How to open your first bank account as an international doctor living in the UK

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

You’ve arrived in the UK and are ready to start your new job as a doctor in the NHS. The next step is to open a bank account. The first thing that comes to mind is to head to one of the high street banks and open a new account in person. Unfortunately, if you have just moved to the UK from overseas, it can be difficult to meet the paperwork requirements of traditional banks.

Luckily, we have been supporting international medical graduates relocating to work as doctors in the UK for over a decade. If you want to learn more about which traditional and digital banking options are available to you – you’ve come to the right place.

High-street banks

High-street or traditional banks are well-known brands such as Barclays, HSBC, TSB, Lloyds, Santander, NatWest, etc. These banks require specific documents to be able to open a bank account. You will need to prove your identity with one of the following:

  • Passport
  • Driving Licence
  • EU Identification Card

The majority will then require you to submit a hard copy of your UK proof of address. Some widely accepted proofs of address include:

  • Electricity or gas bill dated within the last 3 months
  • Council tax bill
  • Mortgage statement or tenancy agreement

As an IMG and being new to the UK, it’s unlikely you will have any of these proof of address documents. Some banks will accept a letter of employment from the trust which is addressed to the bank. You can request an employment letter from your trust HR department, and it must confirm the following:

  • Your current home address
  • Your full name
  • Your date of birth
  • That you are employed by the trust
  • The starting date of your role
  • The duration of your contract
  • Your salary

The letter needs to be on letter headed paper, signed, stamped and dated. Each bank has their requirements so you should phone and book an appointment at your local branch to speak to an advisor about your situation.

Why do you need a bank account?

You need a bank account to receive your wages from the trust. Payroll teams have deadlines to process all payments for the month. You risk a delayed payment if your account is not set up before the payroll deadline. If you have monthly bills such as accommodation, utilities, council tax, mobile phone etc then you want to avoid any delay in receiving your income.

What is digital banking?

Digital banks are approved and legal online-only banks. The most obvious difference to traditional banks being they have no physical branches. They offer a lot of the same services as a traditional bank including receiving payment from work, setting up direct debits, paying bills online and even getting a physical debit card that you can use to pay for your bills and shopping. They usually don’t have overdrafts, credit cards or the ability to deposit cash.

Most digital banks do not require a proof of address to open an account. You may be asked for an address where you are residing if you want a physical debit card, but you do not have to provide proof in the form of a document. 

We are unable to recommend using any specific banks or services but some of the leading digital banks on the market at the moment include:

  • Revolut - opening an account takes around 10 minutes.
  • Monese - opening an account takes around 10 minutes.
  • Monzo - opening an account takes around 10 minutes.
  • Chase - opening an account can take between 10 days and 5 weeks.
  • Wise - opening an account can take abou 2 working days.

You can read a third-party review of the pros and cons of all of these digital banks and more here

What sort of things should I check for with a digital bank?

We are not trained to provide financial advice; this should be discussed with an banking advisor on a 1-1 basis. Some reoccurring themes we have seen in the pros and cons sections of digital banks and questions you might want to think about before choosing the best option for you include:

Is the bank part of the FSCS scheme?

If the firm you have used goes out of business, FSCS will step in to pay your claim.

Does the bank charge you fees for opening an account or cash withdrawals?

Most accounts don’t but some premium services incur additional fees.

Does the basic package meet your requirements?

Some benefits are only included as part of the premium paid-for packages so make sure you’ve read the terms and conditions.

Is there a customer service team available if you need support?

With no physical branches, its important they have an online support team available if you need help.

Is there a minimum balance requirement?

Most good banks don’t have these.

Should you still get a traditional bank account?

In short, yes. A digital bank is a great way to make sure you are able to receive your wages without delay. A traditional bank account can give you access to some services which are not available with a digital bank. Some of these might include access to a credit card, support with mortgages and limitless cash withdrawals.

Can you pay with cash?

Bringing a lump sum of cash from home isn’t always an ideal option. In recent years, a lot of businesses in the UK have opted to go cashless for convenience, security and hygiene measures. Some may accept cash as an alternative, but this isn’t always the case. Managing finances, payments and bills online has become the norm for a lot of UK customers. Digital online-only banks have no physical branches for you to deposit your cash. If you bring cash and are unable to open a traditional bank account, you may face difficulty trying to spend your cash.

Whatever type of banking suits you, it is always best to research extensively to give you a full idea of what each bank offers. The intention of this article is to give you a brief overview of the options available and it or its contents should not be misconstrued or used as financial advice. We would encourage you to seek your own financial advice to support your decisions.   

If you are an international doctor and are thinking about living and working in the UK, we support doctors through all stages of their relocation journey. If you would like to arrange a call with our permanent division so that they can help you with the next step in your career and moving to the United Kingdom, please contact us.

Other A&E Agency articles you might be interested in:

How to apply for a National Insurance number

How to write a medical CV as a Doctor

UK Visa’s explained: Skilled Worker/Health and Care Worker (Previously Tier 2)

Primary medical qualifications for International Medical Graduates

Everything you need to know about PLAB