Foreign Exchange Controls

“Kathleen, thank you for your much appreciated information. However, it puzzles me that the issue of exchange controls never appears. I have lived in or have familiarity with Chile, Germany, South Africa, Spain, and the United States.

“South Africa has long had exchange controls in place, which I am guessing is an uncommon feature, and thus unfamiliar to many. You cannot freely move your rands out of the country and into other currencies at will, generally speaking. It becomes a major personal consideration, requiring some workarounds and some adjustments.

“I believe it is officially played down and as such can spring like a trap on the unaware. As the policy never appears in your discussions, is it safe to assume that South Africa is just the oddity? Is exchange control guaranteed not to impact settlers in the lands you analyze, or does it possibly lurk in some form?”

— John C., United States

Lief Simon replies:

Yes, exchange controls can be an issue in certain countries. The countries we generally speak about, however, don’t have them. When they do, we try to make a point of explaining that fact.

Colombia, for example, does have rules in place related to bringing money into and (critically) taking money out of that country. Kathleen reported on this the other day. Report any monies you bring into the country (for real estate purchase, etc.) incorrectly, incompletely, or not at all, and you risk not being able to take them or any profits that have materialized as a result of any investment you’ve made with those funds out of the country.

In Brazil, too, you could have issues. Officially, this country has done away with exchange controls. However, the reality, according to a number of investors I know currently operating in this country, is that it’s not uncommon to have trouble when you put in the request at your bank to move funds elsewhere. Again, we’ve reported on this in the past.

Venezuela is another example. This is a very closed jurisdiction. Here you could encounter trouble even if you did properly register your funds when bringing them into the country.