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Found 10 results

  1. Today Panama’s National Immigration Service has published in detail the requirements for the NEW Friendly Nations Visa and additionally August 6th has been set as the new deadline to submit visa applications under the "old" Law. As of August 7, the new Friendly Nations Law will be in effect. What are the requirements for a residency application under the new Friendly Nations Visa? There were several pending issues that were not detailed in the executive decree published months ago. In practice we knew that they had to be modified and so it happened. Finally, the National Immigration Service of Panama made its pronouncement. Below, we have made a summary of what the new Law says. In order to apply for the new Friendly Nations Visa, an investment must be made by purchasing one (1) real estate property whose cadastral value is at least two hundred thousand US dollars (US$ 200,000). This was already known but it was not clear if the investment should be in the personal name of the main applicant or if it could also be made in the name of a corporation or private interest foundation. Now the National Immigration Service has established that the investment can be made either as natural person or in the name of a corporate body (corporation or foundation) as long as the main applicant is the final beneficiary of said corporation or foundation. This means, by presenting a true copy of the corporate documents of the corporation or the foundation's by-laws. There is a NEW option beside real estate investment Beside investing in real estate in Panama, the National Immigration Service now offers a second investment option which is the following: Investing in a fixed-term deposit (certificate of deposit – CD) with a bank in Panama. The CD must be a minimum of two hundred thousand U.S. dollars (US$ 200,000) and with a minimum term of three (3) years. It is possible to obtain the CD in one’s personal name or by a Panamanian legal entity (corporation or foundation), as long as it is demonstrated that the main applicant is the final beneficiary of the corporation/foundation that holds the CD. Remember, that in Panama any interests generated by a savings account or a fixed term deposit in a bank according to the current fiscal code of Panama do not pay any taxes in Panama. The third option to obtain residency under the new Friendly Nations Visa remains the same: for labor reasons. This means, it is necessary to file for a work permit granted by the Ministry of Labor of Panama. The requirements according to the new Law include submitting a letter of employment on letterhead and signed by the employer stating the position, salary and commitment to assume the repatriation expenses, certificate of public registry proving the existence of the company (if applicable) commercial license (if applicable). But there are not any further details given (yet) on how to obtain the work permit and other documents needed. The new law will have modifications as it is usual in the legal practice, but we can foresee positive changes. In addition, there is now the possibility of obtaining residency in Panama not only by investing in real estate but also in a CD, which might be a more practical option for many clients.
  2. Several companies (especially in the IT sector) are offering their employees more flexible working models and making teleworking the new normal. Nowadays for many employees it does not matter where they work from, which creates new freedoms, self-determination and opportunities when it comes to choosing a place to live. Why not move your workplace to the tropics in the short or long term? Like many other Caribbean countries, Panama has adapted its legislation to the new working conditions and has created an immigration category especially for remote workers and/or digital nomads. With this measure, the government hopes to encourage the development of the national economy, through investment and consumption of local goods and services. To qualify for the remote worker visa you must meet the following conditions: To have an employment contract from a foreign company of transnational character or to be a self-employed worker, in the modality of remote worker To carry out functions that take effect abroad. Receive income from a foreign source and with an annual amount not less than thirty-six thousand U.S. dollars (US$36,000), or its equivalent in a foreign currency. To apply for the Remote Worker-Visa, the following documents must be submitted: Complete copy of the passport duly authenticated by a Panamanian notary. Five (5) passport size photos. Criminal background check from the country of origin or residence (duly apostilled). Health certificate issued by a licensed Panamanian professional. Affidavit of personal background. Completion of the corresponding application form. Copy of the applicant's medical insurance policy. Affidavit of Non-Acceptance of any job offer or service offer from nationals, residents, tourists or companies of Panama in order to carry out business within the Panamanian territory (signed by the applicant). Payment of two hundred and fifty U.S. dollars (US$250) in favor of the National Immigration Service. Proof that your income comes from a foreign source: Bank account statement from your bank abroad (or from a local bank), duly sealed by the issuing bank that proves the transaction of the remittance of the funds and that accredits that the same is linked to the declared labor condition (if it comes from a foreign bank, the statement must be duly apostilled). Additional requirements for REMOTE EMPLOYEES If your are a foreign employee who wishes to reside in Panama to work remotely for a foreign company, you must additionally provide the following documents: Certification or proof of existence of the foreign company you are working for in the place where it is registered (apostilled). Letter of the company (apostilled), on the company’s letterhead, signed by the legal representative stating the following Your general information. The position and functions performed within the company. Your monthly income (which cannot be less than three thousand US dollars US$3,000), periodicity of payments and that it comes from a foreign source. The modality of your job (remote work / home office) The commitment to assume the costs of return or repatriation to your country of origin or destination, if necessary. Additional requirements if your are SELF-EMPLOYED OR DIGITAL ENTREPRENEUR In order to apply for a visa as a remote worker, a self-employed person must provide the following documents: Certification or proof of your company, duly registered abroad, through which you will conduct your business (apostilled). Notarized affidavit describing the commercial relationship with the clients to whom your are providing your services. Once approved the visa as a remote worker will grant you the right to live and work in Panama as a remote worker or digital nomad without having to request any other type of procedure or additional permission. The visa will have a duration of nine (9) months, extendable one-time (1) for the same period.
  3. Due to the recent legal changes in the immigration category of the Friendly Nations Visa we have received many questions and doubts. For this reason we have compiled for you the most frequently asked questions and their answers. When do the new Friendly Nations Visa conditions come into effect and how much time do I have left to apply under the "old" rules? The new decree becomes effective 90 days after its promulgation. If you still want to apply for your permanent residency in Panama under the "old" Friendly Nations Visa you can still do so in June and July. I want to apply for the Friendly Nations Visa in June. Do I have to travel to Panama? How long do I have to stay in Panama for the application? The residency application can only be submitted if the file is 100% complete and all applicants are present in Panama. During your stay in Panama an appointment is arranged at our office in Boquete to sign the necessary documents, deliver the original documents we have already received via email, make copies, open the bank account, go with a member of our team to the immigration office, register your passport with them, have your migration ID card photo taken and receive your multiply visa to leave the country without penalties. The minimum stay for this trip to Panama is four (4) weeks. I want to start my process to obtain my residency in Panama under the "old" Friendly Nations Visa, what do I have to do? What is the next step? We are currently organizing our agenda for June and July. Clients whose file is already completed (i.e. the company is already incorporated and the bank account is already opened or pre-approved by the bank) will be assigned a presentation date for filing their application in June or July. Due to the current workload the minimum stay in Panama for applications presented in the months of June or July is four (4) weeks. If we have not started to prepare your file yet, please contact us to evaluate your case and analyze if you are still in time to take advantage of the “old” Friendly Nations Visa regulations. I have read on the internet that I can open a bank account in Panama online, without coming personally to Panama. In the practice the personal interview with the client is one of the basic requirements in order to open a bank account in Panama. There are even banks in Panama that insist that you must first comply with the personal interview in Panama in order to subsequently send your file to the corresponding department and evaluate the approval of your bank account. Can you submit my application without me having to come to Panama for it? No. After formally submitting your file to the immigration office, a photo will be taken of you in order to issue your (temporary) migration ID card. This is why all applicants included in the application file must be personally present in Panama. I want to apply for a Friendly Nations Visa according to the "old" requirements. What documents do I need? What do I have to do and what do you do or prepare for me? As a first step please email us a colored scan of the apostilled police record, your passport, (just the photo page with your personal information) and second ID document such as identity card or driver's license, as well as the bank reference letter from your bank and proof of income (payslip of the last three months together with a copy of your employment contract). We prepare the power of attorney, forms and other necessary documents. The translation of the documents (if necessary) must be done in Panama. We will send the documents in advance to the translator. Once you have scheduled your arrival in Panama with us, we will coordinate an appointment in our office where you will deliver all original documents, sign powers of attorney and other documents. Additionally, we will arrange an appointment at the bank to open your bank account and to make the first deposit (in cash), as well as to request the bank reference letter necessary for your application. At all immigration appointments a member of our staff will accompany you and give you the necessary instructions to follow. When filing your application immigration will not ask you any questions or conduct an interview, our firm is in charge of delivering and presenting your file and answering any questions from the officials. Do the documents have to be apostilled? This is correct. The police record must be apostilled. As well as the marriage certificate (if applicable), and if you have minor children that you want to include in your application you must also bring their birth certificates duly apostilled. Do the documents have an expiration date? The police record, as well as the marriage certificate, and the birth certificates of your minor children (if applicable) are valid for six (6) months from the date of issuance (not the date of the apostille). If your marriage certificate was issued before 2021 it is no longer valid for your residency application. You must apply for a new certificate at the competent authority. The document must be certified with an apostille. The same rule applies to birth certificates for (minor) children. If you already have your police record and travel to Panama WITHOUT submitting a visa application, once you leave the country the record automatically loses its validity and you must apply for a new one (with apostille) prior to your next trip to Panama. My police record is expired and I don't have time to apply for a new one, can we submit my application anyway and you will tell immigration that I will provide the document later? No. Immigration does not accept incomplete files. The file must be 100% complete in order to be submitted. At the time of presenting your application an immigration officer will review your file, verifying if all documents are complete and comply with the minimum requirements as well as the expiration dates established by law. It is not possible to ask them to accept the file and submit a missing document at a later date. If the file is incomplete it will not be accepted. Do I need a birth certificate? No. Only if there are minor children that you want to include in your residency application. The birth certificate must be apostilled and must not be older than six months (date of issuance of the document, not of the apostille). My partner and I are NOT legally married, can we apply together? No. In order to apply for any visa in Panama as a couple (same file) you must be legally married. Otherwise you and your partner must file a separate application. Do you take care of translations? That is correct. The law requires that a licensed translator from Panama must do the translations. This is why you must send us all the documents by email in advance (before your trip to Panama) so we can forward everything to the translator in advance. How do I obtain the health certificate? We will give you the address of a laboratory in Boquete to obtain the certificate. The cost of the certificate is between 5 to 10 US dollars. Where is your office located? Do I need to travel to Panama City for the application? Our office is located in Boquete. All appointments for file preparation, bank account opening, presentation at the immigration office will be performed either in Boquete and/or David. Once your residency has been approved and to receive your permanent residency, we can make an appointment at the immigration office in David or Panama City, according to your preferences. I have already booked my flight to Panama for my residency application, can you send me a short timeline? It is best to book a hotel in David or Boquete. Boquete (from a tourist point of view) is more interesting to see. We can send you a list of hotels in Panama if needed. Immediately after your arrival we need an appointment at the office and another one at the bank for the account opening. If you bring the necessary cash to the bank appointment (5,000US$ or 7,000US$ if you are a married couple) we can also apply for the bank reference letter at once. Otherwise, you will have to wait for the international wire transfer. Be sure to activate your online banking while you are still in Panama. Also make a note of your bank officer's contact information. After the appointment at our office, the documents you sign during the appointment (and the copies we make) still have to go to the notary. Then we have to make copies of the whole file (there is one original and then two complete copies of the file). Afterwards we can submit the application at immigration office (for this we need your original passport). In the best case scenario we get an appointment at the immigration office on the same day of the presentation of the file in order to get your photo for the migration ID card taken. However, in most cases it will take up to three (3) days to get an appointment. Immigration will then hold your passport for 48 hours to issue the multiple visa. I already have my residency approved in Panama, what is the next step? When should I return to Panama? Before the COVID-19 pandemic clients had to travel within six (6) months (counted from the date of filing the visa application) to Panama to receive their residency in order to avoid any fines. Now (due to the new health measures) it is possible for us to be notified of your resolution without you being present in Panama. We then pay the new migration ID card and send your resolution with DHL to Europe or USA/Canada. This means that between your first trip to Panama for the visa application and the second trip to Panama to receive your residency, more than six (6) months may pass. On your second trip to Panama you must have your resolution on hand to avoid problems at the passport control at Tocumen airport. Then we will coordinate an appointment at the immigration office in David or Panama City to take the photo for your new migration ID card. The minimum stay for this trip to Panama is seven (7) days, if everything is done in Panama City. Preferably the appointment is set on a Monday morning (7:30 am) and you will be able to travel back to your country on Saturday or Sunday of the same week. I want to form a company for my "old" Friendly Nations Visa application, what do I need, how is the process? We have an online form for you to fill out. Remember that in order to incorporate a company in Panama a minimum of three (3) persons are required. In Panama it is not possible to create a sole proprietorship. The two other persons needed can be friends, family members or relatives. It is not necessary that they travel to Panama or have residency in Panama. It is not necessary that they are Panamanians. I have a company in another country, can I use this company for the visa application in Panama? No. For an application under the "old" Friendly Nations Visa, a Panamanian company must be presented. I want to apply for a residency as a single person, can I form a sole proprietorship? No. Sole proprietorships do not exist in Panama. In order to incorporate a company in Panama a minimum of three (3) persons are required. Apart from you, the other two persons can be friends or relatives. It is not necessary that they travel to Panama or have residency in Panama. It is not necessary that they are Panamanians. Can I use my friend's company for my residency? My friends and I want to use the same company for our residency application, is it possible? In the past Panama's immigration service discovered that lawyers were "recycling" companies for residency applications. This is no longer allowed. You must have your own company in order to qualify for the “old” Friendly Nations Visa. Do I need a business plan? Do I need to proof or deposit the share capital to incorporate my company? No. The capital stock of a Panamanian company is generally 10,000US$, but it is not necessary to consign this capital with the competent authority. How much are the company's annual expenses? The annual maintenance expenses of a company are US$ 567.50 (including taxes) plus accounting expenses. I already have my residency approved in Panama. Can I close the company I submitted for the "old" Friendly Nations Visa application? Yes, if you no longer need the company you can close it. How much is paid in corporate taxes in Panama? In Panama for legal entities it is 25%. The tax office also applies a "notice of operations - commercial license"tax, which is 2% of the net assets or patrimony that may not be less than $100 and must not exceed $60,000.00. Corporations that exceed $1,500,000.00 of taxable income may be required to pay the 4.67% rate. Income generated outside of Panama is really not taxed? Panama is taxed under the territorial system, i.e. everything generated within the coasts of Panama is taxed in Panama. Income generated outside of Panama (offshore) does not pay taxes in Panama. What if I invest in real estate? Is there any benefit for me? Yes, if you wish to apply under the NEW Friendly Nations Law you will NOT need to open a bank account in Panama or create a company. With a real estate investment of minimum 200,000US$ in Panama you qualify for this new visa. Do you have contacts of real estate brokers that you can recommend? Yes, we can gladly send you contacts of real estate brokers in Panama. You can also research rental and sales prices on Panama's most popular classifieds portal called encuentra24.com. I have pets, what do I have to do when bringing them to Panama? There are agencies in Panama City that specialize in "Pet Relocation" services. We will be happy to send you contact information so you can communicate directly with them and verify the necessary documents and the process to follow to relocate your pets to Panama. Do I need any vaccinations to travel to Panama? No. When my wife first traveled to Panama, the Vienna Tropical Institute recommended her all kinds of vaccinations, including yellow fever, hepatitis, typhus, cholera and even rabies. But in the practice, as an adult, at no time have the Panamanian authorities ever asked her for any proof of vaccination.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
  6. 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.
  7. Many clients moving to Panama want to start taking their first steps in the Panamanian banking system, and they always ask me the same questions. It is for this reason that on this occasion I want to talk about banking products in Panama. The Panamanian banking system does not resemble the South American banking system, nor does it resemble or copy the European banking system nor that of the United States. In Panama we are used to take the best of each country and then make our own version. Over the years Panama created its own banking system which I want to explain in general today. What is a Savings Account in Panama? In Europe banks are not paying interests for keeping our money with them. If we remember well a bank lives by using other people's money and makes money that way. There are many ways how the bank can make money from other people's money, but we are not going to talk about that subject this time. When we say that we want a savings account in Panama, it is not the same as a savings account in Germany, nor is it the same as a checking or commercial account. That is to say, the savings account in Panama can be opened by any person, but it does not mean literally that it will be used exclusively to save up money. For the Panamanian banking system you can manage the savings account as you see fit. That is to say, you can use it to receive your salary, to pay the expenses of your household and you can even give the account a commercial use, in case you are an independent entrepreneur or freelancer. It is important to mention that banks in Panama do not distinguish between accounts that are being used for savings, for personal use, or even commercially. It is even possible for a corporation to open a savings account. The bank will pay you interests on your Panamanian savings account. These interests are calculated per year and are paid monthly at the closing date of each month. In Panama, bank accounts are not restricted or limited to a number of monthly transactions, as it is the case with certain banks in the United States where they tell you that you can issue transfers or move your money from one place to another only for a certain number of times. In Panama there is no limit, I can wire as many times as I want from the bank account and I am not charged for it. There will be charges made by the bank for the handling, that is, if I send money abroad from Panama or receive money from abroad into my Panama account. There are also fraud insurances that are basically deducted on a monthly basis, but they are no banking fees charged for the bank account to exist. If you want to withdraw money from your bank account in Panama using your ATM card (tarjeta clave) it is recommended that you use an ATM of the bank where you have your account. Otherwise, banks usually charge a small fee for the use of the ATM. In Europe there are still banks that offer savings passbooks, which are exclusively for personal savings. This modality existed in Panama, but was discontinued. Perhaps a reference of this can be found in the state bank called Caja de Ahorros de Panama. Bank interests are not taxable in Panama. In Panama the updated Tax Code states that interests recognized or paid on savings, fixed-term deposits or any other type of account held in banking institutions physically established in the Republic of Panama, whether they are local or foreign deposits, will not be subject to income tax in Panama, according to the definition provided in article two of Cabinet Decree 238 of 1970. What is the difference between a Savings Account and a Checking Account in Panama? A savings account pays interests, but a checking account does not pay interests. A checking account is entitled to a check book, which will be charged separately by most banks. This type of account exists practically for doing business or execute commercial activities. The conditions to open a savings account in Panama reduce the initial deposit amount, as it is a savings account, but when it is a checking account the initial deposit is higher. This initial deposit cannot be withdrawn and must always be kept as a minimum monthly balance of the checking account. Otherwise the bank will penalize you. What types of cards exist in Panama? The three most common types of cards issued by banks in Panama are: ATM cards, debit cards (with Visa or MasterCard logo, etc.) and credit cards. ATM cards are exclusively connected to a savings account. This type of card only works in Panama and the bank handling fees are very low. This card usually has no name, some have numbers, some do not have much information, this is normal. They can be used to withdraw money at any ATM nationwide or to pay in supermarkets or stores by using a PIN number. Debit cards with Visa, MasterCard or other logos basically work like a prepaid credit card, i.e. you pay with your own deposited money, but without entering a PIN code, but like a credit card; However, the card has no credit line. If the bank account that is connected to this debit card does not have sufficient funds, the card will be rejected. Credit Cards in Panama Credit cards in Panama works like the credit cards in the United States, this means, the bank opens a credit line for a specific amount depending on your income. The bank will lend you that money and with that money you pay with the card. The money the bank lends you is not connected to your savings or checking account. The bank will give you 30 days to pay back the money. In the practice the bank will give you the opportunity to pay back the amount well before the 30 days, but they will not tell you until the end of the month. Then the bank can charge you a monthly interest for the money you borrowed. Mismanagement of a credit card can create indebtedness. If you pay the full amount spent on the card before the closing date, you owe the bank nothing. If you don't, you must make at least the minimum monthly payment to be “in good standing” with your obligations to the bank. And so the monthly cycle begins again. In Panama there exists the Panamanian Credit Association (APC) which registers the credit and service relationships that a person maintains. Based on this registry the banks investigate and verify your degree of indebtedness. Therefore, banks may contact you to offer you more banking services and products. In Panama it is normal for people to keep three, four or five bank accounts since each bank can offer them different products and services in competition with other banks and there are banks that will offer to pay you better interest rates than others. It is well known that in Europe people often stay with one bank for 40 years, this practice is not the same in Panama. Online Banking in Panama Banks in Panama also offer online banking, many with their own mobile APP. We recommend that when you are opening your bank account in Panama you do not leave the bank until a bank officer helps you get the online banking running and your card activated. There are banks in Panama that do not invest much in the quality of customer service and although they offer to pay good interests and have a nice selection of banking products they are very deficient in customer service. So, if you are abroad, getting the bank to help you with Online Banking is going to be a problem. Digital Banks and Fintech Banks In Panama there are no Fintech banks. For this reason banks with banking licenses are very jealous and for this reason there are banks that will not accept to receive international transfers from Fintech banks (like Wise, formerly known as Transferwise). Fintech banks as we know are digital banks that are very economical and have zero maintenance costs because they do not exist physically in one place and do not have employees in an office offering walk-in customer service, and therefore they can compete. These Fintech banks are distinguished by handling multiple currencies in a single account and thus compete with the fees of physical banks. But as everywhere in the world, demand creates new services and products and we might see some interesting changes in the Panamanian banking market in the future. What is your experience with the banking system in Panama? Send me your questions!
  8. With the aim of increasing investment in the country and creating a positive impact to the economy hit due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government of Panama has approved the creation of five new free trade zones in the country, generating a combined investment of US$21.9 millions and more than 10,000 jobs. Some of the free zones are investments of Panamanian entrepreneurs and others of foreigners. The new free trade zones authorized will be located in the provinces of Panama, Chiriqui and Herrera. Three of them will be dedicated to agribusiness, with the objective of becoming important sources of economic growth in vulnerable regions of the country and at the same time strengthening the national logistics supply, knowledge transfer and the incorporation of new technologies in the productive processes. Two facilities will be built in the eastern area of the province of Panama, the Panama Agroindustrial Free Trade Zone (Pacora) and the Aristos Free Trade Zone (Chepo, Puerto Coquira). The Panama Agroindustrial Free Trade Zone will be the largest free trade zone in the country, promoting year-round commercial agricultural production, incorporating the concept of vertical farming and thus lowering water consumption by 95% compared to field production. The objective of the Aristos Free Trade Zone is to promote the agricultural and fishing sector in the area, to support the various production sectors to offer their products in the national and international market, and to increase exports of national products and create new opportunities for the border area with Colombia. In Panama Centro, Zone 1 of the Juan Díaz Terminal will be built, a warehouse for merchandise, manufacturing and logistics activities. In Pesé (province of Herrera), the Las Cabras Free Trade Zone will be installed focusing on agroindustrial activities (fruit processing, production of organic fertilizers, production of high-end liquors, etc.), creation of a productive chain cluster, biomass processing, and management and treatment of urban waste as a source of energy generation. In the province of Chiriquí (Bugaba), the construction of the Global Logistic Free Trade Zone was authorized, targeting companies related to international trade to Central America.
  9. Some will be familiar with today’s topic: Traveling with Children. In fact, taking a car, especially when the children are young, means carrying more luggage than passenger space in the car. But things don’t get easier when taking an international flight. In the practice, it means that you will need additional legal documents, such as valid passports, certificates, and others to have a pleasant and smooth trip. Traveling with Children: Are there any special documents I should bring? If your child does not have residency in Panama and only enters the country as a tourist there is not much to think about. You only need to have the child’s valid passport to pass the immigration control. But, it is highly recommended to bring a birth certificate (duly apostilled), just in case. Are there special requirements if my child is a resident of Panama? If your child has a Panamanian passport or residence permit (either temporary or permanent), you must present the child’s valid passport and residence card (immigration ID card) at the border control of Panama. Additionally, you must have a birth certificate (duly apostilled) and translated into Spanish. What happens if I travel alone with my child and the other parent does not accompany us on the trip? If you are traveling alone with your child and the other parent does not accompany you on the trip, you require a “Permiso de Salida de Menores de Edad del País” (Permission for Minors to Leave the Country). In order to leave Panama and pass the Panamanian border control with a minor who holds a Panamanian passport or resident status in Panama the consent of both parents is required. In the event that one or both parents do not accompany the minor on the trip, the National Immigration Service of Panama requests a series of documents to protect the life and integrity of the minor. How can I apply for a “Permiso de Salida de Menores de Edad del País”? In the past, it was enough to present a simple authorization from the other parent, but a few years ago the National Immigration Service of Panama changed the requirements and turned the process into an online procedure: Step 1: Go to www.migracion.gob.pa and select the migration online icon. Step 2: In the application option click on “Permisos de Menores”. Step 3: Read the requirements carefully and then fill out the application. The necessary documents depend on and vary according to each family's individual situation. Step 4: Attach the required documents, birth certificate or cédula juvenil to the online application form. Once completed, save the application number. Step 5: Print the application and make a copy of all the documentation submitted. Take everything to a Notary Public and legalize the signature(s) on the application. Step 6: On the day of the trip you should have all the original documents and a set of copies at hand. What do I need if I am traveling alone with my child and the other parent is abroad? The procedure is the same as described above. In this case, you must present the original or an authenticated copy of the authorization issued abroad. The same must be duly legalized, either by means of Apostille or Authentication through a Panamanian Embassy or Consulate abroad. Remember these requirements only apply if your child has a Panamanian passport or permanent or temporary residence permit in Panama. For foreign children with tourist status, it is not necessary to apply for any permission. Likewise, for foreign resident children, the “Permiso de Salida de Menores de Edad del País” is only required if the child is traveling with only one parent or a third person (grandparents, etc.). Safe traveling and enjoy your stay in Panama!
  10. Now, finally it is a law. Ley 34 de 2 de agosto de 2016 states in the articulo 2 a modification to the articulo 56 of Ley 45 del 2007. This article 2 have the following information very important for you as consumers in the Republic of Panama. Prices in the local commerce should be well written, clear and visible. This is to avoid any error, mistake, confusion of the customer. Customer will only pay the price that is anounced and stated. If for any reason the product has in its label different prices, customer should only pay the lowest price market. Tipping for the service received will be voluntary. It shouldnt be included in the bill or invoice as an additional charge to the price accorded or announced. However the tipping could be suggested in the bill or invoice but not included in the balance to pay.
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