Leaving Panama and Moving On

Find out how to close bank accounts, end contracts for utilities and insurance, export cars, move pets and notify residency officials when leaving Panama…

When leaving Panama and moving on, there are a number of tasks to be completed before departure.

  • Returning Australians should consult their government website: Click here

Panama Authorities

There is no need to inform immigration when leaving Panama. Residents who are in the process of applying for their identity card, should inform immigration that they are withdrawing their application.

There is no municipal registration of residents in Panama, so there is no need to notify any municipality when leaving.

Education

In order to cancel a child's enrolment in a school in Panama simply send a letter to the school, telephone or meet with the school to inform them of the child's departure. Leave a forwarding address for any correspondence.

Request any necessary documents, certificates and transcripts. Procedures for giving out transcripts can vary from school to school; in some cases the school may only send transcripts to the new school in question. These documents will be necessary for enrolment in a new school. Note: These documents can be requested from another country after moving, but the process will be more complicated (calling internationally to request them, then having them sent via Fed Ex or DHL; transcripts cannot be faxed, scanned or emailed).

Housing Issues

Rental contract

A resident can terminate their rental contract with 30 days' notice; even if the contract has not expired, or is not due to expire.

Rental contracts should be registered with Panama's housing department - Ministerio de Vivienda (MIVI). If the contract is not registered it is unlikely that the tenant will receive their deposit back from the lessor. If the contract was registered with MIVI the tenant can request their deposit back and will have legal recourse if it is not received.

There is no difference in the termination of a furnished or unfurnished apartment contract.

Utilities

As with any house move, there are utility bills to be settled and meters to be read. If meters are not outside, access to the property will be required.

To cancel utilities it is necessary to go in person to each company with a letter (in Spanish) stating that the contract needs to be terminated from a particular date. Leave a forwarding address with all the companies involved.

These letters need to be written and signed by the holder of the utility contract. If renting a house or apartment and the utilities were set up by the owner of the property, they should be contacted to notify them when to arrange for the utilities to be turned off.

Healthcare

There is no need to cancel anything with any physicians, dentists or any other medical practitioner when leaving Panama.

Anyone who has received dental or medical treatment while in Panama should ask for copies of records or have them forwarded to their new practitioner. Patients needing regular medical attention should seek a doctor in the new destination before leaving, and put them in contact with their old doctor.

Work and Finance Issues

Social security

People coming to Panama for work need to register themselves with the social security system in Panama. There is no need to de-register when leaving the country.

Work contracts

All work contracts are registered by the employer with the Department of Labor in Panama. Employers also notify the tax system when an employee leaves in order to de-register their work contract.

Tax

Taxes in Panama are withheld so that all of the due taxes are paid at the end of each pay period, as opposed to them being paid in full at the end of the fiscal year as is the case in most countries. Anyone leaving Panama in the middle of the year will need to file a final tax return to receive anything that may be due to them. It is advisable to consult a tax attorney or an accountant for assistance in this matter.

It is possible to request to be refunded any taxes that were taken for social security while working in Panama, since future retirement benefits in the country will not be redeemed. These tax refunds would be minimal however, and the process may not be worth it.

Banking

Account closures should be done in person at the branch where they were opened and any remaining funds can be withdrawn or transferred into another account.

If the account has been emptied before notifying the bank the closure can be completed by letter or telephone call.
Where a bank account is to be kept open in Panama it is advisable to enquire about the minimum balance and activity requirements to keep it active. If the account is unused for a certain period of time it will be closed automatically by the bank; this period of time is different from bank to bank, but should generally be thought of as six months.

Insurance

To cancel insurance a letter should be written to the insurance company instructing them to cancel the account. In the case of car insurance, any no claims benefits or a reference letter regarding claims benefits should be requested from the company before leaving the country.

Leaving the Country

Note that certain restrictions are in place on the departure of minors resident in Panama.  When leaving the country, residents of Panama under the age of eighteen must present notarised copies of birth certificates as well as passports. To leave the country, a resident minor will also need to meet one of these criteria:

  • Travel with both parents
  • Travel with one parent, and possess written consent from the other certified by a notary public
  • Travel with one parent and present a death certificate for the other, with a judicial note to confirm the death certificate
  • Travel alone or with a third party, and present written consent from both parents certified by a notary public