Opening a bank account is normally a straightforward process. The entire application can be sorted in a day as long as you make sure to bring all the right documentation with you. Usually it begins with a piece of government-issued identification, followed by a proof of address to confirm where you live.
There are different types of valid documents you can use as proof of address; these vary depending on which country you reside in and which bank you are applying for an account with.
Not procuring the right document for your application can delay getting your account up and running. Read on to find out more about the different types of documents that can be used as a proof of address.
What is a proof of address?
The term proof of address is pretty self-explanatory: refers to a document that verifies where you live.
Also known as a proof of residence, it is required by banks as a security measure to make sure that you are not lying about where you live.
They essentially want to be sure that they are able to send communications to you via regular post and be able to find you if necessary.
Certain criteria are essential to make sure that your proof of address is valid and will be accepted by your bank:
- It should be issued in your name and match your government-issued identification
- The proof of address must contain your current residential address
- The document needs to be sent by a recognised authority and show their logo, name and information
- Your proof of address needs to be clearly dated. Generally, banks will request that the document provided is dated within the last three months, but this rule can differ depending on the bank or the type of document you are submitting.
This system isn’t flawless, someone could produce this document and not be living where they say they are. In a bid to minimise fraud, banks will sometimes ask for two different pieces of proof of residence.
In a similar way, someone living at the correct address may not have their name on any document. This will be the case if they are a child or dependent partner.
But worry not as there are ways around this, we discuss solutions further below.
What is accepted as proof of address?
Proof of address can be one of the following documents:
- Water, electricity, gas, telephone or Internet bill
- Credit card bill or statement
- Bank statement
- Bank reference letter
- Mortgage statement or contract
- Letter issued by a public authority (e.g. a courthouse)
- Company payslip
- Car or home insurance policy
- Car registration
- Authorised change of address form
- Letter of employment
- Official letter from an educational institution
- Municipality bill or government tax letter
- Driver’s licence
- Residence permit
- Lease agreement for your residence
Each bank will have a specific list of documents and rules to validate a proof of address. Check with your local branch before applying for your bank account to get the right document ready.
We also recommend looking out for ambiguous rules! For example, when a bank says they accept utility bills as proof of address they may have certain stipulations over what type of utility bill is valid.
What is not an acceptable document for proof of address?
It is always advisable to check with your local bank to get detailed information on which documents are valid and the rules they follow to authorise a proof of address. However, there are some commonly followed rules that you should keep in mind:
- Your ID can only be used to verify your identity. Even if it contains your address, it will not be accepted as proof of address.
- Any document that is too old will probably not make the cut!
- Bring originals, not copies! Banks need to check the authenticity of documents before approving them.
Generally, any document that is not listed on the bank’s official list of required documents will be rejected.
Therefore, it is always a good idea to check with your local branch in advance so that you are able to prepare the right documentation and get your bank account up and running as quickly as possible!
If you are still having doubts, turn up to the bank with several documents so the banking official can choose for you. This will prevent you from having to delay your application and return to your bank branch a second time to finish off the process.
How to find a valid proof of address?
Depending on your current situation there are different courses of action you can take to find an appropriate proof of address.
Setting #1: Bills arriving at your home are in your name
In this case, finding a valid proof of address is simple! It is very probable that you already have some form of proof of address lying around your home, you just don’t know it yet! First things first have a browse through the pile of mail sitting in your mailbox.
You are likely to find:
- A recent bank or credit card statement
- Various utility bills
- Your payslips
Anyone of these documents will do, just be sure to bring the original copy to the bank when applying for your bank account!
Setting #2: Bills arriving at your home are not in your name or you are unemployed
If you find yourself in this situation then worry not, there are other documents you can source that will work just as well
We recommend digging out your lease agreement or finding a recent insurance policy taken out in your name.
Another method is to get your name on a mobile phone bill. Visit your local provider to take out a basic phone plan.
Be sure to register the contract at the correct address. You will receive a bill or service contract from the service provider within a month of registering the plan, with your full name and address on it.
Some banks will accept a document in a relative’s name as long as you can prove your family relation. It’s worth checking with your local bank if they will authorize this as a valid proof of address.
Setting #3: You’ve gone paperless, you need to print online!
If all else fails, you can get hold of a proof of address online through a service or company you already have a history with.
Before doing so, we advise you to check with your bank if this method is accepted.
Once you have the green light from your bank, contact the right authority to get hold of a copy and then simply print it off to present to your bank.
Alternatively, you can also make a request for a paper copy online then wait for it to arrive at your doorstep before going ahead with your application.
Getting your hands on a proof of address can seem tricky but as long as you actually live where you say you do then it will be possible to get validated by your bank!
Should you happen to be located in Hong Kong, check out our recommendations on how to get a proof of address, curated specifically for Hong Kong residents. Or even the UK!
If you are looking to open a business bank account, then the list of documents required will be different. We go through this list in detail in our guide to opening a business bank account in Hong Kong.
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