must provide a valid ID document

• You need to provide a UK address (it can be your employer's or someone else) 



Colin Grant

Telephone (0044) (0)776 850 8933


Mon-Fri 8.00-17.00 UK time. 

gold-star.png Barclays

To open a basic bank account with Barclays you simply need to apply in person to one of the bank’s branches and bring one proof of identity such as a valid passport. 

Barclays bank account



To open a basic bank account with Barclays you simply need to apply in person to one of the bank’s branches and bring 1 proof of identity such as a valid passport. 

You do not have to prove your Scottish address and wait 3 months to apply for a basic account however, there is a condition: this is only open to nationals from a small number of countries, for instance France, Poland, Spain and countries with which Barclays has agreements to facilitate the opening of a bank account. Do speak to the adviser at the bank to check your situation. 

So to make it clear, if you are French you can apply for a basic bank account with Barclays any time after you arrived in Scotland, providing you have 1 valid proof of identification. 

As soon as you have a regular job, you should speak to a customer adviser regarding opening a current account.

gold-star.png Bank of Scotland

Staff were helpful and knowledgeable and in short, european citizens can apply online from their home country for a basic Bank of Scotland account.

Bank of Scotland bank account

Bank of Scotland

You can apply online for a basic bank account (cash account).

The bank does require a proof of address however, it does not have to be your own address which makes the whole process easy if you’ve just arrived in Scotland.

If you have friends, relatives, colleagues who already live in Scotland and with whom you can stay until you find your own place, then you can use their address. The bank will send you all the paperwork to their address. The obvious advantage is that you don’t have to provide UK utility bills for the past 3 months.

Once you’ve filled in the forms you simply need to visit of one the Bank of Scotland’s branches (there are 25 in Edinburgh alone) and bring in one of the following:

•A valid UK or EU driving licence (there must be a photo)


•A valid EU/EEA National Card of Identity


•A valid UK/EU/EEA passport


•A valid passport with a UK visa issued by Australia, Canada, USA, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore, Japan or Hong Kong.

practical-info.png   Practical info!
If you cannot provide any of these documents, the bank will require 1 document as proof of identity and 1 document as proof of address (can be a friend, relative).

If you don’t know anybody who lives here, the normal “3 months” rules applies that is, you need to provide a proof of UK current address e.g. a utility bill issued within the last 3 months.

gold-star.png The Royal Bank Scotland (RBS), NatWest and Santander request that you provide utility bills of the last three months as a proof of current address unless you can present a valid written rental agreement with a landlord/property agency.

This is helpful because even if you have not yet moved into the property, at least the rental agreement will show your name, name and address of the landlord, property address, date of moving in, duration of the contract, etc. This should be enough to apply for a basic account within 3 months of your arrival.

practical-info.png Practical info

To help you compare current accounts, rates and features try to find the best deal. You’ll see that some banks are willing to pay you a lot of money to switch from your current account to theirs.

All 7 banks we spoke to gave the same consistent advice to maximise your chances of opening a current account:

Build a good credit history (e.g. you pay your bills on time, no overdraft, no debts, money is coming in regularly, etc) and open a saving accounts with them. 

did-you-know.png Did you know?

Irrelevant of the type of bank account you have, some cash machines do charge a fee every time you use them, particularly those located in shopping centres, garages, convenience stores, etc. All machines indicate whether or not a fee applies before you use them.

US and non-EU citizens

If you are one of the many US or non-EU citizens coming every year to live and work in Scotland then this is for you.

1. Although some US banks will be represented in London they won’t necessarily have offices in Scotland. If you've decided to live in Scotland, it may make sense to choose a bank which is well implanted here. For example:

2. Use comparison websites, or compare the different types of UK bank accounts and decide which bank suits your own circumstances most . 

warning-32.png You will not be able to set up a UK bank account using comparison websites if you’re still in America or in a non-EU country. However, once you’ve decided which bank is right for you based on your research, you can then contact them and ask them to post you an application pack.

Banking in the UK is very safe which means that whichever bank you chose, it will check every single information you provide in the application.

Alternatively, you can apply in person once you are in Scotland.

3. As a minimum, banks will ask you to provide:

  • one or more proof of identity with picture (original documents)

  • proof of current address using utility bill (invoice sent to you at your legal address) issued within the last 3 months, for example, water, gas, electricity, Council tax, bank or credit card statement

  • details of current employment, income, savings (including any you had in your home country)

  • a deposit (usually large) to be made to your new UK bank account, although it varies from one bank to another

The bank will then do a credit check based on the information you supplied.

If you applied by mail from your home country, you should know within 2 weeks whether you application was successful. Hopefully it will and the bank will post you the details of your new bank account. A week or so later, you’ll receive a letter enclosing your debit/credit card together with a PIN number. 

You’ll need to call a toll-free number supplied by the bank in the letter they sent you in order to activate your debit/credit card. 


The use of cheques in the UK is not as widespread as it can be in France. For the vast majority, British consumers use their credit/debit card or cash for their shopping. There has been a rapid decline in the use of personal cheques and many large stores, supermarkets and petrol stations no longer accept them.

However, cheques are still used for payments to sole traders, small businesses, clubs, charities and schools.

On average, UK consumers wrote 14 cheques each during 2008, compared to 31 in 2002.


The board of the UK Payments Council announced in 2009 that cheques should be phased out by 31 October 2018 to be replaced with “adequate alternatives” that is, contactless technology, mobile phone chip-and-pin, etc. 

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