Yesterday, I realized that in terms of planning and work, taking a one-year sabbatical in another country is similar to migrating to that country. You need a visa, a bank account, a place or places to stay, decide what to do with your home/sell it/cancel the rent, a car, and perhaps some more. The past week, one of the things we were not so successful in was finding a bank to open an account. Having an account here would greatly facilitate large payments for buying a car, paying the rent, or making a deposit.
Both Cris and I have some experience with migration to another country and work at universities with many foreigners who share their stories. It seems that one of the hardest things to do is to open a bank account fast. To open an account, a bank usually requires you to have (semi)permanent residence, and a salary. When you land in a country you usually cannot proof immediately that you comply with one or both of these criteria. And often, you need the bank account before you get that proof – typically, the rent and deposit are paid before the month starts, i.e. immediately before you arrive or as soon as you arrive. In some cases, it could be that your employer requires that you have a bank account before they can take you up in the wage administration. You can see where that is going. Also, if you have a personal research grant or study grant at a university, you are not actually employed. You’ll have to be creative.
Four banks, no luck
Cris and I are in a similar limbo: we can show that we applied for a visa, but not that we have a salary from Costa Rica. In fact, we live on savings. This does not suffice at the following banks that we tried: Banco de Costa Rica, Banco National de Costa Rica, Scotiabank, and Mutual Alajuela. That is four times queuing por nada.
Well, fair is fair, we could open an account at Mutual. However it had to be either a dollar account or a colones account. The dollar account could receive transfers from abroad, but we could not get a credit card. With the colones account it was the other way around. If you opened an account for each of the currencies, transferring between the two could only be done at the local office, not on-line. And Mutual had only offices in the San Jose area. That did not fit our nomadic needs.
De aanhouder wint
However, it illustrates that banks do have different policies about opening accounts for mere mortals. Just keep trying them all, and compare conditions. ‘De aanhouder wint.’ as we say in my beautiful language : those who persevere will win.
We will see about that. Today, in one hour, we will try our luck at BAC Credomatic. We passed the initial desk questions and will sit down with a manager … may the force be with us.