Monday, September 16, 2013

Real world list of Pensionado Visa requirements

Applying for a Pensionado Visa on behalf of a retiree receiving income above US$1000 monthly from Social Security involves filing the following:

1) Power of attorney and request by the attorney.  Power of attorney must include the information about the applicant (exact address, telephone number...) and full name of parents and nationality.  All the information about the attorney must be specified (Office address, telephone and fax number), complete information of cheques that are provided (number of checks, name of bank, date and amount) of all documents enclosed and the legal basis.  We cannot draft the Power of Attorney without the information requested in that form
2) Police record from the country of origin (only when the applicant has less than two years of continuous residence in Panama) of the applicant (for US citizens, only FBI Criminal History is admitted).
3) "Duly authenticated document, which certifies the following:
 -The applicant's condition as retired or pensioner from a foreign government, international organization or private entities.
 -That the applicant receives a monthly pension of no less than US$1000 or its equivalent in foreign currency, plus US$250 for each dependant
 -In the case of persons retired or receiving a pension from private entities, a document from the corresponding authority certifying the existence of said entity must be submitted" and a Panama bank statement showing the deposits made into the account.
4) Sworn statement about Personal Background signed by the applicant .
A) All documents issued abroad, should be submitted duly apostilled or authenticated by the Embassy or Consulate of Panama in the country that issued it and by the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Panama.
B) All documents issued abroad in language besides Spanish, must be translated by a certified interpreter recognized by the Minister of Government.

Once you arrive to Panama, you must provide :
a) Good Health Certificate from a Panama doctor, issued within the three months before the date of the application (must have date, signature and stamp with the name, signature and registered number of the physician)
b) Two (2) sets of photocopies of the entire passport, to authenticate before a Notary Public.
c) Five (5) recent passport-size pictures.
d) Two sets of copies of all documents submitted, except for the passport.

In addition, the following are required:
C) Every foreigner must be duly registered in Immigration Movement Section for which the following must be submitted:
* Two (2) passport-size pictures
* Copy of the page of general information in the passport and that which contains the last seal of entry into the country
* US$1 for registration
* Answer the registration questionnaire.

D) Once the application is filed and your picture has been taken at Immigration offices, your passport will be surrendered 2 business days for a Return Permit to be stamped.   This will allow you to travel outside of Panama and not have to wait in Panama for approval of your Pensionado visa.

When planning your trip, keep in mind it takes 2 weeks to prepare and translate all documents from the time they are received until you can go to Immigration to have your picture taken as part of the application process.

Upon filing of application, a 12-month application card is granted.   Delays of up to 12 months are taking place with the granting of all residence applications, depending on the nationality.

All applications are subject to the regulatory bodies' approval.  While serious law firms are diligent in following regulations in force, government officials may arbitrarily change rules and demand additional documents at any time during the application process.  Therefore, they cannot guarantee the outcome of each application.  Although Law 38 of 2000 forbids public officials from demanding documents outside those listed in a decree published in the Official Gazette, Immigration officials may demand the following items not listed in the Executive Decree related to Immigration:
a) Responsibility letter by applicant when a dependent is involved, authenticated by Notary,
b) Banking letter from a Panama bank where the pension installments are received.
c) Notarized letter by landlord - or notarized copy of public deed of property owned - showing domicile in Panama,
d) Copy of landlord identification, authenticated by Electoral Tribunal,
e) Notarized copy of utility bill showing domicile in Panama.

Based on applications filed as of June, 2013, and subject to changes

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Juan Hombron and the Lucom estate dispute: Connecting the dots

GPI-HSM Agreement

Local media brings up again the issue of Juan Hombron and the 54 hectares which boundaries partially overlap those of finca 7022 (Cocle) of Hacienda Santa Monica, S.A., (La Estrella) formerly part of the Wilson Charles Lucom estate.  Lucom had signed in 2005 an Agreement (link) for the sale of the company shares to Grand Panama International, Ltd., a company owned by U.S. investors (   Lucom passed away in 2006 without the agreement ever being annulled.

After the claims of Alberto Sudarsky and others over the beachfront of Juan Hombron in 2007 (link), daily La Prensa presented a news report about land claims in the same area awarded by the ANATI land titling authority (headed by former in-house counsel to the company of then Minister of Presidency Demetrio Papadimitriu (The Minister denied involvement).   ANATI awarded several parts of the 7022 beachfront to Trapp Real Estate Corporation and other shell companies in a few months of 2011 what takes other applicants several years, in what became object of a RICO claim in the U.S. against foreign nationals conspiring to the detriment of a U.S. national.  The RICO claim was dismissed by Florida courts in May 2012 (trusts_estates_prof).

The literal bequest in the Lucom will of the Hacienda Santa Monica, S.A., shares to a Nevis trust for sale to benefit the poor children of Panama, was construed by the Supreme Court of Panama Civil Section to mean that the deceased gifted all assets to his "dear wife" Hilda Piza as sole heir to do what she pleased.   With the passing away of Ms Piza, the road was clear for her descendants to arrange a shareholders agreement of October 24, 2012, under which the share ownership of Hacienda Santa Monica, S.A., was reorganized.   According to La Prensa of September 6, 2013, former Minister of Economy Alberto Vallarino acquired shares in the company, after the Lucom probate case (La Prensa).  The new board of Hacienda Santa Monica S.A. also includes board members from the neighboring Buenaventura company, with which a border dispute and several lawsuits for damages had ensued in civil court :
Título del DignatarioNombre del Dignatario

Reports about the future destiny of the Pacific beachfront of the property vary.  Ideas range from a tourist project to take advantage of the new Rio Hato airport, an environmental park (cambiodemocratico507) to a $5m naval station by Nov 2013 ( ).
In the meantime, actions continue in the courts...

See also:
Las Uvas: Fever in the coast
Latin America's First "Branded City" Planned for Panama Gold Coast
Video: Inhabitants of Juan Hombron explain their side of the story
More about the Lucom dispute in Hacienda Santa Monica and Juan Hombron 

Monday, September 02, 2013

Panama: Real estate on solid foundations

Panama: Real estate on solid foundations
Latin America | 7 Aug 2013

The real estate market in Panama is edging towards maturity, buoyed by the booming economy, a major national spend on infrastructure and ample liquidity in the financial system.

Initial estimates from the national statistics agency (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censo) suggest the sector expanded by 9% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2013, having notched up average growth of 7.8% in 2012 and 9% in 2011.

Panama City, home to nearly a third of the population, has been the centre of real estate activity over the past decade, with high-end residential, retail and commercial development combining to produce strong growth. New shopping malls and residential complexes have reshaped the skyline, alongside several hotels, evidence of the evolving tourism sector.

The city’s market for office space has been supported by strong macroeconomic growth and new business-friendly legislation, including the setting up of an incentive regime for multinational companies using Panama as a base for regional operations.

Vacancy rates for Class A office projects dropped to 7% from 12% in the second half of 2012, with the average monthly lease rate edging up from $23.30 per sq metre to $24.41, according to a study conducted by CB Richard Ellis (CBRE). New construction of Class A office space eased to pre-2009 levels in the same period, however, suggesting demand could now be levelling off.

CBRE’s study found Panama City’s residential market to be relatively stable. New unit construction eased, in keeping with a rising 76% absorption rate and falling sale prices for Class A real estate. The gross absorption rate across the wider market stood at 77%, with a total of 3346 units reserved from 4330 under construction.

However, there are signs that the retail market in Panama City could be edging towards occupancy saturation. Monthly lease rates fell from $41.31 per sq metre to $40.16 in the second half of last year, while vacancy levels in shopping centres rose from 6.1% to 9.1%. An additional 97,325 sq metres of new retail space was under construction as of late 2012.

Despite its overall impressive growth levels, Panama’s real estate market faces a number of challenges. The country ranked 75 out of 97 nations in the 2012 Global Real Estate Transparency Rankings, behind Mexico (43), Argentina (58) and Costa Rica (70). Jones Lang LaSalle, which publishes the list, described Panama’s transparency level as “low”, adding that a lack of both sophisticated investment vehicles and general market fundamentals were instrumental in determining the country’s position.

Panama also faces a major national housing shortage. The most recent estimates from the Ministry of Housing (Ministerio de Vivienda y Ordenamiento Territorial, MIV), published in 2010, put the shortfall at 136,665 units, against total national supply of 896,050.

The MIV launched a series of social housing programmes in 2010 as part of a target to reduce the shortfall to 30% and increase supply by 4.6%. Once completed, the five-year programme, backed by a $576m investment package, is expected to have benefitted an estimated 344,000 Panamanians. With $268.8m still to be spent, work is expected to accelerate during the second half of 2013 and through 2014.

The real estate sector is expected to continue maturing, with both the private and public sector helping to drive it forward. The government took a small, but significant step forward in May 2012, when it amended its regulations to create a new tax and financial framework covering the purchase and sale of real estate property. The legal changes paved the way for the introduction of key incentives aimed at supporting the housing market, including more favourable interest rates for first-time buyers and tax exemptions for residential home improvements. Ongoing support from the government, together with sustained growth in the private sector, will set the real estate market on course for further expansion in the medium to long term.

For full text see http://www.oxfordbus
More information is available in