While Filipinos are generally a pleasure to deal with, Philippine institutions are often not that customer friendly. They adhere to checklists and bureaucratic rules. The focus is not necessarily on the substance of the transaction (say not opening accounts for money launderers), but insuring that they have followed proper procedures so that they don’t get in trouble. On the other hand, rules can be waived if the customer establishes a personal relationship with a bank official, most likely the branch manager.
The chief hurdle is the ACR, the Alien Certificate of Registration issued by the Philippine Bureau of Immigration (BI), generally in the form of a card issued by the Bureau of Immigration. If you have a Special Resident Retiree Visa (SRRV) I.D. card, that will generally satisfy the ACR requirement. Bank always ask for a copy of your ACR as part of the account opening process.
Keep in mind that it’s entirely possible for a foreigner to be living in the Philippines without an ACR card. You may have just arrived. You may want to try out life in the Philippines. You may be exploring investment opportunities. You might be shopping for a condominium. You are applying for a retirement or investment visa but that takes time and you need to have a bank in the interim. You will bring the ACR or SRRV card to the bank as soon as you receive it.
Here are a few suggestions. Dress as upscale as possible and ask to see the manager. Branch managers have discretion to waive rules. Clerks at the new accounts desk don’t. It would not hurt to let the manager know that you plan on having your pension direct deposited in their bank and/or give the impression that you are a person of financial substance, perhaps one intending to do business in the Philippines. You may have to go from bank to bank to find one which will open an account for you. Have your passport in hand.
In addition to your passport, have another photo I.D. (such as a foreign photo driver’s license). You may need some 1“ x 1“ or 2“ by 2“ photos of yourself. These are cheap and easily procured. The bank may also request some proof of residence in the Philippines such as a utility bill or rent receipt.
It’s possible that smaller savings or rural banks might be more anxious for deposits and more willing to be flexible. Just realize that such banks do go under.
Bringing a Filipino friend, especially one who knows the branch manager and expects to do business with you, can help reassure the branch manager. Example, real estate agents hoping to sell you a condo, car dealer hoping to sell you a new car — if you can open a bank account.
If you already have an account at Citibank, HSBC or Standard Chartered outside the Philippines you can try two approaches. Ask your overseas branch to help you open an account with them in the Philippines or go to a Philippine branch of these banks, tell them you are already a customer and ask them to open an account for you.
Always be well-mannered, friendly and respectful. Anger or arrogance are almost always the wrong approach with Filipinos
We hope these suggestions help. Good luck.