Banking and finances

  • Opening a UK bank account

    Banks in the UK have introduced regulations about opening new bank accounts. There are now security procedures in place that can lead to delays for immigrants who try to open an account on arrival.

    Because it may take you some time to open an account once you arrive in the UK, it is possible to open a bank account in your home country that has a UK branch, or keep your existing account open at home until you are able to open a bank account here. This way, you will still have access to funds. You will find a large number of International banks in and around Oxford city centre.

    It is useful to get a reference from your existing bank in your country (in English) or ask them to write to you at your UK address. It may also be helpful to take with you documents which show that money will be paid regularly into your account.

    Documentation required to open a UK bank account

    Bank requirements vary and so it is not possible to be absolutely definite about which documents will be accepted. Therefore the best approach is to take with you as much information as you have available to you. Remember to take original documents and not copies. The most important type of document the Bank will want to see is proof of your identity and your current UK address.

    Banks will know that because you are new to the UK you may not have access to documents that people who currently live in the UK have such as UK bills and driving licence etc. But there are many other documents that will be accepted such as:

    • Passport
    • National Identity Card – If you are from the EEA
    • Residence Permit issued by the Home Office to EU Nationals
    • National Driving Licence
    • Tenancy Agreement
    • A letter from the HR Department confirming your UK address

    Direct Debit payments

    Most basic bank accounts offer this facility. It is a simple way of paying your bills via a transaction straight from your bank account on a date which you agree. It can save time and can be more convenient. You can use this method of payment for your rent/mortgage and for gas and electricity bills.

    Overdraft facility

    This is when a bank allows you to go into deficit and effectively borrow a certain amount of money for a short period of time. Interest is often charged on the amount that you borrow. Few banks offer this facility to non-UK residents so you will need to check if this is something that will be available to you.


    UK notes come in denominations of £5, £10, £20 and £50.

    Coins in the UK come in denominations of 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2.

    Please note: the Euro is not widely accepted in retail outlets for routine purchases.

    Credit cards

    Except for in some of the smaller businesses, credit cards are likely to be accepted as means of payment in any shop or supermarket. An ATM will never be far away and most are linked to major credit cards as well as the Cirrus, Maestro and Plus cash networks.


    Everyone in the UK has to pay tax on their earnings to the government. The department that deals with this is called the Inland Revenue. The amount of tax that you have to pay depends on how much you earn. The tax is paid by your employer and is deducted from your wages each time you are paid (this is known as ‘PAYE’–pay as you earn). The amount deducted will be displayed on your payslip. All adults are entitled to a ‘personal allowance’, which is an amount of income that you can earn without being taxed each year (tax year).

    For information relating to tax and national insurance visit :

    Sales tax (VAT)

    Sales taxes are already calculated into costs of goods, so the price you see is the price you pay. It is called VAT or Value Added Tax. It is applied to all goods and services except children's clothes.

    National Insurance

    You pay National Insurance contributions to build up your entitlement to certain social security benefits, including the State Pension. The type and level of contribution you pay depends on how much you earn. 

    Further details can be found at

    Your National Insurance number

    Your National Insurance number (NI number) is your own personal account number. The number ensures that the National Insurance contributions and the tax you pay are properly recorded. It also acts as a reference number for the whole social security system.

    Who uses your NI number?

    The only people you should ever give your NI number to are:

    • HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
    • your employer
    • Jobcentre Plus, if you claim Jobseeker's Allowance
    • your local council, if you claim Housing Benefit

    How to get an NI number

    Apply for a NI number on the website here. Jobcentre Plus may write to you and ask you to come to an interview where you’ll be asked about your circumstances and why you need a National Insurance number. They will make sure you need a number and arrange for you to undertake an evidence of identity interview. The interview will usually be one-to-one (unless, for example, you need an interpreter). The interviewer will ask you questions about your background and circumstances. If you haven't got any official documents you still have to go to the interview. You might be able to prove your identity with the information you give at the interview. The procedure can take a number of weeks therefore during this time you can continue to work using a ‘temporary’ NI number.