International Student Support


Opening a UK bank account

Opening a UK bank account is by far the safest and most effective way of managing your money as an international student. However, the process can often be quite long and complicated so it is important that you are patient and prepared.


Keep the following points in mind prior to setting up a bank account:

  • Certain banks will allow you to begin the process of setting up a UK bank account from your home country before you arrive. We strongly advise you to look into links your current bank may have with UK banks, as this will make the process easier if it is an option for you.
  • If you are on a programme of 6 months or less, it may not be possible to open a bank account in the UK.
  • Banks in the UK follow their own rules and identity checks which are completely separate from UCL. In order to keep your money safe, banks are very restricted in the ways they communicate with customers and in terms of their processes. This means that you need to attend a bank in person, meet with one of their advisors and sometimes complete a paper application form in order to open a bank account.
  • You may need to visit the bank more than once to set up your account, and once you have set up the account, you may have to wait around 10 days for your bank card to arrive.
  • UCL has no influence over the types of accounts banks offer to students, the documentation they require or any other of their processes. We don’t recommend any specific banks and it is up to you to decide which bank you would like to open an account with.
  • Please note: a Statement of Student Status (or a specific Bank Account Letter if required) can only be issued to a student once they have completed in person enrolment.

Covering initial costs

Opening a UK bank account can be a lengthy process. With this in mind, it is important that you bring sufficient funds to cover initial expenses for your first month in the UK. For safety reasons, it is not a good idea to bring large sums of cash, and there may be restrictions on the amount of cash you can bring with you to the UK - you can read more about these restrictions on the gov.uk website. You may want to consider alternative options such as using Travellers Cheques or pre-paid cash cards and paying tuition fees online.

Which are the main banks in the UK?

Some of the main banks in the UK are: Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest, Santander and TSB. These banks normally open accounts for international students if the appropriate documentation is provided and meets their requirements.

UCL does not endorse any particular bank but if you wish to consider opening a bank account with one of the banks mentioned, we have done some research about the types of accounts offered by banks around the main campus and what their requirements are for opening an account.

The information provided is correct to the best of our knowledge but may be subject to change. Please note account opening procedures and requirements can vary depending on the branch you visit.


IMPORTANT: You must update your term time address to your UK address on Portico as soon as possible so that the information will already be correct when you receive your Statement of Student Status at enrolment or request a bank letter. You can find an instructional video on how to do this in the right-hand sidebar of this page.

Who is this information for?
My programme of study is for 6 months or less – can I open a bank account?
Why open a UK bank account?
How long will it take?
How do I decide which bank to open an account with?
What documents do I need in order to open an account?
I have just arrived in the UK and don’t have proof of my address here?
I am staying in a UCL Halls of Residence...
I am staying in private accommodation or in Hall of Residence which is not managed by UCL...
I have just arrived in the UK and I am currently staying in a hotel/hostel and I don’t have a permanent address at the moment...
Which bank accounts are available to me?
Useful tips
Banking terminology