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Banks and building societies are not allowed to open accounts for people who do not have leave to enter or leave to remain in the UK. If they refuse to let you open a bank account, they should tell you why.
Since 30 October 2017, banks and building societies have had to do immigration checks on all customers every 3 months. If they discover that you might be in the UK without permission they must tell the Home Office.
If this happens, the Home Office might:
- Ask a court to freeze your account, which means that you will not be able to use your account for a period of time.
- Make the bank close your account.
In May 2018, the government suspended the closure of bank accounts. It is unclear whether the closure of accounts has resumed since.
However, banks are still carrying out immigration checks on all accounts every three months, and telling the Home Office about accounts they believe belong to people in the UK without permission.
Are there any exceptions for new bank accounts?
If the Home Office decides that there is a good reason why you are unable to leave the UK, what they call a ‘legitimate barrier’ to leaving the UK, you may be allowed to open an account despite not having leave to remain or leave to enter.
The Home Office has not defined what a ‘legitimate barrier’ is. You should get legal advice before contacting the Home Office.
What can I do if a bank makes a mistake?
If you believe you are lawfully present in the UK or there is another reason why you should be allowed to hold a bank account, you should make a complaint directly to the Home Office. You should get legal advice before doing this.
If your bank freezes your account you have a right to appeal, but should seek legal advice before doing this.
What should a bank do if they make a mistake?
If you have evidence that you should be allowed an account and a bank is refusing to open an account for you, they should contact the Home Office. Evidence could be your passport, Biometric Residence Permit, or another document showing you have the right to remain in the UK. If the bank refuses to contact the Home Office even after you show them one of these documents, you should seek legal advice before contacting the Home Office yourself.
If your bank is closing your account and you provide evidence to show that your account should not be closed, your bank should contact the Home Office about your account.