While it’s easy for North Americans to make the initial financial transition into Panama, opening a bank account in Panama is a little more logistically complicated. Almost all banks require the following: 3 months’ bank statements from a personal account in your home country, a copy of every page of your passport, and personal references to vouch for your credit history and personal character. There is also usually an in-depth interview where you may be asked questions about your finances and income.
It is also more than likely that there will be a minimum balance required in your account at all times (much like a checking account in the US). This might all seem a little extreme, but it is Panama’s best effort to protect itself from money laundering and maintain financial order in a hub of banking.
If you do decide to open an account, make sure to plan accordingly for the time it takes to process – it could be weeks or months depending on paperwork, processing etc.
The upside is that there are several international banks with branches and even headquarters in Panama City. A large number of banks have English-speaking representatives and tellers, and service is very good. Non-citizens can expect a similar experience with tellers that they receive in the US and similar banking hours of operation.
Opening a Panamanian bank account can also make for easier transaction of investing and purchasing real estate, as well as avoiding international withdrawal fees from ATMs. It may be a bit of a long process, but if you’re planning on residency in Panama, it’s worth the wait.