Types of Identification

Why do I need to prove my identity?

Legally, all companies offering financial services must get proof of a customer’s identity before they can offer them a service. This means that organisations such as banks cannot offer you a bank account or any other service unless you can prove to them that you are who you say you are.

There are several reasons behind this. Firstly, it helps prevent criminal activity, as it makes it more difficult for ‘money laundering’ to happen without banks noticing. Money laundering is the process criminals use to make money obtained through illegal activities (so-called ‘dirty’ money) seem ‘clean’. They often use bank accounts opened under false names in order to do this, which makes it more difficult for the ‘dirty’ money to be traced back to them. Asking new customers to prove their identity stops people opening accounts in false names.

Knowing the identity of customers can also be useful in trying to trace terrorist activity. Like other criminals, terrorists may attempt to use false names to open bank accounts or move money around which can then be used for a variety of purposes. Asking people to prove their identity means terrorist suspects can be easily traced by investigators.

Finally, having to prove your identity in order to take out a financial service helps prevent identity fraud. Criminals may be able to find out your personal details surprisingly easily, particularly if you aren’t careful about shredding documents before you throw them away, and they may try to use this information to pretend to be you. Banks asking for I.D. makes this process more difficult and helps to keep your identity secure.

What documents can I use to prove my identity?

Usually you will be asked to prove your identity when you become a new customer, and it depends on which financial service provider you are applying to as to what documents they will accept. Most will initially ask you for either:

  • A government-issued document showing your full name and a photograph (such as a valid passport or photocard driving license)
  • A government issued document showing your full name but no photograph (such as an valid old or paper style driving license) AND a document issued by the government, a judicial body such as a court, a public-sector body or authority, a utility company or another FSA registered firm such as a bank or insurance company which shows your full name and address and/or date of birth.

If you cannot provide these documents, the bank or insurance company you are applying to may be also be able to accept:

  • A letter from a government department or local authority confirming entitlement to welfare benefits such as Housing Benefit, or Council Tax Benefit
  • A letter from a care home manager or warden of sheltered accommodation or a refuge, confirming your identity.

If you cannot provide either of these documents, the bank should also accept a letter from another appropriate person, such as a social or probation worker, confirming that you are who you say you are.

What if I don’t have the documents my bank asks for?

There may be many reasons why people cannot provide evidence of where they live or who they are. Passports and driving licenses can be expensive, so unless you’ve needed one previously you may never have purchased one. If you’ve recently moved house or just come out of a long hospital or prison stay you may not yet have any documents showing your address. Banks should be used to this, and are able to accept a wide range of documents to show your I.D. in order to ensure everyone can access financial services.

If you cannot provide any of the documents listed above, you should contact the bank you are intending to open an account with and ask what else they may be able to accept. Some banks may seem unhelpful as staff may not be trained in all the documents which are acceptable and so you might feel put off from pursuing the subject. If the first bank you approach is not helpful, remember that if they are not prepared to assist you, you are entitled to take your custom elsewhere.

Unlock, a charity for reformed offenders, has produced the following list of documents which financial services companies may be able to accept as proof of I.D. If in doubt you may want to take this with you to the bank so you can suggest to them which items you might be able to provide.

Documents to prove your NAME include: Documents to prove your ADDRESS include:
Passport (signed and current) UK Driving Licence (old style paper license, current, full)
UK Driving Licence (old style paper license, current, full) UK Photocard Driving Licence (current, full or provisional)
UK Photocard Driving Licence (current, full or provisional) Benefit Documents
Northern Ireland Voters Card State Pension Documents
Disabled Driver’s Pass Benefits Agency benefit book / Award letter
Firearms Certificate or Shotgun License Instrument of a court appointment
Inland Revenue tax documentation Housing Association or Hostel tenancy agreement
Building industry sub-contractor certificate (issued by Inland Revenue) Working Family / Child tax Credit letter
Notification of entitlement to tax credit, state pension Tenancy agreement (current)
Notification of entitlement to educational loan or grant Council Rent Card (current)
Benefits Agency benefit book Mortgage Statement, most recent
State Pension Documents Notification of entitlement to tax credit, state pension
Housing Association or Hostel tenancy agreement Notification of entitlement to educational loan or grant
IND ARC registration card Latest TV license reminder
SAL 2 (given to asylum seekers if they apply for asylum) Utility bill (e.g. gas, electricity, water)
C1S Card (tax card) Certificate from a utilities supplier
European Union — National Identity ID card Council Tax bill or demand letter (Valid for current year)
European Union — National Driving License Bank/ building society/ credit union statement
Residence permit issued EU nationals Bank or Building Society pay in book
SAL 1 (Given to Asylum seekers at port of entry) Financial Statement (e.g. Bank/Building Society)
Birth Certificate (may only be accepted if under 18) Letter from your employer confirming your UK address
NHS Medical Card (may only be accepted if under 18) Solicitor’s Letter (Confirming house sale/purchase)
Adoption Certificate (may only be accepted if under 18) Confirmation from an electoral register
Young person’s PASS Card (if under 18)