The right to open a bank account from abroad comes from an EU directive but only applies to so-called basic bank accounts.
It is not known if this will continue with the UK after Brexit.
These accounts are available from a number of well-known British banks and are “no-frills” accounts, meaning they do not have a chequebook or credit card (some have debit cards) and no loan or mortgage facilities attached.
They do not pay interest. You may open one of these only if you have no other British bank account.
Apart from this exception, banks have no obligation to allow people to open an account if they are not UK-resident and it is typically not possible to open a savings account.
Certain banks, such as Barclays and HSBC, have dedicated international sections that allow people living abroad to open accounts. Barclays states that this includes savings options, though they generally have restrictions such as having to place and maintain a large balance on the accounts.
In the case of Barclays, this is £25,000, and if the balance falls below this for four months or more, there is a £20 monthly fee. An advisor at HSBC said they only open new international accounts in the UK for French residents who hold an HSBC account in France.
Reader's query answered by Hugh MacDonald
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