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Found 7 results

  1. If you are considering obtaining residency in Panama through the Friendly Nations Visa, be advised that yesterday through the publication of Executive Decree # 197 the requirements of the Friendly Nations Visa have been modified: The up-coming changes can be summed as following: 1. The Friendly Nations Visa will be a two-step application. This means that the foreign applicant(s) must submit an application through a Panamanian lawyer. Once the file has being processed and the petition has been approved the applicant(s) will be granted a residence permit for two (2) years. Contrary to what was granted in the past, where with a single application a permanent residence permit could be obtained. Now after two years, all applicants must present a second application, submitting practically the same documents requested in the first application (with the exception of the governmental state application fees and repatriation deposit) in order to receive their permanent residency in Panama. 2. The second modification relates to the proof of economic activity in Panama and proof of financial solvency. Until now it was necessary to open a bank account in Panama and set-up a Panamanian corporation to fulfill these requirements (although the details have been changed constantly in the past years). The bank account has been eliminated as a requirement, as well as the obligation to have a Panamanian company to demonstrate the intention to carry out an economic activity in Panama. Now, unless you have a guaranteed job offer from a Panamanian company you must proof a real estate investment in Panama for a minimum amount of USD$200,000 in order to qualify for the Friendly Nations Visa. Which documents do I need to qualify for the NEW Friendly Nations Visa? Here we have listed the detailed requirements for you: 1. Three (3) passport-size photographs. 2. Documentation that proves the reason for requesting permanent residency, which may be fulfilled in two ways: Option 1 - for labor reasons: This means a company in Panama wants to hire you as an employee and therefore the employer must present documents to the migration authority, for example: employment letter, certificate of incorporation issued by the Public Registry of Panama that proves the existence of the company, business license etc. The employer and employee must also file for a work permit through the Ministry of Labor. Option 2 - for investment reasons in real estate: The applicant must invest in a property in Panama with a minimum value of two hundred thousand dollars (US $ 200,000.00). 3. In case you apply as a family with children or married couple you must also submit a marriage certificate and/or birth certificate of the (minor) children in order to prove kinship, together with a proof of domicile in Panama and a letter of responsibility signed by the main applicant. Remember that the marriage and/or birth certificate must be duly authenticated via apostille (or through the Panamanian consulate in your home country) as well as translated into Spanish by a licensed interpreter in Panama. The general requirements remain the same: All applicants of legal age must present a criminal background check (duly authenticated via apostille or through the Panamanian consulate in your country, and translated into Spanish by a licensed interpreter in Panama), copy of the complete passport, health certificate, and state application fees (250USD$) as well as repatriation deposit (800US$), among others. I have already planned my Friendly Nations Visa application in June. What do I do now? The changes and new requirements will come into force in August 2021. All clients who wish to present before this date will obtain permanent residency with a single application by fulfilling the requirements to date (bank account, Panamanian corporation etc.). According to the law, the government will respect all residency permits that have been already granted or are currently being processed. After August, when filing for a Friendly Nations Visa a two-step application will be required, and the new requirements (job offer or real estate investment) must be met.
  2. Before starting any business, apart from the study and analysis of the market, profitability and competition, you should investigate the legal requirements in order to execute your entrepreneurial idea. Certain economic activities require a special commercial license. Although in Panama there are not as many restrictions as in other countries when it comes to starting your own business, there are certain commercial activities that are exclusively reserved for nationals. This limitation is based on Article 20 of the Constitution of the Republic of Panama, which establishes that Panamanians and foreigners are equal before the law, but for reasons of labor, national economy, morality, health, public safety and other conditions, the exercise of certain activities may be denied to foreigners in general. Which activities are reserved for nationals? Retail in general is reserved for Panamanians. That is to say, the direct sale of products to the Consumer (B2C). But it is possible to sell wholesale products (B2B) to distributors, supermarkets or other stores that sell directly to the customer. It is also possible to import and export products or merchandise. And, there are certain exceptions when it comes to agricultural products that you produce yourself on your own your farm and then sell them (example farmer's market). The so-called "liberal professions" in Panama require a special permit and can only be performed by Panamanians by birth or foreigners with a letter of naturalization. These include the following professional branches: Nursing, Barbering and cosmetology (there are exceptions for foreigners married to Panamanian nationals), Dentistry, Engineering (Civil, Chemical and Forestry are not allowed, the rest are), Architecture (there are exceptions for foreigners married to nationals), Agricultural Sciences, Pharmacy, Chiropractors, Nutrition, Medicine, Psychology, Medical Assistants, Accountancy, Journalism, Laboratorians, Public Relations, Speech Therapists, Therapists and the like, Economics, Social Workers, Veterinary Medicine, Physiotherapy, Medical Radiology, Law, Dental Assistants, Sociology, Chemistry, Sociology, Chemistry, Education in the following fields: History, Geography and Civics. (The rest of the fields are allowed). If I studied a career in medicine or nursing, can I practice it directly in Panama as a foreigner? The answer is no. Unless you are naturalized and your degree is recognized in Panama, you cannot. But what you can do is to incorporate a company in Panama (for example, a private clinic or an agency offering nursing services) and be the owner of that company and hiring licensed Panamanian employees to perform the service under your supervision. For the activities of engineering, architecture, insurance, real estate companies, certain tourism companies (such as travel agencies or tour operators) among others, there is a special rule that says that the president and legal representative of the company must be the person who holds the license to exercise that economic activity. In that case, it is possible to hire a person with said license, but it is the company that provides the service. The same company of which you are the owner. You would be the one who manages and administrates the company and provides instructions based on your experience and knowledge in that field. But it will be your company together with your collaborators, that will execute the work and carry out the commercial activity. You may not be able to validate your architectural degree in Panama (or it may be a little difficult to do so), but it is possible for you to have your own construction company. Which activities are allowed for foreigners in Panama? Services and wholesale activities are accessible to foreigners. This means that you can open a hostel or B&B, you can open a restaurant, import and/or export products, work remotely offering (digital) services to customers anywhere in the world, invest in real estate and live on rent and much more. In fact we have clients all over Panama who operate touristic and/or gastronomic companies, who are owners of hostels, hotels and restaurants, who produce strawberries, tofu or grow gourmet coffee, who are involved in construction, real estate projects or real estate investment, who offer maritime services, who provide IT services to clients in Germany, logistics services, who sell digital products or software, real estate agents and property managers, who work remotely as freelancers for clients in Europe and/or the United States, who buy nails in Taiwan and sell them to European companies, and much more. As corporate lawyer I am passionate about entrepreneurship and new business set-ups, and there are endless opportunities and entrepreneurial ideas to discover. Tell me about your experience. What is your business idea?
  3. Due to my business I am a frequent traveler. However, flying in times of a global pandemic brings new challenges and experiences. In the last 20 years I have never seen the airports as empty as they are now. It reminds me a lot of the 90s when I was flying for the first time without my family to England. When planning your trip to Panama there are some important details to consider. Important recommendations for passengers coming from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Holland, Spain, USA, Canada, etc. If you travel from one of the countries of the European Union, United States, Canada, etc. to Panama, at the time of arrival at Tocumen airport you must present a negative PCR or antigen (rapid) test, which must not be older than 48 hours. With this it is not necessary to take another test at the Tocumen airport or comply with any type of quarantine. If you do not carry such test, if your test is expired or if your test does not meet the minimum requirements established by the health authority, you must take a COVID-19 rapid test at the Tocumen airport (at your cost). Requirements for passengers arriving from South America, United Kingdom, India or South Africa The Panamanian health authorities established the following entry requirements for passengers coming from and having stayed or transited through the United Kingdom, the Republic of South Africa, India or any South American country during the last 15 days. In order to travel to Panama, you must present a negative PCR or antigen test which must not be older than 48 hours. Additionally upon registration with the National Immigration Service in Panama, passengers coming from or who have transited through the United Kingdom, South Africa, India or South America, during the last 15 days, must take a COVID-19 test at Tocumen airport at their own expense (costs 85USD). If this test is negative, the person must comply with a three (3) day isolation period (remember that this only applies to passengers coming from South America, United Kingdom, India or South Africa). If you are Panamanian or a foreigner resident of Panama (and have the corresponding documentation, i.e. migration ID card or E cedula and proof of address such as a lease contract or title deed) you may serve the isolation period at your residence in Panama. Otherwise, the isolation period must be spent in a non-COVID-19 surveillance hotel for non-COVID-19 travelers at state expense. Isolation may also be carried out in hotels authorized by the health authority at your own cost. In this case you must present your reservation to the airline before boarding the plane to Panama. Either if you spend the isolation period at home or in a hotel, in both cases, at the end of the three days period, another PCR or antigen test must be performed. This test must be done by the health authority at its expense in a laboratory that has an operating permit from the Technical Board of Health and is validated by the Gorgas Memorial Institute). If the test is negative the the isolation will be concluded. For passengers who test positive upon arrival in Panama, a COVID-19 RT-PCR test and +ICGES analysis must be performed, complying with mandatory isolation for 14 days. Now, in practice, what is it like when you travel to Panama? First, before planning your trip, find out where to get a PCR or antigen test, which it is legally recognized for travel purposes. Nowadays, major airports already have laboratories for such tests. Depending on the day of the week a PCR test can take about 24 hours (although I know of a lab in Vienna that delivers it in 90 min) and an antigen test result can be available in about 15 to 30 minutes. Please note that when traveling, not all countries will accept an antigen test for entry into the country. Panama accepts antigen or rapid test, Spain for example only accepts PCR tests. You will usually receive your COVID-19 test result to your email so that it is available during your trip on your mobile phone. Choose the lab ahead of time and schedule your appointment early to get your PCR or antigen results prior to your flight. It happened to me that I arrived at the airport once on a Sunday thinking I could get a quick PCR test before my trip, and no.... but that’s another story. When you arrive at Tocumen airport in Panama, you must enter with your mask on, and its use is mandatory at all times and in all airport facilities. Likewise, your temperature will be taken by airport personnel. Immigration and customs lines are properly marked on the floor. Immigration and customs agents will serve you through protective windows to ensure physical distance. To enjoy your flight and reduce your stress level, we recommend the following:: 1. Investigate the travel requirements of the country of origin and destination in a timely manner. 2. Do Web Check-In and download your mobile boarding pass. 3. Remember to bring your mask. 4. Arrive at the airport at least 3 hours before your flight departure time. 5. Take into account that in some airports, only passengers who are going to travel are allowed to enter the facilities. 6. Remember that you can bring food on board for your personal consumption. 7. To expedite the boarding process, have your boarding pass ready, as well as your passport and COVID-19 test. 8. When passing through immigration control in Panama, remember to show your passport and migration ID card or E cedula (if applicable). If you are entering Panama as a tourist, remember to have your hotel reservation or place of lodging at hand. Feliz viaje! Have a safe flight!
  4. The owners of apartments or real estate that are subject to the Horizontal Property Regime in Panama, have the obligation to pay taxes, related to their individual real estate unit, as well as regarding the land on which the building is built. Here we are going to explain why you must pay taxes for your condominium under the Horizontal Property Regime, even if you have a tax exemption for the apartment. In Panama many years ago, most of the owners of an apartment (which we will now call PH) took into account that if the value of their apartment was less than USD$30,000, they did not have to pay real estate taxes for the land on which the building is built. But as a result of a law created in 2010 that modified the tax code in relation to real estate taxes, it is established that "the first $30,000 of this fee will not apply to the land of the properties subject to the horizontal property regime". In other words, the land where the building was constructed is taxable since it becomes common land, that is to say, the co-owner's land. The law does not say how to pay the taxes, and generally people forget to pay them and accumulate a debt with the tax office over the years. The Panamanian tax office distributes this tax among all the co-owners of the building and assigns the payment to each one of them in their individual account (according to the respective property number). In my professional opinion, and I agree with other professionals on this, as the land is a common good, that is to say it belongs to all the owners where the building is built, the tax should be paid in full and each owner should deliver his share with the monthly administration fee. But in practice this is not the case. The tax is not included in the common maintenance fees, which is why it is often forgotten. Nevertheless, each individual owner is responsible for paying his taxes and keeping up with his fiscal obligations. Now why is this happening? When a property is incorporated into the PH regime, two properties (fincas) are automatically created. The first property is the PH (the common property) with a different number and which is registered in the PH section of the Public Registry. This property has an initial value that is set by the developer that built the project. The other properties that are created, are all the apartments, one of them or several can be yours. This is called private property. The exempted improvements only correspond to each of the properties of the PH, i.e. the apartments, but this does not include the common property, i.e. the building constructed on that land. By law you will not be able to exonerate the real estate tax of that land. Therefore, if the value of the land is 1 million dollars, the tax to be paid is calculate based on this value at the rate of 1%. And this 1% is distributed among all the real estate units, i.e. all the apartments in the building. The 1% is paid in three installments per year: at the end of April, August and December. However, it is possible to pay in advance. When the exemption period of your apartment expires, you will pay for the value of the apartment plus the amount of the participation coefficient, that is to say, the 1% we have already mentioned. What if I have a "normal" property? How much do I pay? As of 2019, properties declared as family patrimony - principal residence (through a special procedure at the tax office, because nothing is automatic in Panama) must pay a real estate tax according to the value declared in the Public Registry, i.e.: Between USD$0 and USD$120,000 = exonerated. Between USD$120,001 and USD$700,000 = 0.5% of the value. Over USD$700,000 = 0.7% of the value. My property has not been declared a family patrimony, how much should I pay? From USD$0 to USD$30,000 = exonerated. From USD $30,001 to USD $250,000 = 0.6% of the value. From USD $250,001 and USD $500,000 = 0.8% of the value. Over USD $500,000 = 1.0% of the value. Banks became property tax withholding agents. The amendments to the Tax Code now obligates banks in Panama to help the tax office by withholding the respective tax for each apartment or property in general that has been acquired through a mortgage financing. With the exception of new homes which have an exception for up to three years, with the condition that you have never purchased a property before and that it is your first home. Property Exemptions in Panama: Why? The developers, or construction companies according to the tax office are recognized a type of exoneration to the constructions of those projects which construction permit was in force prior to 2018. After this date the developers must pay the respective tax from the legal birth of the PH property. The exonerations in Panama are created with the purpose of promoting the economic development of the country encouraging people, nationals or foreigners who want to do business in Panama and develop the country, and in return the Panamanian government grants them tax incentives. Therefore, farms dedicated to agricultural activities which cadastral value does not USD$350,000.00 are exonerated from taxes every 5 years while maintaining their activity.
  5. Rights of Possession (ROP) or “Derechos Posesorios” may seem a simple way of investment...but they are not. In fact, they are more complicated if you really want to prevent a legal problem in the near future. In order to explain the difference between a property that has ROP and a property that is titled, we must first know how the Panamanian government legally creates a property. In simple words, the land from the beginning belongs to the government of Panama. Then the government "assigns" those rights so that there is supply and demand and the land increases in value as it passes from hand to hand (buying and selling) that is where the government starts to make money from taxes. As the government of Panama is not a real estate company, nor is it dedicated to real estate activities, they have to guarantee that the land that belongs to the government are for public use and benefit, of course protected by the law. Faites votre jeux - Get your game on. Once I know that I want a property "without title" the first thing I must do is to have the right to "occupy" it, that is why they are called “rights of possession", because I must possess it as my own. If a person "occupies" a property but it belongs to another person, and this person does not care, because it is a "possessory" right, he can lose this right in a period of one (1) year. Obviously, in Panama, nothing is automatic. This person who is the new unregistered owner, and just arrived and occupied the property, can approach the government and ask to be given that ROP. If there is someone who opposes, then they don't give it to him. If nobody objects, then it is theirs. The same happens if you want to title the property, that is to say, a public deed is drawn up, registered and it is known to all, that this property belongs to you. To do so, you will have to prove that you are the owner. If you are thinking of buying ROP, keep in mind the following (as a frame of reference, remember that every case is different). You need to ask for the plan with the geographic coordinates, to define exactly where the property is located. Also, your seller has to prove that he is the "de facto" owner, that is to say, by means of a certification from the police authority stating that the seller has been living there for five (5) years, you can also ask for affidavits from the neighbors as witnesses. In addition, receipts for electricity, water and telephone expenses must be presented, as well as all other suitable documentation that may prove that this person exercises the spirit of owner over this property. This happens because, although a property has ROP, according to the law in Panama, you can lose your right when another person takes the property for himself in a "peaceful" way. Or in short, another person lives on the property for more than one (1) year and you allowed him to do so without expelling him. The stakes are set, or not? The law in Panama establishes that the person who has the ROP has to occupy the property, has to fence the property, has to work it, has to build on it, has to preserve nature, watch over it and protect it so that other people do not take it. There is a technical legal word for this situation and it is called "Acquisitive prescription of dominion”. That is to say, if I have a ROP and I did not exercise my right, and I allowed another person to do so, according to the law in Panama, I can lose my ROP in one (1) year, and that gives the right to another person to prove in the courts of justice in Panama that he is the legitimate owner. Another important issue to know is that the ROP can be registered by a natural or corporate body. When the land titling process is finished, the natural person will pay a symbolic price to the public office of the government, but when it is a corporate body it can be very expensive compared to what a natural person would pay. You should also keep in mind that not all properties that have ROP can be titled, i.e. it must not be a protected area, comarca territory, private estate, administrative concession area, land assigned in use and administration, among others, as well as it must not have a conflict, or judicial/administrative litigation. If you wish to title an island or insular territory, you must prove the occupation for more than five (5) years and the physical dominion with owner's intention, in a pacific and interrupted way, through suitable means, that is to say, certifications of the Mayor's Office (this documents by itself is not enough as a proof), affidavits of witnesses of the community or of the neighbors, photos of the land and of the constructions made on the property, plans with GPS position and detailed location, with its boundaries, measurements and neighbors, public services contracts, construction permits, among others. Rien ne va plus - The die is cast. In summary, buying a ROP can be cheaper compared to a property that has registered title. However, as lawyers we do not gamble, and due to our professional experience we strongly recommend buying titled properties in order to guarantee your investment in the future.
  6. Do You Want to Expand to the LATAM Market? Consider These Three Key Factors Due to the current situation caused by COVID-19, we can observe an explosive growth in online sales. This ongoing trend brings new business opportunities, as well as new ways to access the Latin American market (LATAM) for entrepreneurs from Europe, the United States, and Canada. The LATAM e-commerce market is expected to grow by 29% from 2020 to 2024. 25% of online customers made their first online purchase in March of this year. The products with the highest online sales in LATAM include computers and accessories, home appliances, clothing and shoes, tools and building materials, home accessories, and furniture. But in order to sell successfully online, you have to analyze and study the consumers, their preferences, and local tastes, as well as cultural differences. For this reason, in this week’s Blog, I have summarized three key factors to consider when expanding or starting your online business in LATAM: 1. Web Design In the virtual world the website of any business, store, or professional service is a business card to the outside world. Just like any restaurant, hotel, dental clinic or law firm tries to create a pleasant physical space to receive their diners, guests or clients. The creation of a business web space should follow the same concept to receive its virtual clients. When creating a website for the LATAM market local consumers expect its content to be visually pleasing, fast website navigation, and preferably a chatbot that is available 24/7 to answer the most urgent questions. LATAM online consumers appreciate the ability to purchase without registering and a variety of payment methods which, of course, should ensure a safe shopping experience. 2. Marketing and Customer Interaction The typical LATAM online consumer is young and likes technology. 85% of the population in LATAM is an active user of social networks, the most popular being Whatsapp, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter. This is why network marketing campaigns and constant interaction with customers are key in the online expansion into the LATAM market. The communication methods preferred by consumers are email (57%), text messages (27%), via a business' own mobile app (26%), Facebook (23%), Whatsapp (10%), and Instagram (10%). 3. Seasons and Shopping Campaigns Let's be honest, we're all bargain hunters. The typical LATAM consumer loves bargains. It's very common to wait for a special campaign or sale to make purchases. In the retail sector, 78% of sales are made for Christmas, 68% for Black Friday, 58% for Cyber Monday, 53% for Mother's Day, and 52% for Valentine's Day. Other special occasions for smart spenders are Children's Day, Father's Day and Back to School. Before launching a new business or expanding your existing company into the Latin American market, remember to study and analyze the preferences of your market and your future customers. Although LATAM is a large market with a lot of potentials, it is necessary to fragment the various regions taking into account that there are cultural and traditional differences along with specific local characteristics and challenges.
  7. This was an offshoot of the posting about Qualifications of Lawyers in Panama. This is a completely anonymous survey, I'm essentially just testing the system to see if anyone uses it....or cares!
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