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Customs and Duties

Panama - Customs and Duties

Many expats decide to bring most of their own possessions with them when they move to Panama, including furniture, and a number of regulations apply.

A person who is moving their goods into the country must be in Panama when the items clear customs - another person is not able to collect them for you. The expat must be in possession of a residency visa or a copy of a visa application and a letter from a Panamanian lawyer to confirm that the application is in process. Similarly they must have a work permit or documentation to support a statement that an application has been made.

In order to collect the goods the expat must also produce their passport, which must be valid. A certificate of change of residence may also be required and a letter confirming that you have employment or other legal status while you are in the country. You must also provide the customs employees with a detailed inventory of everything that you are shipping into the country, even small items such as ornaments or kitchen utensils must be listed. This list can be provided in either English or Spanish. It is also important that all goods that are shipped into the country have been previously owned and used, as new items may be subject to taxes.

All items are duty-free providing the recipient meets certain criteria. They must either be a foreigner with a residence permit or a Panamanian citizen who has spent some time abroad. All shipments of goods must arrive in the country no more than six months after the person who is receiving them. All shipments will be inspected and if there is any reason to believe that the inventory is not correct or if it is believed that illegal items are being brought into the country then it will be thoroughly checked. In some circumstances checks can be carried out at the place of residence of the recipient in order to prevent backlogs at the customs area. This will need to be arranged in advance as the goods will be checked as they are unloaded.

There are some customs charges that are payable by the person receiving the items. These fees must be paid when the items clear customs otherwise they cannot be taken away. If there are any delays which are due to the customer such as not providing information when required then extra charges for storage and other factors may be applicable. These are also payable by the recipient and as with other charges, goods will not be released until they are paid. These fees vary depending upon the circumstances and fees are regularly reviewed. Up to date information can be obtained from the Panamanian consulate or embassy in your home country.

Items which are restricted include new goods (which may be subject to import duty), alcohol, jewellery and coins. There may be duties which are payable on these goods. There are also a number of items which cannot legally be brought into Panama. These include any kind of food or plants, any kind of drugs, packing materials made from straw or hay and any kind of weaponry such as guns and ammunition.

Taking a motor vehicle to Panama can be an expensive process. Duty can be up to 30% of the CIF value and proof of ownership must be produced. This is a long and laborious process and it is not unheard of for vehicles to be found damaged when they are collected. Other documentation required to collect a vehicle that has been imported into the country includes a valid passport and a certificate which proves that the car does not have high levels of emissions.

Most expats will make use of the services of an international removals firm who can assist with the paperwork and regulations. Those who are moving to Panama with diplomatic status will find that their possessions are not subject to the same checks and fees as for other expats and the process is much quicker.

Useful Resources

Autoridad Nacional de Aduanas

Read more about this country

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.


Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.