Ukrainian migrant support hub

A gateway for Ukrainian migrants and those who support them to access information, events and services.
Шлюз для доступу до інформації, подій та послуг для українських мігрантів та тих, хто їх підтримує.

Money guide

Currency and cash

The currency of the UK is Pound Sterling (£). There are 100 pennies (also called pence or 'p') in one pound. Cash is widely used, but digital payments are now the more common way to pay for things, and there are now some situations where cash isn’t always accepted.

UK currency
Banking

It is important to have a bank account:

  • Whether you’re working, or receiving financial support from the government, payments will be made into your bank account.
  • Paying for bills without a bank account can be very difficult.
Opening a bank account
1
Choose a bank and account type

A standard account in the UK is called a current account. If you have a low income, poor credit rating or are new to the UK, you will likely be refused one of these accounts. Instead, you should ask the bank if they provide a basic account, which will have less strict rules. For most migrants, a basic bank account is the right choice.

Depending on the bank, they may allow you apply online, or go into a branch to show your identification and documents.

Your money will be safe in any UK bank, and the service you receive will be very similar no matter which bank you choose. You may prefer to choose one of the major banks who provide a branch near to you, such as Natwest, Barclays or HSBC. Alternatively there are now app-only banks such as Monzo or Starling. All banks provide online or app access.

It is possible to open joint accounts, which you share with another person such as your spouse or partner.

2
Gather your documents

As part of your application, you will need to provide identification documents. Each bank will vary a little in what they require, and they will tell you what they require on their website before you start. This will usually be some kind of photo ID, such as a BRP or passport if you have that, and proof of address. They will likely accept a utility bill or an official letter from the local council or government.

3
Apply

You can open a bank account in their local branch, or sometimes online or over the phone, depending on the bank. Along with completing their form, you will need to either show your documents in their branch, or take a photo using a smart phone if applying online.

How much does it cost to have a bank account?

A basic bank account will be free. Most banks offer a free current account, along with other options where you pay a monthly fee for additional benefits such as insurance. Day to day transactions, such as paying your bills, withdrawing money from cash points and buying things using your card are always free. You will often have to pay fees if you want to transfer money internationally, use your card in another country, or if you spend more money than is in your account.

Who is eligible to have a bank account?

Banks have their own minimum age rules, but generally this will be from age 11 up.

You will not be allowed to open an account if you don’t currently have leave to be in the UK. Asylum seekers may have a bank account, unless their claim has been rejected and all right to appeal has been exhausted.

What should I do if the bank refuses me?

If you were applying for a standard current account, you can ask if they would provide you with a basic account, which will have less strict requirements. If they have refused your request for a basic bank account, you should try applying to another bank.

Getting cash

You will find ATM machines on most high streets and in many public places. You can use the ATM of any bank. If they have the name of a bank on them, they will be free to use. Other machines can sometimes charge you to use them – but they always warn you of this on the screen. You can also get cash by going into your bank’s local branch. 

Transferring money to a foreign country

You can transfer money abroad using your bank account – there is usually an option on your online account, or you can call your bank. Most banks will charge you for this. Even if they say there are no fees, they are usually transferring the money at a rate that is below the current exchange rate. An alternative is to use an online service such as Wise, who will usually provide the cheapest option for international transfers.

Transferring money to other people in the UK

If you need to transfer money to someone you know, you can usually do this for free via your bank’s app, website or phone service. If someone you don’t know has asked you to transfer money, for example, when buying a second hand item from someone online, you should be careful. There are many scams, and you will have no protection if you make a transfer. You can consider using a payments service such as Paypal. If something goes wrong, you can then report the issue to Paypal, who provide protection if you are scammed.

What should I do if I've been a victim of a scam?

If you've transferred money to a scammer within the last 24 hours, or if the scammer is currently in your local area, speak to the police now by calling 101.

There are also organisations that can give you free support and advice.

Where to get help
Search for support options
Benefits and financial support from the government

There is financial support available from the government for people who are out of work, have a low income, have a disability or are supporting someone with a disability. These payments are known as benefits. These are not loans, and you will not have to pay these back. The type of benefits you are eligible for will depend on your circumstances. Refugees are entitled to the same support as British citizens.

Ukrainians on the Family Visa, Extension Visa and Homes for Ukraine Visa schemes will be able to access any benefit scheme. If you are unsure of your immigration status, or you are on another visa, you should get advice from an immigration specialist before applying.

Claiming benefits
1
Understand what is available for you

It is not easy to understand what you are entitled to. There are several benefits check websites which will take you through the important questions that determine what you can get, and then calculate what is available for you.

If you struggle with that, or your situation is complicated, there are also free specialist advice services who you can talk to.

Benefits check websites
Where to get help
Search for support options
How much can I get?

Benefits calculations are complicated – you will need to get a benefits check or advice to find out.

Can I apply for more than one type of benefit?

Yes – you should apply for any that you are eligible for.

2
Apply

Each type of benefits payment has its own route for applying – if you have done a benefits check or had advice you will have been given either the website or phone number to do this. If you believe you will be eligible for a benefit, you should apply as soon as possible, as you will get paid from the day you apply if you are successful.

How long will it be before I’m told their decision and get my first payment?

This depends on which benefits you have applied for. Simpler types of benefits such as Universal Credit will usually take around 5 weeks. Disability benefits can take anything from weeks to 6 months or more in complex situations. If your claim is accepted, you will be paid back for the period you were waiting for a decision.

What should I do if I’m waiting for a decision or first payment, and I’m in urgent financial need?
Benefits advances

Some benefit schemes will allow you receive your first payment earlier than scheduled. Once your scheduled payments start, they will then deduct part of this early payment from each month until it is paid back. 

Support from your local council

Most councils provide emergency financial support as either a one-off grant, or loan that you will need to repay.

Where to get help
Birmingham City Council
Discretionary Hardship Payments
What should I do if they refuse my application?

If you think they have made a mistake with their decision, you can challenge this. You can get free advice from a specialist benefits advisor to help you with this.

Where to get help
Search for support options
3
Maintaining your right to benefits

If you are receiving Universal Credit, you will be told what you must do to receive your payments – this may include attending regular appointments, and logging things you’ve done to find work using the online journal system that they will give you access to. If you are struggling to understand what you need to do, or you have an emergency and can’t make an appointment, you should let your work coach know as soon as possible. If you don’t, they may stop your payments.

Handling changes in circumstances

If anything changes in your life, such as a new job, a change in your income, you become ill, your partner leaves you, or you have a baby, you should contact the office that provides your benefits and let them know what has happened.

What happens if I don’t tell them?

You may miss out money that you would otherwise be entitled to if you don’t tell them. If the change will result in you getting less benefits, when they find out, you will have to pay them back for any amount you have overpaid. If they believe you have been intentionally dishonest, you could be in legal trouble.

Debt

If you have bills and debts that you are unable to manage, there are many free support services who can help you. Some services will provide you with advice on how to manage the situation yourself, whilst others can provide very practical support, such as negotiating with the people you owe money to, managing your payments on your behalf, and processing a bankruptcy application for you.

Where to get help
Search for support options
Paying tax

There are three main types of tax in the UK:

  • Council Tax, which is charged on the property you live in
  • Income Tax, which you will have to pay on income you get over your tax-free allowance
  • National Insurance, which you will pay if you have a job and work over the tax-free threshold.
Council tax

You’ll usually have to pay Council Tax on your property if you’re 18 or over. This tax is paid to the council, who will usually request payment for the annual amount in 10 monthly installments.

When you move in to a house, you should contact the council to let them know who is living in the property.

Check you're paying the right amount of Council Tax

In some situations the amount of Council Tax you need to pay is less. For example, if you're living on your own, or you're a student, or a carer lives in your home. These are called 'discounts and exemptions', and you can read about how they work in this Money Saving Expert guide.

You can apply for a discount or exemption directly through your council.

Council Tax discounts for people with a Homes for Ukraine visa

If everyone that lives in your house is on a Homes for Ukraine visa, you may be able to get a 50% discount on your Council Tax on the basis that holders of this visa are ‘disregarded’ for Council Tax. Some councils have information about this on their website, but not all of them do. If everyone in your house is on this visa but your council hasn’t given you this discount, contact them to ask for it. There’s more information about how what you can say to them here:

Handling changes in circumstances

If your situation changes such as moving house, or who you live with, or starting full-time education, you should contact your council to check that you're paying the correct amount of Council Tax.

If you're receiving Council Tax Support or Council Tax Reduction, you also need to tell the council about changes in your income, including changes to the welfare benefits you receive, as well as any changes to your employment status.

What happens if I don’t tell them?

You may miss out on a reduction to your Council Tax. If the change in your circumstances means that you need to pay more Council Tax, when the council find out you will have to pay them back for any amount. If they believe you have been intentionally dishonest, you could be in legal trouble.

How much do I need to pay?

The amount will depend on the value of your property, which is calculated by the council. You can find out on their website how much you should pay.

Can I reduce the amount of Council Tax I pay?

The council run different schemes that can reduce the amount of Council Tax you pay. You can apply for these directly yourself, or look for help from support organisations.

Council Tax Reduction

If you're on a low income or you're claiming certain benefits, you may be able to get your Council Tax bill reduced.

This is called 'Council Tax Reduction' or 'Council Tax Support'.

Where to get help
Birmingham City Council
Council Tax Support
Pay your Council Tax over 12 monthly instalments

Most people pay their yearly Council Tax bill over 10 monthly instalments. If you change this to be 12 monthly instalments, it will make the amount you pay each month a little smaller. You can ask your council how to do this.

Where to get help
Search for support options
What should I do if I can’t pay my Council Tax?

The first thing to do is to tell your council to say that you might miss a payment. If you do this, they may offer to let you pay late, or increase future payments to make up for a missed payment. In some cases you could get a reduction in the amount you have to pay.

If you don’t tell them, there can be serious consequences including the potential of going to prison.

Income tax

If you have formal employment, your employer will deduct the income tax you owe directly from your salary before you get paid. You will see this on your pay slips which they provide to you.

If you have casual employment, you’re self-employed or you have other income, you will need to keep records of everything you have earned. You should register for self-assessment tax via the government website, and submit your own tax return form after the end of the tax year (5th of April).

Self-assessment tax returns
How do I complete my self-assessment tax return?
1
Check if you need to submit a self-assessment tax return
2
Register for self-assessment tax

You will need to register yourself for self-assessment tax once the tax year has ended. The tax year ends on the 5th of April. You must register before the 5th of October. You can do this via the HMRC website. Once accepted, you will receive your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) in the post. This may take several weeks.

3
Submit your tax return

You can complete your tax return on the HMRC website once your registration has been accepted. The deadline is the 31st of January for the previous tax year. You should do this well in advance in case you have problems or need help. Once submitted, the HMRC website will tell you if you owe tax, and how much.

4
Pay for any tax due

If you owe any tax, you must pay this before the 31st of January. HMRC will have provided you with details of how to pay when you submitted your tax return.

National Insurance

You will need to pay National Insurance on any work you do over the current threshold. If you have formal employment, your employer will deduct the amount you owe directly from your salary before you get paid. You will see this on your pay slips which they provide to you.

If you are self-employed, you will need to pay this annually, as part of your self-assessment tax return.

Get a National Insurance number

A National Insurance number is provided to you by the government, and is used by your employer to ensure you are paying the right taxes. You will only get one of these, and it will never change. If you have a BRP card, you can check this to see if you have already been given a National Insurance number. If you haven’t, you should apply online via the government website.

How do I apply for a National Insurance number?
What should I do if I have lost my National Insurance number?