Thursday, March 18, 2004

If you're a new immigrant to London, opening a bank account is nearly impossible. Before you can do so, you have to prove your name and your address to the bank where you want to open an account. I'm told this is to prevent money-laundering. I take the point. There is nothing more irritating than the sound of coins clunking in the tumble dryer. And just last week I actually had to iron a ten pound note I found crumpled in the pocket of a freshly-washed shirt.

If you can prove your name and address, this apparently doesn't happen. To prove your name, you typically need any of the following documents: a current Inland Revenue Tax Notification. A Bank/Building Society/Credit Card statement of some kind dated within the last three months. A utulity bill, such as a gas, electricity or telephone bill (mobile phones don't count). An original notification from the Benefits agency confirming the right to benefits. A Building Industry Sub-Contractor's Certificate issued by the Inland Revenue. A certified copy of either your current Firearm certificate, UK driving licence, or current full signed passport. About the only thing a new immigrant has from this list is a passport.

Proving your address is much the same kind of bother. You can use a bank statement or utility bill if you didn't use it to confirm your name. Or you can find a current Council Tax bill, a TV licence reminder, a mortgage statement, a housing association rent card or tenancy agreement, or a local council tenancy agreement. How a new immigrant gets any of these without a bank account beats me. I didn't think you could go straight onto Benefits unless you were an asylum seeker.

And to be honest, I don't see the connection. How is having any of this stuff going to get you to check your pockets more carefully before doing the laundry? I think it's just an excuse. The banks probably want the fat balances of hardened criminals who can afford to forge all the documents needed.