Woo hoo! After only 4 and a half months I managed to collect the paperwork necessary to open a bank account!
1st attempt – went to bank with passport, letter from utility company and PPS number – told by employee it wasn’t enough to have my PPS number, I needed the letter from the agency with the number in writing.
2nd attempt – went back with passport, letter from utility company, and PPS number in writing – told by employee that I needed an appointment, and that the letter from the utility company wasn’t good enough, it had to be a bill. Made appointment for Tuesday, as I had a job interview on Monday.
3rd attempt – Went to appointment on Tuesday, only to find that their system showed the appt was on Monday. The person who could open the account wasn’t there that day. Took passport, letter from utility company, print-out of electronic bill and PPS number. Told that the branch three blocks away might be able to open account without appointment.
4th attempt – Went to branch around the corner with items in hand. They were very friendly and told me it would be no problem to open it on the spot. Except that the print-out of the electronic bill wasn’t sufficient, because I might have faked it. Told that I needed an original bill or a statement from another bank.
5th attempt – Went to branch without appointment and carrying passport, letter from utility company, print-out of electronic bill, multiple statements from bank in Germany, credit card bill, proof of PPS number. Told that German bank statements were not sufficient, nor was the print-out. Received suggestion that I call Department of Social Protection (DSP) and ask for a Statement of Benefits to be sent to my house, as this would prove my address (PPS number wasn’t good enough, because it was addressed to hotel we stayed at while looking for apartments). Broke down and cried. Called DSP, sat on hold for 10 minutes, asked for letter. Told I would receive it.
Weeks went by, no letter. For other reasons went to DSP, asked about letter – they said their records showed they sent it and they weren’t allowed to send a second. Said it was likely stolen by someone who thought the envelope might contain a welfare check.
Wrote email to utility company, asking if they could send me a copy of my last bill on company letterhead. One week later that was in my mailbox!
6th attempt – Went to branch closer to my house. Took passport, re-issued bill. Granted bank account.
[Update 14 May 2012]
Walking downtown last night, I noticed that the bank I wanted to open the account at is called Ulster Bank. I had just opened my account at a branch of Bank of Ireland. Sigh.