English in need of a bank account

Hi everyone,

My husband and I purchased a property in Cedro, Carolina two years ago. We are renovating it (my husband is a builder - thankfully).  The process of purchasing, shipping stuff from the UK has been interesting to say the least. It has certainly been a big learning curve. Fortunately, we have a few lovely Puerto Rican friends that have helped us along the way.

We live and work in England. We get over to the Island usually every few months to carry on with renovations.

The problem that we have is not a single bank will allow us to open a basic account. We have been to them all. We have been directed from smaller branches, to have meetings with main branches in Santurce, still to no avail.

The main branches told us we could open an international account. This is not suitable for us as they require a large amount of money to be deposited in at all times.

We have looked into trying to get an ITIN number. We have drawn a blank there, as we have been told we can not have an ITIN number unless we have accounts to submit.

It is so difficult not being able to have a checking account. We brought our house cash, so we own it outright. Therefore, we have a physical address in Puerto Rico, all identification that is required, utility bills. It’s so frustrating. We don’t want credit or to borrow. We just want to have an account to make it easier to pay bills etc.  At the moment we are relying on our friends helping us (they deal with bills and we pay them in turn).

Last time we were at a Banco Popular (three weeks ago). It took 2 hours to change some English pounds to dollars!!. The banking teller told us she couldn’t do it to start with!. We knew that it wasn’t the case, but it took her lots of chatting to her colleges, and also on the phone describing the appearance of the notes. You feel our pain?.

I just want to know if anyone knows if it is possible to open a regular checking account?. If so what are the magic words we need to utter?. Which branch do you suggest we try?. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance

Hi hayj,
Wow thats messed up, did you try las coperativas?
Or P.R credit union?
Good luck.
Santander bank, scotia bank?

Hey :)

It really is messed up isn’t it?.

Yes, we have tried them all......

I just can not fathom, why we can’t get a bank account. It all hinges on not having a Social Security number. We have a National Insurance number (UK equivalent of SSN), but that doesn’t cut it.  The ITIN was our hope, but that seems like it’s not a possibility either.  It just seems odd that you can buy a house, the CRIM want paying, water company, electricity company want paying.....we own a property out right and we can’t get a bank account. I understand the need for the laws being in place, however they are prohibitive to say the least!.

I’m hoping (well praying actually, some one knows of a solution)


This is probably an issue with having a foreign account laws.
Only Americans will have Social Security, others will have whatever they use in their country.
Look up Act 20 Act 22 on Facebook, those groups have several non-citizents, most are all in business in PR, so they will need a bank account.

I believe if you have a business you get an EIN number when you register. That then allows you to open a business bank account. It may very well be that rather than a personal bank account, we have to register a ‘business’ of some sort. Seems a bit long winded....

It sounds like the Patriot Act is part of your problem.  (We live on our boat and don’t have a physical address which is one of the new rules of the Patriot Act also.). Here’s some info: https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answer … states.asp

Yes, you are quite right it is the patriot act that is the problem. It is down to the individual  banks how they go about enforcing it.

I have spent so long trying to sort this out. However, I spoke to a very helpful lady at TD Bank yesterday. They don’t have a branch in PR. However, as long as it’s a USA account it’s not an issue for us.

Anyway, the upshot is that it is entirely possible and legal to open a bank account without SNN, ITIN, EIN numbers.

We have to take our ID - passport, driving licence, utility bill from our house in PR to show our physical address (we will probably take our house deeds and perhaps other back up bits), then a E8-BEN form has to be filled out at the bank. We have a PO Box in Juncos for our mail to be sent. Apparently she explained they set up accounts for Canadian Citizens all the time. 

We have to physically go into a branch to open an account, to enable them to verify who we are. All that means is, on our next visit we have to stop on the East Coast, which isn’t a problem as we have to come through USA to connect to PR from UK anyway.

I think Citi Bank probably have a similar set up to TD Bank. However, I haven’t called them up to confirm.

Also I spoke to HSBC UK yesterday too. As one of our friends has a place in Miami, he told us to try HSBC International (who he uses). We don’t bank with them here in the UK. However, if you do have a UK account that you use, they can arrange a USA account to be set up (not a dollar currency account, a proper USA bank account). The man did inform me it wouldn’t be possible just to set up a bank account with HSBC UK and not actually use it and then ask for a USA account. Which is fair enough.

I have given up with the PR banks, I was trying to communicate with them yesterday and they had changed their goal posts again, informing me that there was no possibility of opening an account unless I had a SSN (even with an ITIN number they wouldn’t open an account now allegedly). Who knows?!.  It just got me super annoyed. I thought English Banks were the worst, it appears not!.

Anyway, PR bankings loss is a USA bankings gain.

Hey ho!.


So just got off the phone to branch of TD Bank in Miami. Who tell me that the information I received yesterday was incorrect. As TD Bank don’t have a footprint in PR can not open account.

It looks like HSBC UK and hope for the best.

I can totally see why anyone who is not a USA citizen would swerve all this and invest somewhere where it is simple.

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