Some Good Information To Help You Open Your Account
Getting a bank account in Panama is a very bureaucratic and lengthy process. Do not expect to walk in and walk out a few hours later with a functioning bank account and ATM card. Do expect the entire process to take a few days up to 2 weeks, depending on the bank and your individual situation. So, when starting the banking process be mindful of a few things.
1) You will need a lot of documentation. Each bank has their own requirements, but below is a pretty standard list that compiles most of their requirements, but be ready to be asked for more paperwork, shall they see it necessary.
2) There are a lot of FATCA documents if you are a US Citizen that need to be signed. W9’s and other disclosure forms must be signed.
3) Your bank account officer in the US must give you all reference letters signed and on original bank letterhead, and a direct telephone number where that person can be reach as they will call them.
4) Your business reference letter issues must do the same, all letters on original letterhead, signed on ink and with a verifiable telephone number.
5) Your accountant must also be available just in case they contact them to verify tax or other income information
6) Your income verification from SS or your retirement fund MUST NOT be any older than six months
7) Your employment verification letter must be original, signed in ink and with a verifiable telephone number. If you are working under a contract, bring your stamped contract.
8) Online banking does not come immediately with the account. It is a process. An officer must set it up for you in order for it to work
9) Checks are not a widely accepted form of payment in Panama. Cash is preferred or credit or debit cards always work best. Be prepared to pay for a Certified Check or Cashier’s Check for most of your check payments.
10) Avoid large bills ($50/$100), they are a hassle. Most places do not accept them and those who do, require your passport number on a log, a Manager’s approval etc. When banking, make sure you do get smaller denominations.
11) Your bank account may be subject to 7% ITBMS, check fees, online fees, etc. Do ask your officer when opening the account what your fees are.
12) It is preferable that your bank and business reference letters reflect a relationship older than 2 years and that your bank balance is an average of mid to high 4 figures (min. $5,000 looks better)
13) Your ATM is strictly an ATM and will likely not have a VISA or MC logo, however, this form of ATM payment is readily available at most locations.
14) Some institutions allow online payments, however, when making those online payments remember that you will be taxed and charged a percentage of the transaction amount. Again, these vary according to your type of account and banking institution, so it’s best to shop around and ASK questions when starting the process.
Natural Person (National or Foreign)
Produce original ID card or passport.
Second identification (ID card from the country of origin, driver's license or social security card).
Reference letters for foreign persons:
Two (2) bank and business reference letter. Original letterhead, original ink signature with a verifiable name and telephone number of the bank officer issuing the letter as THEY WILL call the person
Freelancers must produce business or bank reference.
Evidence of income: employment verification letter or certificate, tax return, payment slips, balance sheets, financial statements, agreements, other for at least 2 years.
Some banks may ask you for a proof of address in Panama which can be a lease agreement, light or other utility receipt or title of your property.
Legal Person (Corporation)
Articles of Incorporation
Certificate of the Public Registry
Notice of operations/ Commercial license
Original ID card or passport and second identification of the following persons:
- Account authorized signatories
- Two (2) bank and/or business reference letter of each of the authorized signatories of the company (if it has more than one (1) year of operation) and the latest shareholders, beneficiary owner of the account.
- Two (2) business reference letters from clients or suppliers of the company, if it does not have one (1) year of operation.
THESE LETTERS MUST BE ON ORIGINAL LETTERHEAD WITH INK SIGNATURE AND A NAME AND PHONE NUMBER FOR THE OFFICER ISSUING THE LETTER AS THEY WIL CALL THEM
Evidence of income: tax return, payment slips, balance sheets, financial statements, agreements, other for at least 2 years.
On the company's letterhead paper: information of the company, account transaction profile, any other information of interest
Please remember each situation and bank institution is different. This is just a guideline. Remember, in Panama, sometimes more is better, Take all that you can and be grateful if you do not need it.