One of the first things you need to do when moving to a new country is to open a bank account, not least because you want to be able to transfer money and make deposits. If you’re living in the US, you will want to get a driver’s license or state photo ID. These are simple, routine tasks. But both require proof of address.
As you may already know, finding proof of an address in a new country often appears difficult. What counts as address proof? What’s the difference between an address proof and another form of identification?
- Driver’s license;
- Proof of employment;
- Academic records;
- Bank statements;
- Utility bills; or
- Rent agreements.
Utility bills can consist of payments for water, electricity, internet, or your phone bill, either separately or together.
In this guide, we will look at what works as a proof of address and why it matters.
Why do you need a proof of address?
Proof of address, sometimes called proof of residency, is a document that shows where you live. It differs from other forms of ID, as not all forms of identification will include your current mailing address.
Your address proof should show where you live, physically. You can purchase a post office box, known as a P.O. box in the U.S., for receiving mail, but this does not count as a residential address.
Usually, you will be asked to show both proofs of address and identity. Sometimes, you may be asked to provide two address documents. Even if an organization only requires one item, it may be best to carry secondary proof, just in case.
Your proof of address allows you to access different services and leaves a paper trail. If you are planning to migrate permanently to the US, UK, or Canada, proving your residency will be important. And if you plan to send money back home, having a local bank account is essential.
While you are abroad, it would be helpful to collect as many address proofs as possible. This is because different organizations may ask for distinct proofs.
Regardless of what proof of address you use, it’s also important for it to be recent. Your document should provide your most current address and show your full name, in all cases.
If you are using an address proof without a validity date, submitting the last three most recent bills is the norm.
The organization that asks you for address proof will let you know how many documents they need and how many copies are required.
Proof of address in the U.S.
The most common proof of address in the United States is a driver’s license. We use it for everything: not only for driving, but also as a primary identification card.
The problem for new residents is that you first need a proof of address to get a license, along with documents that show proof of identity, such as a passport card, permanent resident card, birth certificate, and others.
While we’re not going into detail in this article, you can read more about acceptable documents for identity proof at any state DMV website. Pepperdine University also has a handy list available here, under “List B.”
Luckily, there are many options you can use for the proof of address itself. The following documents are commonly used for that purpose:
- Utility bills;
- Rental contract or lease agreement;
- Mortgage statement, for homeowners;
- Documents from your school, such as enrollment papers or a report card;
- Insurance policies or premium bills;
- Bank or credit card statements;
- A pre-printed tax form; and
- Posted mail with your name and address.
If you are in the US for higher education or for work, your school documentation or paycheck stubs will be the easiest to obtain.
Using an Affidavit of Residence in the U.S.
An affidavit of residence is another proof of address, but it will take more time to complete. Your landlord or employer will need to write a letter stating your current residential address and have it notarized.
In addition, you’ll need to attach other address proofs, such as your rental agreement or IRS Form W-4 from your employer as evidence.
You can use additional proofs to supplement the letter, such as utility bills and pay stubs.
How to get a photo ID card
While not as long-lasting or common as a driver’s license, you can also apply for a photo ID from the U.S. state in which you live. This identification can become proof of address as well. You can apply for one from the government agency known as the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
To apply for a state photo ID, you typically need:
- Your green card, unexpired Employment Authorization Card with forms Forms I-766, or another US visa with an I-94 form; or
- Your social security card; and
- Proof of address.
Keep in mind that each state has its own rules. Be sure to read the requirements for your state at your local DMV website or speak with the office.
Note that non-residents and those moving to the country for the first time are unlikely to have a social security number, or SSN. It is still possible to get a photo ID from the DMV without one. The University of Hawaii’s website for immigration services details the process for getting an SSN, if you’re eligible.
Proof of address in Canada
Similar to the US, your driver’s license is a common address proof in Canada. But there are many others you can use, as you can see in this list:
- T4 slips from your employer;
- Your tax returns;
- Rental agreements or receipts from landlords;
- A government-issued photo ID;
- Utility bills;
- Car registration;
- Academic records and transcripts;
- Insurance policies;
- Bank or credit card statements; or
- Notice of Assessment.
Again, items like your T4 slips, if employed, or academic records, for students, will be the most easily available proofs.
You may also find it easy to use a phone, water, or light bill, or your lease agreement.
Proof of address in the UK
In the UK, you will need proof of address to get a bank account, which can be tricky if you need to find an apartment or buy a car. Some British banks will allow the following to be used as address proofs:
- A letter from your university, college or language school;
- A letter from your employer confirming your address; or
- A letter from someone you know who is a customer of that bank, who can verify your address.
Like in the United States and Canada, you can also use a rental agreement, insurance policies, credit card statements, and utility bills to prove your address.
If you are married, you may also be able to use a joint bank account statement or insurance policy as address proof, depending on the organization.
When providing a joint bank or insurance statement, be sure to include your marriage certificate.
Outside help for proving your address in the UK
An additional route for those looking to move to the United Kingdom is to use a company specializing in helping new arrivals. These companies have become well-known in recent years. Their primary function is to set up a local address for you and then, to help you establish a bank account.
While these services streamline the process, there is an associated cost. You will need to decide whether it is worth it, or whether you’d prefer to do it yourself.
You probably already have an address proof
The good news? Even if you have just moved to a new country, you likely have at least one document that works as proof of address.
Whether it’s an employment letter, university transcript, cell phone bill, or a rental agreement, you’ll find that you quickly accumulate evidence of your residence in a new country. Once you have a proof of address and a bank account, you can easily start saving for the future and sending money home.
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