Opening a bank account in Panama

The following information is intended simply as a guideline for the general requirements which banks in Panama have with respect to the opening of bank accounts here. Each bank has its own requirements and should be contacted with respect to the services offered and the updated account opening requirements.

Panama recognizes its responsibilities in support of the international concerns regarding drug trafficking, money laundering and other illicit funds activity. This was introduced into legislation by Law No. 41 of 2001, following the events of 9/11 and the concerns regarding the international cooperation of banks to ensure that the financial centres do not support in any way illicit activities. Stringent monitoring and vetting procedures have been introduced and banks in Panama take seriously their obligation to comply with the provisions of the Panamanian banking law.

Where you intend to open an account for a corporation, you should be prepared to provide the following information and documentation:

A personal interview. Some banks accept that the interview be carried out over the phone. However, most banks require that the interview be in person. This means that it is necessary for the client to travel to Panama in order to open the bank account. We therefore recommend that when clients come to Panama, they have ready all of the documents & information listed below. If you are not able to travel to Panama immediately, it is sometimes possible to organise an initial phone interview with the bank manager, who will approve the opening of the account, but the client will be given a 3-month period in which they are expected to travel to meet with the bank officer to finish the interview in person.

A clear copy of the beneficial owners passport, as well as one other form of identification (such as a driver's license or national ID card). (Of the passport, this usually includes the pages of the photograph, signature, and personal information pages, as well as the pages regarding entry into Panama). This is required for each director and signatory on the account.

Two bank references for each beneficial owner and account signatory which should confirm the satisfactory conduct of the person's accounts and that the relationships have been of at least two years duration. Preferably, the references will also confirm the actual residential address of the person. Depending on the choice of bank, reference letters may need to be addressed to the local bank where the new account is to be opened.

Two professional references for each beneficial owner and account signatory - which should indicate the nature of the relationship (i.e. accountant, lawyer, insurance broker, etc.) as well as the length of the relationship.

Brief details of the applicant's business (usually called an "Account Profile". This is reviewed by every local bank's Compliance Officer who is required to vet all new account applications in accordance with the monitoring procedures laid down.

See also: List of banks in Panama