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Expats Blog

Opening a bank account at Banco General

Despite all the horror stories I had heard, and all the hoops I had prepared to jump through, I have a Panamanian bank account!

One of the requirements for the Friendly Nations Visa is proof of economic activity in Panama, and I need to have a letter of an account in good standing with a balance of over $5,000 from a Panamanian bank. I’m not sure why we chose Banco General anymore, but we did, and it’s done. They have several branches in David, but I am only familiar with the big one downtown. Saturdays, and basically every time I have gone, there has been a long line. You line up, tell the information desk person what you want, give them your passport number, and prepare to wait.

For me, the big problem had always been ‘proof of a tie to Panama’. They wanted one of:

  • A Panamanian child
  • Proof of enrollment in a university
  • Proof of employment in Panama
  • Marriage to a Panamanian
  • Real estate
  • A rental agreement for at least a year.

Because I moved in with Luis, I had never signed a rental agreement. And, because we wanted to move, it didn’t make sense to sign another lease for a year. So, I ended up stuck in this weird limbo state where I couldn’t show any tie to Panama until I had the house.

I ended up going back to the bank (for probably the third time) a few weeks ago with:

  • My passport
  • A signed reference letter from my bank in Canada saying I have an account in good standing and the balance of my TFSA
  • A signed reference letter from the company I work for in the US saying how much I make monthly
  • The title deed to the house

…and I think that’s it? They ended up also asking for a personal reference, and I gave them the contact info of Luis’s daughter.

I was asked if I wanted a card to be able to use the ATMs (which apparently costs $30!), and had to make a minimum deposit of $50. They told me they would need to verify some information, and I would receive a call from the bank when everything was good and ready.

After waiting over a week, I ended up receiving a call from the bank that I had to go see the manager, and was dreading the worst. It turned out that they had been able to get in touch with my boss (I knew this), but had not been able to get my bank to verify the reference letter. The manager was very nice about everything, and explained that she had called multiple times, waited on hold for over an hour etc, and couldn’t move forward. I ended up going back on Monday morning, and asking if it would be sufficient to open my online banking page and show my balance and active account. She said that was fine, and that’s what we ended up doing.

I asked if the account would be good now to receive transfers, and that I had been told there would be a six month probationary period before I could receive international transfers. To my surprise, she told me because of this delay, and because I needed it for residency, she would make an exception in my case. So, yay! That is one less thing to worry about, and I will reach out to RBC this week to transfer the money!

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