Emigrate to Panama

⇒ Panama culture

⇒ Climate

⇒ Language

⇒ Panama school system

⇒ Health care system

⇒ Vaccinations and medical certificates

⇒ Tax system

⇒ Economy

⇒ Prices by index

⇒ Real estate

⇒ Company foundation

⇒ Visa

⇒ Safety

Panama culture

The culture of Panama is diverse and rich in influences from different ethnicities and historical developments. Here are some characteristics that distinguish the culture of Panama:

  1. Multiculturalism: Panama is a melting pot of different ethnicities and cultures. The population is made up of various ethnic groups, including the indigenous population, the Afro-Panamanian population, European immigrants, and Asian communities. This diversity shapes the culture of the country.
  2. Indigenous Cultures: Panama is home to several indigenous peoples, including the Kuna, Ngäbe-Buglé, Emberá and many others. These communities have preserved their own languages, customs, crafts and ways of life.
  3. Afro-Panamanian culture: The Afro-Panamanian population has a strong influence on the country’s culture. This is evident in the music, especially in the rhythm of the “cumbia” and the “tamborito”, as well as in the art, dance and cuisine.
  4. Religion: The majority of Panama’s population is Roman Catholic, and religious celebrations and festivals play an important role in Panamanian cultural life. However, there is also religious diversity with Protestant communities and indigenous belief systems.
  5. Music and Dance: Music and dance are an integral part of Panamanian culture. Besides the Afro-Panamanian rhythms, there is also traditional music like the “Tamborito” and “Punto”, as well as modern styles like Reggaeton and Salsa.
  6. Handicrafts: Panama is known for its handicrafts, including molas (colorful textile works) of the Kuna, handmade jewelry, wood carvings and pottery.
  7. Culinary diversity: Panamanian cuisine is diverse and reflects multicultural influences. Sie umfasst Gerichte wie “Sancocho” (eine Art Suppe), “Arroz con Pollo” (chicken with rice), “patacones” (fried plantains) and many seafood dishes due to the country’s coastal location.
  8. Festivals and holidays: Panama celebrates a variety of festivals and holidays, including Independence Day (November 3), Carnival, Semana Santa (Easter), Christmas and New Year’s Day. These festivals are often marked by music, dance and religious rites.

The culture of Panama is rich and diverse and has historical, cultural and ethnic roots that make it unique. The people of Panama are known for their hospitality and friendliness towards visitors and love to share their culture and traditions.

Panama mit seinem beeindruckenden Strand

Climate

The climate in Panama is tropical and is mainly influenced by the proximity to the equator and the two coasts – the Pacific coast in the west and the Caribbean coast in the east. Here are the main characteristics of the climate in Panama:

  1. Tropical Rainforest Climate: Most parts of Panama have a tropical rainforest climate. This means that there are high temperatures and high humidity all year round.
  2. Rainy and dry season: Panama has two main seasons – a rainy season (invierno) and a dry season (verano). The rainy season lasts from May to November, while the dry season is from December to April.
  3. Temperatures: Average temperatures range from 24°C to 31°C (75°F – 88°F) throughout the year. Coastal areas may be warmer, while higher elevations will be cooler.
  4. Rainfall: During the rainy season, heavy rainfall may occur, especially in the central and eastern regions of the country. The Caribbean coast usually receives more rainfall than the Pacific coast.
  5. Hurricanes: Panama is located near the Caribbean Sea, where hurricanes can occur. Hurricane season runs from June through November, and storm activity can occur during this time.
  6. Regional differences: Due to the geographical diversity of Panama, the climate can vary depending on the region. In the mountainous regions, such as the Chiriquí highlands, it can be cooler, while on the coasts it is hotter and more humid.
  7. Mountains and rainforest: Panama is rich in rainforest areas and offers an abundance of flora and fauna. Mountain areas may have cooler temperatures and different wildlife.

Language

Panama is a multicultural country and accordingly several languages are spoken. The main languages in Panama are:

  1. Spanish: Spanish is the official language of Panama and is spoken by the majority of the population. Spanish is used in schools, government affairs, media and public life.
  2. English: English is often spoken as a second language, especially in urban areas and in the tourism industry. Due to the Panama Canal and the presence of American military bases in the country, there are also English-speaking communities.
  3. Indigenous languages: Panama is home to several indigenous peoples who speak their own languages. These include Kuna, Ngäbe-Buglé, Emberá, Wounaan and many others. These languages are mainly spoken in indigenous communities and are important parts of Panama’s cultural heritage.
  4. Afro-Caribbean Languages: Afro-Caribbean languages such as Creole and Garífuna are spoken in coastal areas, especially on the Caribbean coast.
  5. Chinese: Due to Chinese immigration in Panama, there are communities that speak Chinese, especially Cantonese.
  6. Other languages: Due to the diversity of the population, there are also smaller communities that speak languages such as Arabic, Hebrew and others.

Panama school system

For emigrating to Panama with the family, the country’s school system obviously plays a major role:

The school system in Panama is federally organized and is under the supervision of the Ministry of Education (Ministerio de Educación). The education system in Panama includes different levels of education, from elementary school to higher education. Here is a general overview of the school system in Panama:

  1. Elementary school (Primaria): Elementary education in Panama is compulsory and lasts six years. It usually begins at age six and includes grades 1 through 6. The curriculum includes subjects such as mathematics, Spanish, social sciences, science, art and music.
  2. Secondary school (Secundaria): Secondary education in Panama lasts six years and includes grades 7 to 12. In this phase, students usually choose a focus area, which can be either science, technology or arts-oriented. Upon successful completion, students receive the “Diploma de Bachiller”.
  3. Higher education: After completing secondary school, graduates have the opportunity to study at colleges and universities. Panama has several higher education institutions, including state universities such as the Universidad de Panamá and private universities. The length of study varies depending on the program, but can generally range from four to six years. Higher education is free, and there is a wide range of degree programs offered.
  4. Technical and vocational education: Panama also offers technical and vocational education opportunities in areas such as crafts, engineering, agriculture and health care. These programs provide hands-on training and are designed to meet the needs of the job market.
  5. Language Schools: Due to the increasing importance of foreign language skills, there are also language schools in Panama that offer courses in English, French and other languages.
  6. Private Schools: In addition to government schools, Panama has a variety of private schools that offer alternative curricula and educational approaches.

Healthcare system

The health care system in Panama has evolved in recent years and is generally well established. Here are some important features of the health care system in Panama:

  1. Two-tier system: Panama has a two-tier health care system. This means that there are both public and private healthcare providers and facilities. Public health care is free to all citizens, while private health care services are generally used by those who have private health insurance or pay privately.
  2. Public Health Care: The public health system is operated by the Panamanian Ministry of Health (Ministerio de Salud). It includes state hospitals, clinics and health centers. The quality of public health care can vary from region to region, with urban areas generally better equipped than rural areas.
  3. Private Health Care: Panama has a vibrant private health care system operated by hospitals, clinics and medical facilities. These often offer higher quality and faster access to care. Many Panamanians and expatriates use private health insurance to cover the cost of private health care.
  4. Health Insurance: Most people in Panama have health insurance, whether private or through the government system. However, public health insurance does not always cover all health services, which is why many people take out private insurance.
  5. Medical Care: Panama has well-trained doctors, nurses and medical staff. There are specialists and specialty clinics in areas such as cardiology, oncology, surgery and more.
  6. Pharmacies: Pharmacies are widely available and easily accessible in Panama. Many medications, including prescription drugs, are available at pharmacies.
  7. Health care: Panama has health care and promotion programs aimed at improving the health of the population.
  8. Tropical Medicine: Due to its geographic location, Panama has special health programs and measures to combat tropical diseases such as dengue fever and malaria.
Das Faultier ist wohnhaft in Panama - Wann wandern Sie nach Panama aus

Vaccinations and medical certificates

For emigrating to Panama, there are certain vaccinations that may be recommended or even required under certain circumstances. Here are some of the common recommendations and requirements:

  1. Yellow Fever Vaccination: Panama often requires proof of yellow fever vaccination from travelers coming from countries with yellow fever transmission. This can also apply to immigrants. Make sure to check your vaccination status and get a yellow fever vaccination before entering the country, if necessary.
  2. Routine Immunizations: It is recommended to make sure your routine vaccinations are up to date, whether they are required for immigration or not. These include vaccinations against tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, polio, mumps, measles, rubella and chickenpox.
  3. Hepatitis Vaccinations: Some health authorities recommend hepatitis vaccinations, especially hepatitis A and B, as these infections can occur in certain parts of Panama.
  4. Travel Vaccinations: Depending on your travel plans and destinations, additional vaccinations may be recommended. This could include vaccinations against typhoid, meningitis, rabies or other diseases.
  5. Malaria prophylaxis: There is a risk of malaria in some parts of Panama. If you will be traveling or living in areas where malaria is present, taking malaria prophylaxis medications may be recommended.

It is advisable to consult a doctor or travel medicine specialist before immigrating to Panama to ensure that you receive the proper vaccinations and take the recommended health measures. Compliance with immunization requirements and health guidelines can help protect your health and public health in Panama.

Tax system

The tax system in Panama is an attractive aspect for international businessmen and investors as it offers some tax advantages. Here are some important features of the tax system in Panama:

  1. Territorial taxation system: Panama has a territorial taxation system, which means that only income earned in Panama is taxed. Income earned outside of Panama is tax exempt.
  2. Income Tax: Income tax in Panama is graduated and progressive. The rates range from 0% to 25% and depend on the amount of taxable income.
  3. Value Added Tax (ITBMS): Panama imposes a value added tax known as “Impuesto sobre la Transferencia de Bienes Muebles y Servicios” (ITBMS). The general rate is 7%. However, there are also some exceptions and reduced rates for certain goods and services.
  4. Capital gains tax: Capital gains from the sale of real estate and shares are generally tax-free. However, there are some exceptions and rules that must be followed.
  5. Inheritance and Gift Tax: Panama does not levy inheritance or gift taxes.
  6. Dividend Tax: Dividends paid by Panamanian companies to foreign shareholders are generally tax-free.
  7. Tax incentives: Panama offers various tax incentives for international companies, including tax incentives for offshore companies (offshore companies do not pay income tax on income earned outside of Panama).
  8. Tax treaties: Panama has entered into double taxation treaties with several countries to ensure that income is not taxed twice.
  9. Reporting Income: Taxpayers in Panama must report their income and assets, including foreign assets, and there are strict fines for failure to comply with these requirements.

Tax tricks

Panama offers certain legal opportunities to save taxes, especially for foreign investors and companies. These tax incentives are part of the government’s efforts to attract foreign investment and position Panama as an international financial and trading center. Here are some of the ways taxes can be legally minimized in Panama:

  1. Offshore companies: Panama allows foreign companies to establish offshore companies that are exempt from income tax on income earned outside of Panama. These companies generally do not pay income tax on foreign earnings, capital gains or dividends.
  2. Free Zones: Panama has several free trade zones, including the Colón Free Zone and the Panama Pacifico Free Zone. In these zones, companies can enjoy certain tax benefits and duty exemptions to promote trade.
  3. Double taxation treaties: Panama has concluded double taxation agreements (DTAs) with several countries. These agreements prevent the same income from being taxed in two countries.
  4. Tax-Exempt Interest Income: Interest income from deposits in Panamanian banks by foreign depositors is generally tax-exempt.
  5. Capital Gains Exemption: Capital gains from the sale of real estate and shares may be tax exempt in Panama, provided the conditions and requirements of the Tax Law are met.
  6. Tax exemption for retirees: Panama offers a retiree program where retirees can receive certain tax benefits and discounts on various services to reduce their cost of living.

For more information on taxes, the economy and the well-known Panama Papers, see our blog post: Paradise for Tax Optimizers.

Economy

The economy in Panama has developed dynamically in recent decades and is now one of the strongest in Latin America. Here are some important characteristics and aspects of the Panamanian economy:

  1. Panama Canal: The Panama Canal is undoubtedly one of the most significant economic features of Panama. The canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and plays a crucial role in global trade, greatly facilitating shipping to and from North and South America. Revenues from the canal contribute significantly to the country’s economy.
  2. Free Trade: Panama has liberal trade policies and is an important trade hub for global commerce. It has signed numerous free trade agreements (FTAs) with countries such as the United States, Canada, and many countries in Latin America and Asia.
  3. Financial Services: Panama has developed into a major international financial center. It is an important location for offshore financial services and banking. The country’s free trade zones contribute to its attractiveness for international companies.
  4. Tourism: Panama is experiencing continuous growth in the tourism sector. Visitors come from all over the world to experience the country’s natural beauty, biodiversity and cultural attractions.
  5. Maritime Services: In addition to the Panama Canal, Panama also offers maritime services and shipping services. It is home to one of the largest merchant fleets in the world.
  6. Infrastructure: Panama has made significant investments in infrastructure, including roads, airports and telecommunications. This has helped to increase the country’s competitiveness.
  7. Economic growth: Panama has experienced impressive economic growth in recent years. This was driven by investments in the construction sector, transport infrastructure and the service sector.
  8. Labor market: The labor market in Panama is diverse and includes sectors such as trade, tourism, finance, agriculture and fisheries.
Panama - beeindruckend und steuergünstig

Prices by index

Since prices can change constantly even in a strong economy like Panama’s, we refer here to the Cost of Living website. This constantly updates its values and thus keeps you up to date.

Real Estate

As an immigrant in Panama, you have the option to buy or rent real estate. Panama has an open policy for foreign investors and offers various opportunities for the acquisition of real estate. Here is some information about it:

  1. Real estate purchase:
  • Rights as a foreigner: Foreign nationals enjoy the same property rights in Panama as Panamanian citizens. They can own land and real estate in their own name.
  • Title Search: It is important to conduct a thorough title search before purchasing real estate to ensure that the land or property is free of encumbrances or disputes.
  • Purchase contract: The purchase process usually involves the signing of a purchase contract, which specifies the terms and the price. A lawyer or notary can review the contract and handle the transaction.
  • Costs: Additional costs are incurred when purchasing real estate, including real estate taxes and notary fees. These costs vary depending on the location and value of the property.
  1. Real estate rent:
  • Rental market: Panama has a well-developed rental market, especially in urban areas such as Panama City. You can rent apartments, houses, apartments and commercial real estate.
  • Lease: Lease agreements are usually written agreements that govern the lease term, monthly rent, and other terms. It is important to read and understand the lease carefully.
  • Rental costs: The cost of renting property varies depending on the location, size and condition of the property. In Panama City, rents tend to be higher than in more rural areas.
  • Rental conditions: Rental conditions may vary depending on the landlord, so it is advisable to clarify all conditions before signing the rental agreement.
Company foundation

As an immigrant in Panama, you have the opportunity to start a business or invest in an existing business. The Panamanian economic system is open to foreign investors, and there are several business structures you can take advantage of. Here is some important information about it:

  1. Foundation process:
  • To incorporate a company in Panama, you must apply to the Commercial Registry (Registro Público) and submit the required documents.
  • The exact requirements and procedures may vary depending on the type of business and other factors. An attorney or professional business advisor can help you start your business.
  1. Immigration Status: It is important to note that your immigration status in Panama may have an impact on your business. If you intend to live and work in Panama, you must ensure that your visa or residence permit is appropriate for your business activities.
  2. Legal and Tax Advice: Panamanian corporate laws and tax regulations can be complex, so it is advisable to seek advice from a lawyer or specialized business advisor before setting up a business in Panama.

Panama offers foreign entrepreneurs a favorable business environment that is attractive due to its geographical location and economic stability. However, before you start a business, you should carefully review all legal and tax requirements and ensure that you obtain all necessary permits and licenses.

Company forms

Immigrants in Panama can establish different business forms, depending on their business goals, needs and capital resources. Here are some of the common business forms available in Panama:

  1. Limited Liability Company (Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada – SRL): An SRL is a popular corporate structure in Panama. It offers the advantage that the liability of the shareholders is limited to their contributions. This means that personal assets of shareholders are generally not liable for corporate debts.
  2. Joint Stock Company (Sociedad Anónima – SA): An SA is a joint stock company in which the liability level of the shareholders is limited to their capital contributions. This makes it possible to raise capital from various investors and divide the company into shares.
  3. Sole Proprietorship (Empresa Unipersonal): A sole proprietorship is a corporate structure in which a single individual manages the entire business. The entrepreneur is personally responsible for the debts and obligations of the company.
  4. Offshore companies: Panama offers special regulations for offshore companies that can be used by foreign investors. These companies may earn income outside of Panama and are often subject to more favorable tax rates.
  5. Non-governmental organization (Fundación de Interés Privado): This is a non-profit organization that operates in Panama for charitable, cultural or non-profit purposes. It is a suitable option for immigrants who want to start a non-profit organization.
Visa

Various visa options are offered for emigration to Panama, depending on your personal circumstances, professional plans and purposes of stay. Here are some of the common visa options to immigrate to Panama:

  1. Tourist Visa (Visa de Turista): A tourist visa allows foreigners to temporarily live and travel in Panama. Usually the validity period for tourist visas is 30, 60 or 90 days and may vary depending on the country of origin. This visa is not intended for permanent immigration.
  2. Retired Visa (Visa de Pensionado): This visa is for retirees or pensioners who wish to immigrate to Panama. To qualify for this visa, you must prove a monthly pension of at least 900 – 1000€. This visa entitles you to live in Panama and offers tax benefits.
  3. Investor Visa (Visa de Inversionista): This visa is intended for foreign investors who wish to invest in Panama. The required investment amount may vary depending on the type of investment. It also allows permanent immigration to Panama.
  4. Golden Investor Visa: This visa provides them with a permanent residence permit in Panama. The prerequisite is either the investment in a property or the investment of a fixed deposit for at least five years. An investment in the Panama stock market may also qualify them for this visa.
  5. Work Visa (Visa de Trabajo): Foreigners who wish to work in Panama must apply for a work visa. This usually requires a job offer from a Panamanian employer. The visa is bound to the duration of the employment.
  6. Friendly Nations Visa: This visa is only available to citizens of selected nations, such as Germany, the USA, Austria or Switzerland. The visa is valid for two years and can subsequently be converted to a permanent residence permit. The prerequisite for this visa is either the purchase of a property, the investment of a fixed deposit in Panama or an employment relationship with a Panamanian company.
  7. Family Reunification Visa (Visa de Reunificación Familiar): This visa allows foreign nationals to live with their Panamanian family members. It can be granted to parents, spouses and minor children of Panamanian nationals.
  8. Self-Employed Visa (Visa de Autoempleo): If you intend to establish and operate your own business in Panama, you can apply for a self-employed visa. This requires the establishment of a business and the creation of jobs for Panamanian nationals.
  9. Digital Nomad Visa: This visa is for digital nomads and freelancers, both self-employed and employed. The visa is valid for nine months at the first application and allows to live and work in the country. The visa can then be extended once for another nine months. After this total of 18 months, the visa can be changed to another Panama visa or a residence permit.
  10. Student Visa (Visa de Estudiante): Foreigners who wish to study in Panama must apply for a student visa. This usually requires enrollment at an accredited educational institution.
  11. Civil War Refugees and Humanitarian Visas: Panama also offers special visa options for civil war refugees and persons in need of humanitarian assistance.
Security in the country

Panama is often considered one of the safest countries in Latin America, and it has a lower crime rate compared to some of its neighboring countries. However, security in Panama varies by location and region, and it is important to keep some security aspects in mind:

  1. General Security: In most parts of Panama, especially in urban areas like Panama City, general security is reasonable. Most tourists and expatriates can feel safe.
  2. Tourist areas: The popular tourist spots like Panama City, the beaches and the Panama Canal are generally safe for tourists. However, it is advisable to take the usual precautions, such as keeping valuables in safe places.
  3. Crime: As in many countries, there is crime in Panama, including thefts, burglaries and pickpocketing.
  4. Drug trafficking: Panama is a transit country for drug trafficking, and this can lead to security-related problems in some regions. It is advisable to stay away from areas known to be danger zones for drug trafficking.
  5. Traffic Safety: Traffic in Panama can be chaotic, and traffic accidents are a common cause of injury and death. It is important to drive carefully and follow the traffic rules.
  6. Natural Hazards: Panama can be affected by natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes. It is advisable to be aware of current conditions and safety advisories, especially during hurricane season.

It is always advisable to read the current travel advice and safety warnings of the German Foreign Office.
We refer here to the German Foreign Office: Safety advice Panama.

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