Venezuela

General Information Banking
Business Etiquette Tips Embassy Locations and Registration
Employment-Legal Requirements Entry and Exit Requirements
Intellectual Property Legal and Registration of a Business Entity
Safety and Crime Taxes

General Information

VenezuelaVenezuela is well known for its magnificent landscapes, its reputation for being home to the second-oldest lake in the world and the largest lake in South America (Lake Maracaibo), having the highest waterfall in the world (Angel Falls), possessing beautiful beaches, and even being home to one of the largest snakes (anaconda) in the world. 

As a medium-income country, Venezuela's economy is dominated by a substantial oil industry and a highly polarized and volatile political climate. Overall, Venezuela's tourism infrastructure varies in quality according to location and price. Travelers will find that Venezuela possesses sophisticated air service and all-weather roads that connect major cities and most regions of the country, but caution should be exercised at all times while visiting the country.

Political relations between the United States and Venezuelan have been tense in the past. The United States is Venezuela's most important trading partner, representing about 22 percent of imports and approximately 60 percent of Venezuelan exports. Venezuela is one of the top four suppliers of foreign oil to America. In turn, Venezuela is the United States' third-largest export market in Latin America, purchasing U.S. machinery, transportation equipment, agricultural commodities, and auto parts. 

There may be political unrest and/or targeted crime against visitors to the country.  Travelers should check with the U.S. State Department Web site for current travel safety information.

Major Cities Capital:  Caracas
Major cities:  Maracaibo, Valencia, Barquisimeto, Maracay, Merida, and Ciudad Bolivar
Official Currency Venezuelan bolivar fuerte (VEF).
Time Zone UTC -4.5 (half an hour ahead of Washington, D.C. during Standard Time)
Language Spanish (official), numerous indigenous dialects


Legal System and Government

Type of Legal System

Venezuela has an open, adversarial court system. It has not accepted compulsory International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction.

Form of Government

Federal Republic

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Banking

Available Banking Services

ATMs                         
Credit card
Online banking
Banking in English
Loans                        
Overdraft protection 

Bank Holidays

New Year's Day
Holy Thursday and Good Friday
Declaration of Independence
Labor Day
Carabobo Battle  
Independence Day 
Simon Bolivar's Birthday    
Indigenous Resistance Day   
Christmas Day                                            

When a Venezuelan holiday falls on Saturday or Sunday, there is no substitute Friday or Monday scheduled as a day off.

U.S.  and Other Major Banks in Country

(Note: Address and contact information subject to change.)

Citi Venezuela
Av. Casanova, CC El Recreo
Torre Norte
Caracas, Venezuela
1050
Phone: (58 212) 705-2211 Corporate Accounts:  (58 212) 705-2240
Web: https://www.latinamerica.citibank.com/VEGCB/JPS/portal/Index.do

Standard Chartered Bank
Principal Office
Centro Banaven
Torre D, Piso 5
Avenida La Estancia
Urbanizacion Chuao, Caracas 1060A,
Venezuela
Phone: (58 212) 993-0522
Fax: (58 212) 991-4048
Web: http://www.standardchartered.com/ve/sitemap/en/

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Business Etiquette Tips

Business Attire

Business dress for men and women tends toward conservative, well-dressed business attire.

Business Negotiations

Expect the first meeting to be rather formal and to spend a considerable amount of time on negotiations before finalizing a business deal.  A nominal amount of time should also be set aside to establish the business relationship. Do not expect for final decisions to be made during a meeting. These times are reserved primarily for discussion and the presentation of proposals and ideas. The final results are considered far more important than spontaneous or quick decisions. 

Proper Greetings

Shaking hands with all present and introducing oneself to the most senior member using known professional titles is the expected and proper method for greeting colleagues.

Scheduling Appointments

Appointments are best scheduled in the mornings and should be made approximately two weeks in advance and reconfirmed one week prior.  Punctuality is a necessity and aids in making a good impression. It is best to avoid scheduling meetings on days either immediately before or following Venezuelan holidays or standard vacation periods (e.g., August, Christmas, etc.). 

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Embassy Locations and Registration

Americans living or traveling in Venezuela are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department's travel registration Web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Venezuela. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the embassy or consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

(Note: Address and contact information subject to change.)

U.S. Embassy
Calle F and Calle Suapure
Colinas de Valle Arriba
Caracas, Venezuela
Phone: (58 212) 975-6411
Web: http://venezuela.usembassy.gov/

Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
1099 - 30th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20007
Phone: (202) 342-2214
Fax:    (202) 342 6820
Web: http://eeuu.embajada.gob.ve/

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Employment-Legal Requirements

Venezuelan employees are protected by strong labor laws and powerful unions that provide for and protect a variety of employee rights. Average working hours are 40 hours a week with overtime pay of one-and-a-half times regular salary for all hours worked beyond 40 in a week. 

Unless otherwise stated or provided for, most employment contracts are considered to be for an indefinite period of time. The standard time frames for employment contracts with an acceptable or established time limit are listed below:

If a contract is extended more than twice it automatically converts into an employment contract of an indefinite timeframe. Other contracts are deemed to have indefinite time limits.

Employment of Foreigners

The Labor Law applies to all services rendered in Venezuela or any service or labor contract signed within Venezuela regardless of the nationality of the employees or the legal headquarters of the employers. Limitations on employment of foreigners are that all managers should be able to give orders in Spanish and that foreigners may not be employed as industrial-relations managers, personnel chiefs, or ship or aircraft captains. At least 90 percent of the workforce of a company with at least 10 employees must be Venezuelan. Foreigners may not receive more than a certain percentage of the company's entire payroll.

Terminating Employees 

Grounds for justified dismissal include three days of unexplained absence from the job, gross negligence, intentional damage to company property, or other serious offenses.  Terminations for reasons other than those listed incur mandatory severance payments.  All terminations must be made in writing and include the reason for the termination of employment.

Severance

If appropriate notice is not given, employees are entitled to receive payment equal to the amount that would have been earned during that same time period.  Employees will also receive severance payments based upon the following schedule:

In the event of unjustified dismissals, layoffs, employee resignations, and/or economic or technological circumstances, the party deciding to terminate the employment relationship must give prior notice to the other party. Notice for terminating an employment contract at will varies depending on how long the individual was employed. If the person was employed for a period of one month, seven days notice is required. Six months of employment requires minimum notice of 15 days. And employment of one year or more requires minimum notice of 30 days. Unjustified terminations, whether initiated by the employer or employee, require notice (or payment in lieu thereof) based upon the amount of time an employee has worked with the company. 

Legally Mandated Benefits and Leave

Annual Vacation 15 days (Available upon completion of one year of employment. An additional day is allotted per each year of service up to a maximum of 30 days.) In practice 21 to 30 days of annual leave are granted per year.
Mandatory Annual Vacation Bonus            7 days (The Labor Law provides for at least seven days of pay plus one day of pay for each full year of employment, up to a maximum of 21 days.)
Maternity and Prenatal Leave   12 weeks of paid maternity and 6 weeks of paid prenatal leave is also provided. (New mothers also receive additional special protection from employment termination for one year after their child's birth). 

 

 

Additional Benefits

Annual bonus: The law provides for mandatory profit-sharing annually, to be paid in the form of year-end bonuses equal to at least 15 days and up to 4 months of pay subject to the following limits:

All companies with 20 or more employees must provide workday meals or the means of purchasing meals for all employees whose salary is less than three times the minimum wage.

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Entry and Exit Requirements 

A valid passport and a visa or tourist card are required. Tourist cards are issued on flights from the United States to Venezuela for persons staying less than 90 days. Persons traveling for reasons other than tourism, however, should consult the Venezuelan Embassy or nearest Venezuelan consulate regarding possible visa requirements for their specific purpose of travel. 

Venezuelan immigration authorities may require that U.S. passports have at least six months of validity remaining from the date of arrival in Venezuela and be in good condition. Some U.S. citizens have been turned back to the United States if their passports will expire in less than six months.

Venezuelan law requires Venezuelan citizens to enter and depart Venezuela using Venezuelan passports, and Venezuelan immigration authorities are increasingly enforcing this requirement. In order to comply with U.S. and Venezuelan law, persons who hold dual American-Venezuelan nationality must plan to travel between Venezuela and the United States with valid U.S. and Venezuelan passports. 

U.S. citizens residing in Venezuela should be careful to obtain legitimate Venezuelan documentation appropriate to their status. ONIDEX, the Venezuelan government agency responsible for immigration documents, has informed the U.S. embassy that the only valid resident visas are those for which the bearer has personally signed at ONIDEX headquarters in Caracas.

Venezuela's child protection law mandates that minors (under 18) who are citizens or noncitizen residents of Venezuela and who are traveling alone, with only one parent, or with a third party, must present a copy of their birth certificate and written, notarized authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian, specifically granting permission to travel alone, with one parent, or with a third party. Without this authorization, immigration authorities will prevent the child's departure from Venezuela. 

Travelers entering Venezuela from certain countries are required to have a current yellow fever vaccination certificate. The Venezuelan government recommends that all travelers, regardless of their country of departure, be vaccinated for yellow fever before entering Venezuela. Mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever are also common in some areas, and travelers should take precautions to prevent infection. 

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Intellectual Property 

Venezuela is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization and a signatory to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Geneva Phonograms Convention, the Universal Copyright Convention, and the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. Adequate intellectual property protection is slowly being improved and SENIAT (Venezuela's tax agency) is promoting several measures to fight piracy in an effort to reduce tax evasion. These efforts include implementing a new antipiracy law and a tax on street vendors. The Spanish Patent and Trademark Office provides detailed information on obtaining intellectual property protection, filing fees, and time frames and protection offered.

Nature of Rights and Available Protection

Patents: Patents are protected for a period of 20 years, without provision for renewal.  Patent registration and approval can take as long as four years, though they generally require a year or two. A patent application must be examined and published within 18 months of the date of application. If a patent holder does not produce a product within five years the government has the authority to award a compulsory license to an interested third party. To maintain patent protection of an invention, annual maintenance fees are due.

Utility Patent

A utility patent protects a lesser inventive product (or utility) for a period of 10 years upon payment of annual maintenance fees.

Copyrights

Protection for copyrights is granted for the life of the author plus 60 years. 

Trademarks

Trademark protection lasts for an initial period of 10 years but is renewable indefinitely for successive 10-year periods. Trademark registration takes an average of eight months if there is no opposition. Internationally known marks are recognized in Venezuela, but bonds may be required to obtain an injunction against infringers.

Enforcement

The Venezuelan copyright and trademark enforcement branch of the police (COMANPI) continues to provide copyright enforcement support with a small staff of permanent investigators. A lack of personnel and a limited budget have forced COMANPI to work with the National Guard and private industry to improve enforcement of copyrighted material. COMANPI can only act based on a complaint by a copyright holder. It cannot carry out an arrest or seizure on its own initiative.

Venezuela does not automatically recognize foreign patents, trademarks, or logotypes, so foreign investors must be sure to register patents and trademarks appropriately and in as many categories as are applicable. Do not rely upon agents or distributors to complete this as an agent may be able to claim that he/she is the registered owner.

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Legal and Registration of a Business Entity

There are no legal limits on foreign ownership except as noted in the "special laws."   Foreign investors may pursue property claims through Venezuela's legal system. Foreign companies may also establish Venezuelan branches. Branches are treated the same as domestic companies, and they may carry out the same types of business activities as domestic companies. 

Branches of nonresident companies may also take the form of representative offices for sales or services. Representative offices are deemed to operate outside Venezuela, provided the branch acts solely as an intermediary between the purchaser in Venezuela and the nonresident company. Income generated by a branch in Venezuela is taxable at the same rates that apply to domestic companies, but income from royalties or technical-assistance agreements is taxable on a gross rather than net income basis.

Registration Formalities (Including Timing)

The most common business structure, aside from a branch or resident office, is the corporation (compania, or  CA, or sociedad anonima, or SA). To establish an SA company in Venezuela, the World Bank lists 17 individual steps that are required to be completed over a time frame of approximately three to six months.

The steps as listed on the World Bank's Web site and reprinted here in a concise format are:

  1. Reserve company name.
  2. Obtain an approval of the company name.
  3. Lawyer must prepare and legalize the company's constitutive documents and social statutes.
  4. Open bank account.
  5. Register at the local mercantile registry (Registro Mercantil).
  6. *Publish articles in a local newspaper (Gaceta Forense del Registro Mercantil).
  7. *Register company books.
  8. Register at the local Servicio Nacional Integrado de Administración Aduanera y Tributaria (SENIAT) with Registro Unico de Información Fiscal (RIF) to obtain fiscal number.
  9. Obtain tax clearance certificate at municipal level (Instituto Municipal de Aseo Urbano).
  10. Register with the Ministry of Labor.
  11. Go through a labor inspection (by the Labor Inspectorate).
  12. Register for social security at a local regional fund.
  13. *Register at the National Institute of Socialist Cooperation & Education.
  14. *Obtain fire approval and undergo an inspection.
  15. *Obtain conformity of use certificate (zoning permit).
  16. *Obtain industrial or commercial license from competent municipality.
  17. *Register at National Bank for Housing and Habitat - Banco Nacional de Vivienda y Habitat (BANAVIH).

* Takes place simultaneously with another procedure.             

Visit the World Bank's Web site to obtain a complete detailed listing of the necessary procedures, time frame, and fees involved in establishing a legal presence in Venezuela.

(Source:  The World Bank, Doing Business - Venezuela)

Below are additional resources to assist in establishing an office or hiring employees. 

Caracas Chamber of Commerce-Industry and Services http://www.lacamaradecaracas.org.ve/index.asp?spg_id=148(in Spanish and English)
Embassy of Venezuela http://www.embavenez-us.org/ (Most in Spanish, many links to government offices, etc)
International Labor Organization's Labor Law Guidelines http://www.ilo.org/public/english/dialogue/ifpdial/info/termination/countries/venezuela.htm
Ministry of Finance http://www.mf.gov.ve/  (in Spanish)
Ministry of Labor http://www.mintra.gov.ve/ (in Spanish)
USIG Council on Foundations http://www.usig.org/countryinfo/venezuela.asp (General information on NGOs, tax laws, and exemptions.)
Venezuelan American Chamber of Commerce http://www.venezuelanchamber.org/

 

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Safety and Crime

Kidnapping, violent crime, and armed robberies are pervasive throughout the country including upon entry via the airport. The country has one of the highest per-capita murder rates in the world, and investigations can be haphazard. Only a very small percentage of criminals are tried and convicted. Travelers are encouraged to arrive during daylight hours and to make advance plans for transportation from the airport to their place of lodging. If possible, travelers should arrange to be picked up at the airport by someone who is known to them as reports of robberies taking place in taxicabs are frequent. All travelers should be alert to their surroundings and take extra precautions for their safety.

The State Department has issued warnings to American citizens not to travel within a 50-mile area along the entire Venezuela-Colombia border. U.S. citizens who elect to visit areas along the border region with Colombia could be subject to search and arrest.

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Taxes

All companies and individuals are required to register with the national tax authority, SENIAT. Income received from any economic activity carried out in Venezuela is subject to taxation. Venezuela has concluded a double-taxation agreement with the United States.

Individual and Employee Taxation

Determining Tax Residence

An individual is deemed a resident if present in Venezuela for more than 183 days during the relevant calendar year or during the immediately preceding calendar year. An individual may also be considered a tax resident if permanent residence has been established in the country, unless the individual, in the same calendar year, has spent more than 183 days in another country and can prove that tax-residency status has been obtained in that country.

Tax residents are taxed on their worldwide income at progressive rates. Resident expatriates are subject to tax on all income from Venezuelan and foreign sources at the same rates applicable to Venezuelans. A tax credit is available for tax paid on foreign-sourced income up to the amount of Venezuelan tax payable on such income.

Nontax Resident Employees

Nonresident expatriates are taxed at a flat rate on salaries and wages. Both resident and nonresident expatriates must pay a value-added tax (VAT) on purchases. Exit and airport taxes are also levied on all persons traveling abroad as passengers unless otherwise provided by law.

Corporate and Employer Tax Obligations

Venezuelan income tax is based on the "tax unit," which is subject to change depending on the rate of inflation. Social security and health care costs are equally split up between the employee and the employer.

Venezuela has taken an extremely aggressive tax collection program that boasts zero tolerance for tax avoidance. Both resident and nonresident firms have been closed during tax raids where non-compliance was suspected. Legal and accounting representation must be sought prior to filing of taxes and to assist in establishing the proper business structure and determining what and when taxes are due.

Determining Tax Residency for a Business

Resident companies are subject to tax on their worldwide taxable income. Nonresidents are taxed only on Venezuela-sourced income. A company is resident in Venezuela for tax purposes if it is incorporated or domiciled there. Nonresident companies may credit foreign income taxes paid on foreign-sourced income against their Venezuelan tax liability. Again, professional advice should be obtained prior to making this determination.

All business entities, including foreign enterprises with no presence in Venezuela but that conduct business in Venezuela, must register with the tax authorities within 30 days of incorporation. Applicants choose their own fiscal year at the time of registration. Once approved, the fiscal year may not be changed without the approval of the tax authorities.  All corporate taxpayers, except those involved in mining or oil activities, must make advance tax payments in six equal installments at consecutive monthly intervals.

A complete listing of all tax rates, including corporate, individual, and Value Added taxes, can be found on the Tax rates Web site for Venezuela.

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Online Resources Used for This Template

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