Obtaining a visa in Panama is required for all persons that are looking for residency. Residency is required to get a mortgage when buying a house.
Below you will find a description of the Visa process.
If you feel that this process is too complicated please ask Panama Portfolio for assistance, our employees have processed hundreds of visa applications.
There are different types of visa
Friendly Nations Visa
In May of 2012 president Martinelli of Panama issued presidential decree 343 declaring that citizens of friendly nations could become residents of Panama in a fast track manner.
The official name for this visa is the “Permanent Residence for National of Specific Countries.
This visa is granted to citizens of currently 50 countries that maintain “friendly, professional, economic and investment relationships” with Panama. The USA and Canada are included in the list. We have included a full list of all the 50 countries which receive beneficial treatment at the bottom of this page.
How does it work?
- you contact an immigration lawyer in Panama or you ask Panama Portfolio to help you obtain a visa;
- You have to open a local bank account with a minimum balance of 5000 $. This sounds easy but sometimes can take time.
- At the same time you must provide proof that you are either purchasing real estate with a minimum value of 1000 $ or
- Provide documentation that you are starting a business. Please note that as a foreign national you are not allowed to start a retail business, but starting other businesses is allowed. Alternatively you will have to:
- Provide documentation that you are employed by a registered employer in Panama. This involves supplying a Panama work permit, proof of registration in the social security system of Panama and income statements from the employer. Please note that foreigners are not allowed to have certain professions such as lawyer, doctor, architects and engineers.
- In all cases you must provide “proof of solvency”, this means in practice that you will have to deposit a minimum of 5000$ in your bank account in Panama plus 2000 $ for each person in your family which is dependant on your income. There is no clear definition of “solvency” so this matter will be decided by the immigration official.
- After you file the application with all the required documentation, the immigration office will grant a temporary residency card valid for one year. Once the application is approved you will receive your permanent residency card.
- After approval of the permanent residency card, you are able to file for a work permit.
Professional Residence Visa
This type of visa can be obtained if you would like to work in Panama in certain professions which are not reserved for Panamanian nationals
How does the application proces work and what documentation is needed?
Normally you will need 3 to 4 trips to Panama before you can become a permanent resident.
Step 1: Travel to Panama and open up a bank account.
In order to open up a bank account you need to be in Panama for at least 1 business day. During this day you will give the required documentation to the bank, and sign the bank forms. You will need to supply at a minimum:
- a copy of passports, and a second ID verification such as a drivers licence
- a bank reference addressed to the bank in Panama, dated within 3 months of your application which includes a telephone number so the bank can confirm the letter.
- annual tax declarations
- employment letter or retirement proof of income
- personal C.V.
- letter addressed to the bank explaining the purpose of the bank account
- personal interview at the bank
- additional requirements which may vary per bank
The process of opening up a bank account can take as little as 1 day with certain banks and if you use the right contacts, or as much as a month, depending on the due diligence process that the banks will use.
Step 2: Second trip to Panama for approximately 8 business days
Passport registration and Provisional Residency application process.
- the physical presence of the applicant is required and please not that in government building no shorts or sandals or tshirts are allowed;
- go to the immigration office with a passport, 2 passport size fotographs and 5 $; usually within 1 day you will get your Panama passport;
- prepare all documentation for the Provisional Residency Process. This can be done by your lawyer. It involves making a fotocopy of all the pages in your passport,, and have these pages authenticated by a public notary in Panama. Also you will need a recent health certificate which can be arranged by a licenced medical specialist in Panama. All documents need to be translated in Spanish and authenticated. This process will take 2-3 days
- filing of the immigration package with all the documentation at the immigration office
- issuance of the temporary residence card at the government immigration office. For this process you will need a photograph and your password. This will take a full day.
- Once you have your temporary residency card you can apply for a multiple entry and exit visa. If at this stage you leave Panama without the multiple entry and exit visa card, a fine of 2000 $ will be applicable upon your return in the country.
- Once the residency application has been filed at the immigration office, officials will take several months to process your application. It will take a number of months before you will receive your “resolution of approval”
Step 3: Third trip to Panama after “resolution of approval is issued”
Once the “resolution of approval” is issued you will have to return to Panama within three months to continue the immigration process. You wil have to pick up your permanent residency card at the immigration office in person
Step 4 Fourth trip to Panama
After the national immigration service has approved your permanent residency card you can pick up your you can pick up your permanent residency card at the Civil Office (cedula) in person.
List of 50 Friendly Nations for Panama Visa
- Great Britain,
- Republic of Korea
- Czech Republic
- South Africa
- New Zealand
- Hong Kong
- San Marino
- Costa Rica
Applicants with a life-time pension (it must be for life and for a minimum of 1000$ per month) will be able to apply for a retirement permanent visa which is also called the Panama Pensionado visa.
If you have a lifetime pension of at least 750 $ and a maximum of 1000 $ you may also qualify but only if you purchase real estate in Panama with a minimum value of 100000 $.
If your are a married couple your combined pension must be at least 1000 $, again with the exception of the real estate purchasing option as described above.
Please note that dependents permanent residency visas are temporary until 25 years of age. A dependant child older than 18, which is not attending college in Panama, can not use the retirement visa of its parents, unless the child is severely handicapped.
Please also note that the minimum pension requirement of 1000 $ will be increased by 250$ for each dependent child, unless the dependant child provides proof of income of at least 250 $ per month.
The main requirements are:
- a letter from the pension administrator in a foreign country which proves that the pension is for life;
- proof that the issuing pension supplying company actually exists;
- copy and proof of payment.