Shipping to Panama

Editor's note: Caridad is one of the most efficient people we have met in Panama. I strongly recommend having a shipper handle things from Panama,rather than from the US or Canada.
David Dell

By Caridad Y. Charette,
Director: Panama International Packers

To move to a new Country can be a wonderful or a nasty experience. It all depends in having the right information to take the “right decision.” But it is hard, when you are moving, to know the exact laws and details of your new country when sometimes even the people who live and worked there do not know them.

Knowing this I am going to try to share with you some key points that may help you take the “right decision” of what, when and how to move to Panama.

The first thing I always tell all my customers is to contact one of the most important persons in this country; your lawyer. When you decide that you will be coming to live in Panama, immediately talk to this gentleman or lady. Get to know under what type of visa you will be coming to live.

After you and your lawyer decide which is the best visa for you, then it is time to begin thinking in buying property, bringing your HHG, (household goods) car, pets and so on.

It is important to know that under the retiree program you are allowed to bring your households goods shipment without paying any duties or taxes, but only one time. Your passport will be stamped, so please bring only one shipment or tell your moving company that you are bringing more than one shipment so a note can be done to the custom department in order for them to allow you to enter the second shipment without paying the duties or taxes. Be aware that when your passport is stamped, stating that you have already brought HHG to the Country, you will have to pay duties & taxes for anything else you may bring. With the other visa maybe you will have to pay the duties or taxes.

In order for the moving company to work the documentation of your shipment with the custom authorities you will need the following if you are a retiree:

1. Immigration Office Documents Reception Certificate, which is a certificate in which it is stated that the Immigration Office has received the documents of the retiree and that they are being processed. If you already have the Retired ID, that is much easier, because the moving company will use it and we will not need the Immigration Office Documents Reception Certificate.

2. Original Passport or notarized copy of the passport including the page with your photo and the page where your last entrance to Panama is stamped. Even though a copy of the passport is used and the original is not stamped all information will be at the Custom Authorities Computer System, so if you try to enter any other shipment without paying the duties & taxes, it will generate a denegation answer to the request of the Custom Broker. THIS IS NEW AND GOOD TECHNOLOGY!

3. Original Bill of Lading, Airway Bill or Express Release

4. Original Packing List without price

5. Bank Certification of Account at the name of the retired citizen in Panama.

If the customer is requesting any other type of visa, it is important to contact your moving company in order to review with the custom authorities which other documents will be required.

Remember that it is not the moving company who requires all these documents but the custom authorities.

Now you are ready with all your documents in order or your lawyer is working on them. It is time to look for a good International Moving Company in your country or if you want this service can also begin here in Panama.

How to contact an agent in any part of the World?

As any other business there are first class moving companies, second class and so on. What I advise is contact at least three international moving companies. The companies will not have to be in your area specifically. Perhaps they are in another state far from where you live, but they have agents nearby your home or in your area that will actually perform the packing part, but this international company will do all coordination of your shipment, which is extremely important. Usually they have a 1-800 number.

The majority of the international moving companies will send for the survey the packing company that will be in charge of the actual packing and loading of your container. They will measure and will ask you questions such as:

When do you want the packing to be performed? When will you be leaving the Country? When do you want your shipment to arrive to the new location? Will you need storage at the new country? Will you need insurance for your shipment?

They will also deliver custom requirements from the new country.

With that information, they will contact an agent here in Panama and will ask for a quotation for the delivery of the HHG in the place where you are going to live.

This international moving company will present you a complete quotation or what it is call “Door to Door Service”.

How to read a quotation?

There are three major types of quotations that can be presented to you:

1. Door to Port

You can ask the origin international agent for this type of quotation which mean that they will pack, load the container, prepare custom documentation at origin, and freight the HHG to the port of your new country. In the case of Panama, the shipment will arrive at Manzanillo, Cristobal or Colon Container Terminal in Colon. It can also arrive at Balboa Port in Panama City. That depends on the port used by the shipping company.

Insurance in this case will finish when the container arrive at the Port.

Usually the Bill of Lading comes directly to you. You can look for your delivery agent here in Panama and pay for their services directly here.

2. Door to Door

The service will begin when the originating international agent packs, loads the container, does custom documentation at origin and freights the container to the port of your new Country. The container in the case of Panama will arrive to Manzanillo, Cristobal or CCT in Colon or to Balboa Port in Panama City. From here the destination agent will pick up the container at port, will pass customs at the Custom Warehouse, will send the shipment to your new home with well trained personnel who will deliver and unpack.

Your shipment is protected by the insurance from your origin home to your destiny location when you have paid for it. It is important that you ask the origin agent for the insurance certificate in case you need to make any claim.

3. Door to Door (Booked by destiny agent)

The process is the same as the above, but in this case the destiny agent prepares all the process. You can contact a moving company here in Panama either by phone, by coming to their warehouse or just by a simple e-mail and they will do all the procedure to bring your move from any part of the World. It is a very good way to have control over the whole process by just contacting one person. Be sure to get in contact with the major moving companies in Panama.

I recommend you use this type of process when you have a big shipment or when the shipment is not coming from the same location (you have HHG in different locations at origin).

Please be aware that the “ALL INCLUDED” usually does not exist in this business. Ask your origin agent or to the agent that has the control of the shipment to put in writing what is included and what is not.

My hope is that all of you, who are planning to come and live with us in Panama, have a wonderful transfer experience.

Next time we will be writing a little bit about how to bring your car to Panama.

By Caridad Y. Charette, Director

Panama International Packers