The Republic of Panama, or simply Panama, is a country in Central America, bordered by Costa Rica to the west and Colombia to the southeast. Panama City is the country's largest city and capital and is home to two million people, which is approximately 50% of the population. Panama's official language is Spanish due to Spanish rule in this area until 1821.
Panama Canal revenue accounts for a significant portion of Panama's GDP, while industries such as banking, trade and tourism are important and growing sectors. Thanks to the canal, Panama has managed to create the largest international financial center in the Central American region, with assets worth more than three times Panama's GDP. Stability, along with a favorable business and economic climate, is considered the main strength of Panama's financial sector. Panama's banking system conforms to the Basel Principles of Effective Banking Supervision. Nevertheless, Panama has a worldwide reputation as a tax haven. In particular, since the publication of the Panama Papers in 2016, the country has made significant progress in improving compliance with anti-money laundering recommendations. In February 2016, Panama was removed from the FATFGAFI gray list, but the IMF continues to see a need to strengthen the country's financial transparency and fiscal structure.
Bank account in Panama
Panama is known for having one of the strictest banking secrecy laws in the world. While foreigners are welcome to open a bank account with Panamanian banks, they often require more documentation than European or North American banks. As such, opening a bank account in Panama can be a relatively lengthy process - unless you have someone you trust to connect you with a bank's account manager, setting up a bank account can take two weeks or even two months.
Different banks may require different information when opening a bank account, but you should be prepared to provide documents and other information as listed below (all documents must be in Spanish):
Copy of your passport photo, information page and page with a Panama entry stamp;
Up to two bank reference letters;
A letter of reference from a lawyer or accountant;
Copy of another ID – national ID or driver’s license;
bank statement for the last 3 months;
proof of income;
Evidence of your relationship with Panama (e.g. proof of ownership, utility bills, cedula, etc.);
Completed forms with information about you and your family and your funding source.
If you decide to withdraw more than $5,000, you may be asked to indicate how you intend to use those funds.
Procedure for opening a bank account in Panama
In general, account opening procedures may differ slightly from bank to bank, but if you decide to work with a service provider that specializes in opening bank accounts for foreigners, the process might turn out to be quicker and easier for you. Companies offering such services usually have their partner banks and they are familiar with the procedures and legal requirements. The procedure for opening a bank account generally consists of five steps:
Submit an online application;
Submit payment to the bank account opening service provider;
Interview – Banks in Panama require an in-person interview before opening a bank account. The call will be coordinated by your service provider. All applications and required documents are submitted during the interview.
Due diligence process (this takes about 20 to 30 business days);
Setting up the bank account – after completing the account opening process, you will be provided with the bank account number, deposit and transfer history and contact information of your bank.