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Scotland has a long history when it comes to banking — going back more than 300 years. As such, the country’s banking system is highly refined and offers unique advantages, like not paying banking fees if you remain within credit on your account. There is a variety of account types to choose from, depending on services offered but also depending on how long you’ve been in the country for. The process of opening a bank account can be challenging or costly depending on your nationality.

Procedures for opening a ‘basic’ bank account

If you’re an EU/EFTA national, you are entitled to open a basic account, which gives you the ability to perform basic banking functions. To open a basic account, you don’t need proof of employment or Scottish credit history (which, understandably, you won’t have yet). The earliest you can open a basic bank account in Scotland, provided you haven’t found work yet, is three months. In general, you’ll need the following to open a ‘basic’ bank account:

  • proof of identity (valid passport or EU ID)
  • current photo
  • proof of UK address with the form of a utility bill that has been issued within the last 3 months

 Good to know:

While you can bring water, gas or electricity bills, in Scotland phone or cable bills are not considered as proof of identity or address.

After six or twelve months, you can upgrade to a ‘current’ bank account.

Procedures for opening a current bank account

If you’re a third-country citizen, you are not entitled in opening a basic account so you have to wait at least three months and open a ‘current’ one. The documentation may vary depending on the bank, but in general, the following is required:

  • proof of identity (valid passport)
  • current photo
  • proof of UK address with the form of a utility bill that has been issued within the last 3 months
  • details of your current employment, your income or your savings (including those in your home country)
  • a substantial deposit to be made to your new Scottish bank account, the exact amount of which varies from bank to bank
  • to pass a credit check

 Good to know:

You can also apply by mail from your home country if you are not in Scotland at the moment. The process generally takes about two weeks, after which you will receive your debit/credit card along with a PIN number on the mail. You’ll need to call a toll-free number to activate your card.

As mentioned before, the deposit needed for a third-country citizen to open a bank account in Scotland can be quite substantial and varies from bank to bank, so it’s very important to do a thorough market search to be informed of the differences in fees. Websites like Money Supermarket, help you compare and contrast various banks offerings depending on your needs.

The case for foreign students

If you are a foreign student living in Scotland for less than 3 months, you’ll have to produce a letter issued by your university or other higher education besides any proof of identity documents. This letter must be written with a letterhead specifying the university's address and must be signed. It must also specify the duration of your courses and your address in your home country.

 Useful links:

Bank of Scotland
Clydesdale Bank
Royal Bank of Scotland

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.