We moved into our sweet new digs in Cleethorpes a month ago. It’s a furnished room in a shared house. One of the first tasks I undertook was to get a bank account.
It turns out that in the UK while it is easy to prove identity (passport will do!), it is very, very difficult to provide adequate proof of address. There is a list of specific documents a bank can accept, and I had none of them.
Lease? Not acceptable if it’s from a private landlord.
Council tax? My rent is all inclusive, so my landlord pays it. Same with utilities and other household bills.
Letter from employer? I’m not employed yet.
Official letter containing both my address and tax number? Well it’s on it’s way, but it takes 6-8 weeks. I need a bank account now to receive my savings from home. You know, to pay for the little luxuries like food, toothpaste, toilet paper.
One bank turned me away entirely.
Another bank, after phone calls with management, decided they could help me, but only if I went to their main branch in Grimsby, 30 min away, and that my lease would probably do, after all.
Turns out that this was incorrect, the signed lease is still not adequate proof of address.
The banker said “well, we can accept a statement with your address on it from another bank in the UK.”
Have you ever read Catch-22?
After two trips to this bank, I finally was provided a list of people who could vouch for me: teacher, doctor, solicitor, clergyman, midwife…
Entirely by chance, I know a local midwife. She was willing to type me up a letter to provide to the bank, thereby saving my ass from the weirdly stringent requirements (thanks Julie!).
If someone could have told me up front that I could use a letter from a midwife as proof of address, we could have saved a whole lot of bus fare and aggravation. But it seems that there is a very bureaucratic system in place where I had to go through the process of saying over and over again that I had no way of meeting their usual requirements, and asking that they go up the managerial food chain to find a way around.
But imagine if I didn’t happen to know a midwife. I would have been stuck without a bank account, and would have had to find a creative solution to prevent running out of money and having to pay my bank in Canada astronomical fees to bank internationally. I imagine in other areas with more immigration the process is probably a little easier. Here, the people I spoke to considered my situation pretty unique.
Anyways, banking here is different. You can use your debit card at any bank’s ATM without fees. You can use your debit card online, so you don’t need a credit card. Most banks have a no-fee basic banking option. So that all seems positive to me. I’m glad I had my handy UK-to-Canadian translator with me though, as half the time it seemed like I was in an entirely different country…
It’s all in order now. And I have a bank statement in case I ever need to prove I live in Cleethorpes again.