The Cotton Tree has worked with Lloyds Banking Group to improve access to banking for refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. 

Halifax, Lloyds and Bank of Scotland now accept more forms of identity - including biometric residence permits and charity recommendation letters. 

Asylum seekers have always had difficulty in opening a bank account. For the most part this doesn't matter while they are seeking asylum, as many are destitute. But when they are given the right to remain it is a real problem. If they find work they need a bank account for their wages. If they are applying for Universal Credit, they need to give bank details when they make their application.

The main problems have been around proving identity and home addresses. "Many refugees have no passport or photo driving licence to prove their identity," explained Michael Mark, Cotton Tree trustee.

Michael added: "Most banks require addresses over the past five years. But when it comes to asylum seekers, they may have been homeless, in detention or living with other asylum seekers in accommodation provided by the Home Office. And when banks carry out address checks they might find that people with criminal records or debt issues might have been living at these Home Office properties."

Cotton Tree has been working with the Lloyds Banking Group Vulnerable Customers Unit to overcome these problems. As a result of our partnership, banks within that group - Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland - now accept ARC cards (identity cards issued by the Home Office to asylum seekers) and BRP’s (biometric residence permits issued by the Home Office once a right to remain here has been granted) as proof of identity.

They have also set up pilot projects at about 12 branches in different parts of the UK, where the branch will accept a letter from a charity that knows the applicant and can recommend them for a bank account in place of the normal proof of address for five years. We are continuing to work with the Lloyds Banking Group on problems as they emerge and have acted as a link for other charities working with refugees and asylum seekers where they have experienced problems opening bank accounts.

What's it like after receiving your status?

This project is a result of our work with Michael and Arnold who told us about their struggles with banking after they were granted refugee status. You can find out more in the video below.

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