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Found 5 results

  1. For over 15 years I have been advising and assisting expats in their first steps in their new home country, and I have also lived and worked in many countries myself. I know from personal experience how it feels to start from scratch, to live as a newcomer in a foreign country, and to know neither the culture nor the language of the new host country. It is perhaps an unpleasant truth, but unfortunately a fact: not everyone finds in Panama what they might have hoped to find. If you are looking for a country to move, then in my opinion it is not about finding the "perfect" paradise, but to choose a country that meets your personal wishes and needs. How these are shaped and what is important to you (or not) is a very individual decision, which, in addition to facts, is always a certain decision of the heart. Therefore, I have summarized five points for you that you absolutely must know about Panama. If you find it difficult to accept these cultural differences and adapt in certain ways, Panama may not be the right place for you. Patience, patience, patience: The clocks tick differently in Panama. Time is a relative concept: "mañana" does not always mean "tomorrow" but maybe "two weeks", "ahorita" is anything but "right now", and it is quite common to arrive at private meetings much later than agreed. Unpunctuality (except at work and when dealing with authorities) is not a discourtesy in Panama. Bureaucracy and a different attitude to work mean that many processes, procedures and work steps are handled much more leisurely and slowly than we are perhaps used to in the USA or Canada. Irascible and brash behavior is often completely pointless. However, a smile and a certain degree of composure and flexibility can open many doors in Panama. “Juegavivo”: A common expression in the Panamanian culture describing a person who charmingly and with a twinkle in his eye likes to cheat a little, swindle or twist the truth in order to benefit from it. As a foreigner it is often difficult to distinguish cultural differences from "juegavivo". Therefore, always inform yourself in advance, especially in business and financial matters. You will find many insider tips and advice in my legal blogs, or simply book an appointment for a (virtual) free initial consultation. “Puente del mundo, corazón del universo” (Bridge of the world, heart of the universe): This is how Panamanians describe their beloved Isthmus and this national pride runs through all areas of life. In November Panama celebrates various national holidays, for this reason the whole country more or less stands still during this month. If you are planning a trip to Panama for business, it is better not to do it in November, and if you do, expect additional delays and allow more time than usual. "Clothes make the man": Clothes and appearance are important in Panama. Even ordinary people are careful to appear neat, clean and well-groomed at all times. Permissive, dirty clothing or vulgar behavior is not always appreciated. Foreigners who dress appropriately usually gain respect. Shorts (despite the temperatures) are usually worn only in private, at the beach or pool. Insider Tip: When attending appointments with public officials or at a bank, always make sure to dress appropriately: no flip-flops, sandals or Crocs, no shorts or miniskirts, no sleeveless T-shirts, loose-fitting shirts or spaghetti strap tops (or dresses). However, it doesn't have to be a shirt and tie. A simple short-sleeved t-shirt, jeans and sneakers are perfectly fine. Don't forget to wear a faceshield as well as a mouth-nose protection (mask) during appointments at the immigration office. “Piropos” or flattery: As a (single traveling) woman (but also as a man) you often get more attention in Panama than you are used to. Many men (and women) in Panama are often very direct when it comes to attracting the attention of the opposite sex or making first contact. If you don't want this, you can simply ignore unwanted remarks or reject them in a friendly but firm manner. Panama is unique. Using the slogan of the Panamanian Tourism Authority, “Panama is for travelers, not tourists." Whether you are looking for a destination to move, want to have a "Plan B" on hand, are interested in investing abroad, or want to spend your retirement in the sunny south. There are many reasons that speak for Panama and inspire expats for this small country. Whether as a traveler, investor or expatriate, the country enchants its visitors with mountains and beaches and offers the unique opportunity to wake up in the Caribbean and have dinner at the Pacific Ocean. In addition, Panama is an insider's tip for investing in real estate overseas. Panama is above all one thing: authentic, open and warm. Let yourself be carried away by the joy of life, openness and friendliness of the locals. It is easy to see why Panama is considered one of the happiest nations in the world. Panamanians like to strike up a conversation with others, be it in the supermarket, at passport control at the airport or in a café. Just try it out, even if you speak little or no Spanish your counterpart will always be eager to help you and make small talk. This is also true when moving around in Panama, whether as a single traveler, with or without children; you can be sure that people are always friendly and helpful. When our daughter was born in Panama, we were often approached by complete strangers on the street or in stores who congratulated us and wished us luck. One time my wife was stopped by the police asking for her driver’s license. At the end the official called over his other colleague just to have a look at the lovely baby on the back seat. And this actually happened more than once. I will never forget when at the passport control at the airport in Tocumen, an immigration officer held up our family (and the whole line waiting). We were just coming back from a trip to Europe, and of course we were tired and exhausted. While being in line for passport control, suddenly the official in charge yelled “STOP! STOP! Stop, here!”. My wife and I looked at each other confused. What was wrong? Then the immigration official pointed to our daughter in her stroller. “Now look a this little princess! Everybody, look a the sweet little girl…”
  2. The experience of traveling abroad in the midst of COVID-19 regulations means a challenge for many...in fact I recommend a lot of patience because each country has its own system of how to deal with the pandemic. That is why in this blog I want to give you recommendations given from my own experience in order for you to enjoy your trip to Panama. First, when you purchase your flight ticket to Panama and have your flight confirmation from the airline, you have to register online before making your trip to Panama; the system generates a QR code, thus letting the Panamanian health authorities know where you will be staying during your trip. Here is the Link: https://www.panamadigital.gob.pa/RegistroPacoViajero Remember that if you are traveling from Europe, the flight is long and the validity of the COVID-19 test may be compromised and the airline may not accept it and worse, may not let you board the flight. Also, investigate in time all necessary requirements not only of your destination country, but also of the country where you will make a stopover or transfer (if applicable). For example if you travel with KLM via Amsterdam to Panama you will need a PCR test (even if you have a connecting flight only). I recommend that two days before your trip (taking into account that the validity of a PCR test is 72 hours), you take the PCR test which normally gives you the result in 12 hours, but there are others that take a little longer. In order to avoid any stress, it is better to take the required test in time. This PCR test will help you to transfer through Holland or another EU country without any problem. However, when you arrive in Panama the PCR test will already be expired. To enter Panama you can also present an antigen or rapid test (according to current regulations, as of today June 11th 2021). Therefor I recommend that the same day you travel, you take an antigen test (at the airport of departure) and the result is given to you in 15 to 30 minutes. With this you can be sure that you will not have any problems when arriving in Panama. Always have at hand in a small trolley or handbag your passport, your airline ticket (which I recommend to have in your cell phone as a photo, pdf and also printed), the required COVID-19 exams (with a copy in your cell phone as a photo or pdf and also printed), because you will always be asked these documents about 10 times throughout your trip. In one of my trips I overheard while waiting in line for the boarding of the plane that an airport official complained to another passenger why he only had the COVID-19 exams on his mobile phone, that he should have them printed out as well, but that is not true, since it depends on the airport and the country, as well as the airline, it is not always necessary to have the printed documentation, but as I explained, better forewarned and be prepared than to have a bad time. Every airport has temperature control at each location, whether in Europe or Panama. As a general rule there are thermal cameras that scan the temperature of all passengers. Once you arrive in Panama you will have to wait in line and wait for your turn to get off the plane, then you will be transported to the airport terminal, and once inside you will be asked again for the COVID-19 test. As I said, be careful that they are not expired. Then you will have to go to get your luggage, which is usually coming out on the right hand side (flights from Europe). Just follow the corridor and you will see the lines, as well as the signs going down some stairs; there you will be asked again for the COVID-19 test and passport, but now, it is to register you in a database (confirming the online registration that you had already made prior to your trip). After passing the passport control (take the left row for tourists, and the right row for foreign residents and Panamanians), you will need to pick up your luggage. Be guided by the signs of the origin of your flight. At the exit of the airport you will feel the humid Caribbean heat, it will take you a few days to get used to it. Don't be surprised if people come up to you offering to help you with your suitcase and bags, asking you if you want a cab. I do not recommend taking one. Cab drivers' fares are very high, i.e. they can charge you between 20, 30 and 50 US dollars. Be careful because free competition of supply and demand rules in Panama. What I do recommend is that you install an UBER application on your cell phone, make sure you have internet connection on your phone because you can take an UBER and it will cost you a fraction of what you would pay in a normal cab, and you will be more comfortable. If you come with a lot of luggage a $21 UBER is enough room to get to your hotel using the highway. Remember that mobile data roaming in the EU is no problem, but when you arrive in Panama you may not have internet. When you arrive you will be able to buy a Sim card. Buy a non-contract prepaid one. A recharge of 20 to 25 US dollars is enough to have internet connection. Google maps will help you a lot to know how to move around Panama. To avoid internet connection problems you can download offline maps of Panama on google maps. However, if you travel to Chiriqui, you will be asked to take an antigen test before you leave the province again. If you travel by plane this test will be done by the Ministry of Health at the airport in David. There is also a private laboratory at the Tocumen airport when traveling abroad. The rapid test result will be delivered to you in about 30 minutes. However, PCR tests are not done at neither of the two airports. Nevertheless there are laboratories in Panama City and David that will help you to get your PCR COVID-19 exam for travel purposes on time, either express in 5 hours, or standard processing time between 12 to 24 hours. On your return to Europe if you travel with KLM please note that the Netherlands requires registration as well, here is the link: https://www.government.nl/documents/publications/2021/05/26/quarantine-declaration). Be well informed before organizing your trip and buying your airline ticket, each country and airport has its own rules and requirements. Have a safe trip, I see you soon!
  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.
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