Paraguay is a country that has been making waves recently thanks to double digit growth and a permanent residency program that many have dubbed the easiest in the world. This combined with a territorial taxation system and the lowest cost of living in South America makes it a very interesting residency option. This guide covers how to acquire residency, how taxation works in Colombia, how to open a bank account, the practicalities of relocating along with useful travel information.
Out of a desire to attract foreign talent, the government of Paraguay greatly simplified the application process for permanent residency in 2010. Under the new program, anyone with a clean criminal history and at least 25 million Guaraníes is eligible to apply. The whole process costs around 2500 USD (less if applying on your own). It takes anywhere from three months to a year to complete but physical presence in the country is only required during the initial stage. Sounds pretty good eh? It is but there is one major caveat. Paraguay is corrupt as hell and the local immigration scene is rife with fraud. This means that caution has to be exercised at all time and that you should only use the services of well-known agents. It also means that up to the point when you actually hold your permanent residency certificate in your hand, there is no guarantee that anything will go according to plan. If you can live with that, I do recommend applying.
Qualifying for residency
As stated above, all you need in order to qualify is a clean criminal history and a little bit of money (less than 5000 USD) to deposit in Paraguay. Before leaving your home country, you will need to prepare these documents:
1. Criminal background check
2. Birth certificate
3. Paraguay visa (if required for your passport)
4. Passport photos
5. Additional documents may be required (e.g. marriage certificate, bill of divorce, Court documents in case of criminal records, etc.)
Please note that your documents must be provided with a Hague Aspostille – except documents from countries that have not signed the Hague Convention, these have to be legalized through a Paraguay embassy or consulate. Documents from the US and most European countries require Hague Apostille, not consular legalization.
Applying for residency
Your next step will be to travel to Paraguay and go through the application process. It essentially goes like this:
1. Meet your local fixer or immigration attorney
2. Fingerprints are taken
3. Your visa is notarized
4. Your money is deposited with a bank or with the central bank
5. An affidavit is signed
6. You visit the local police for a background check and to submit photos etc
7. You grant your fixer or immigration attorney power of attorney to complete the process for you
8. If approved, a few months later you receive your residency card
9. Your bank deposit is released and can be collected
It is possible to either apply by yourself or with the help of an immigration attorney. I recommend hiring an immigration attorney as it will prevent you from making mistakes as well as save you time. The whole process can take up to a year to complete. Physical presence in Paraguay is only required at the time the application is submitted. Please note that it is now possible to travel to most South American countries with your permanent resident ID card.
Immigration expert – Robert Schulze
Robert Schulze specializes in facilitating localization in Paraguay, he is the managing partner of Grupo Interpar de Servicios S.R.L., a localization company, and the owner of Robert Schulze Traducciones y Gestiones, a translation company, both in Paraguay’s capital, Asunción. German by birth, Robert Schulze holds years of foreign language interpretation, commercial import/export, real estate, hotel administration (ISO 9001) and tourism experience. Past employers include Thyssen AG and a host of high-end resorts and agencies in Spain, Luxembourg and Paraguay. He has focused on Paraguay since 1994 and, since 2003, has facilitated immigration services, mainly for European and US citizens. He provides general assistance in all issues for foreign clients willing to live and/or invest in Paraguay. Paraguay-cedula.com, Paraguay-Trip.com, +595 982 505 120, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paraguay is a territorial taxation country. As such, residents and non-residents alike are only subject to taxation on their locally-sourced income. In practice, this means that it is possible to live in Paraguay tax-free provided that best practice guidelines are followed and that a proper structure is in place. In most cases, this simply means registering a resident company abroad, keeping the proceeds from that company abroad and not engaging in any business in Paraguay.
A tax resident of Paraguay is an individual who has spent over 120 days in the country in a given tax year OR who has established permanent residence and domicile. Tax residents and non-residents alike must file an annual tax return if their local income exceeds the minimum threshold. The fiscal year is the calendar year. The income tax applies to income from employment, income from conducting business as well as investment income. The rate is a flat 10% (8% for low-income earners). Capital gains are subject to a 10% tax.
Powerful tax strategies
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Paraguay is no financial center but has nonetheless a few decent banks. The best are BBVA and Sudameris Bank. Because of how easy it is to apply for permanent residency, you would tend to assume that opening a bank account would be a cinch but such an assumption would be dead wrong. Imagine Latin bureaucracy combined with due diligence requirements from hell and you would be closer to the truth. So much so that you should only consider banking in Paraguay once you are a permanent resident (it is very easy as a permanent resident). Save yourself the trouble and deposit the funds required for the residency application with the central bank instead.
Opening an account
While requirements vary from bank to bank, in most cases they are as follow (for permanent residents):
1. Your passport along with copies of every page.
2. Your permanent resident ID card (cédula).
3. A proof of origin for the funds you are depositing with the bank.
Once you have prepared all due diligence documents, you will need to book an appointment with a bank officer who speaks English (unless you speak Spanish). At the appointment, you will be asked to present your due diligence documents along with the account opening deposit (bring it in cash, this will make things easier). During the appointment, do not forget to request access to the bank’s online banking facility. Also, I recommend applying for a credit card (a security deposit will be required) as this will help you build a local credit history. Please note that most banks offer the option to open foreign currency accounts.
If you are seriously thinking about relocating to Paraguay, you should first visit the country for a few weeks. If the visit is successful, your next step will be to start planning the relocation itself. Steps I recommend taking before the move include learning Spanish, setting up mail forwarding, setting up a VPN server and joining the expat communities in Paraguay. Members of Freedom Surfer’s Insiders Club should also announce their plans via Slack so that they can connect with members already in Paraguay.