The 5 Basic Steps to Moving to Panama, for an Expat

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Are you considering moving to Panama? Have you begun the planning process already but don’t know where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. When moving to a foreign country, it’s easy to get bogged down in planning, and even overwhelmed at times. There’s so much exciting stuff to consider, and when it comes down to it, you just want to enjoy yourself in the process and not worry so much. Luckily, moving to Panama doesn’t have to be a chore, nor does it need to overwhelm you. Simply focus your attention and organize your priorities, and you’ll find the whole thing much less stressful, and easier. Here are our 5 basic steps to moving to Panama that we think you should get to know, in order to make your move as simple, and fulfilling as possible.

1. Think about your long term plans, and how Panama fits in them. Moving to Panama is as fun and exotic as it sounds, and can be both a temporary or permanent home, depending on what you’re looking for. But before really committing to move to Panama, you need to consider how long you’ll be living there for, what you’ll be doing there, and why you’ll be doing it. Look at your savings, income, job or retirement situation, and make a rough decision on whether or not Panama is permanent, or just a wonderful short-term foreign experience.

2. Get a skilled Panama attorney, and start early. A lot of people who decide to move to Panama come before consulting a lawyer, and that’s fine. However, if you want to reduce a ton of hassle, red tape, and costly mistakes, we recommend consulting a lawyer a few months before your move. A good Panama lawyer can help with getting your legal immigration status processed efficiently, find you the right local bank (and help you open accounts), help establish your business (if applicable) and get the proper permits and contracts, and even help you find the perfect house. With pre-move contact established, you can set yourself up for success upon arrival, and use all of your Panama time the way you want!

3. Sell anything that’s not critically important to move with. We know a lot of you love your stuff, and we don’t blame you. In fact, it’s very common for expats to fill container ships to send their things from other countries as they move to Panama. Our recommendation? Bring as little as you can, even if you’re moving long term. Not only is de-cluttering psychologically soothing, and an instant de-stresser, it’s also going to save you lots of money and red tape, once you’re in Panama. Goods are very well priced in Panama, with options for every taste, and every brand. In fact, many home come furnished, and you can get practically any material creature comfort in one of Panama’s dozen mega malls or hundreds of shopping centers.

4. Start learning/practicing Spanish. Although there is a strong English speaking expat (and some locals) community, learning Spanish before you move to Panama will be immensely helpful for you. Speaking the native language will open many social doors, as well as facilitate day-to-day tasks much easier, and with much more efficiency than without. Not to mention, it will be great to arrive already knowing some, and to energize yourself and your Panama adventure by learning even more while you’re here.

5. Shop around when it comes to real estate. Lastly, you’re going to need a place to live, and finding a good one takes time. We recommend you contact a highly versatile Panama real estate agency, or agencies, and taking a look at a variety of properties and property types before you make a decision. Whether buying or renting, you’re sure to find what you want if you shop around a bit, and you can get a lot of that done even before you arrive. This will save you tons of stress in the long run, and give you something really exciting to look forward to upon arrival!

About Manoj Chatlani

Manoj Chatlani is a Senior Partner at POLS Attorneys, a full-service law firm in Panama City, Panama. Specializing in offshore services, including asset protection, estate planning, offshore banking, and offshore corporations, as well as Panama immigration and real estate transactions, Panama Offshore Legal Services offers clients a streamlined solution to all their Panama legal needs. Manoj is a Panamanian lawyer and holds a law degree from USMA and earned a Masters in Communication Law and Panama Tax law.

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