Panama has become an increasingly popular country for individuals to either relocate or retire. In addition to being a great place to relocate either permanently or semi-permanently, Panama offers a number of great second residency opportunities for individuals to take advantage. At first glance, it can seem a bit overwhelming trying to decide which residency option is the best choice. Below, we’ll look at three of the most common residency options available in Panama to help you navigate your way through the process.
Friendly Nation’s Visa
The Friendly Nation’s Visa has quickly become one of the top residency options in Panama, and with good reason. This visa option was started in May 2012, when former president Ricardo Martinelli issued a Presidential Decree 343, allowing citizens of 50+ countries that have professional and/or economic ties to Panama, to become permanent residents of Panama. One of the best parts about this residency option is that there is no age requirement like many other residency programs throughout the world. Additionally, it is very easy to add on dependents, which can include a spouse, children under 18, (or under 25 if they are enrolled full-time in a university and unmarried) or even your parents.
There are a number of different ways that you can qualify for this residency program:
- Start a new business or purchase an existing business;
- Become employed by a Panamanian company; or
- Purchase titled property in Panama. There are no explicit rules about the minimum value of the property, but most legal professionals agree that it should be at least $10,000. Ownership of agricultural property, such as teak, is one of the easiest ways to purchase property in Panama. ECI offers a successful program that combines ownership of mature teak land with the Friendly Nation’s Visa. Click here to find out more.
In addition to one of the above qualifications, you’ll also need to prove that you are financially solvent and have a minimum balance of $5,000 in a Panamanian bank account. If you have any dependents, you must prove that you have an additional $2,000 per dependent in the same account. Once you receive your residency, you are not required to keep the full amount in the account, though it is recommended that you do maintain the account to show your economic presence in Panama.
From start to finish, the Friendly Nation’s Visa process takes approximately 4-6 months and requires you to visit Panama 2-3 times in order to open your Panamanian bank account, register with the immigration department, and finally to retrieve your permanent residency card. Once you are officially a resident of Panama, you are only required to visit Panama one day every two years in order to maintain your residency status. If you are considering applying for Panamanian citizenship, which you are eligible to do after maintaining your residency, it is recommended that you spend more than this minimum amount (approximately 2 years in total) in Panama.
Legal and government fees for the Friendly Nation’s Visa range from $3,500 to $5,500 for the primary applicant depending on the attorney that you go through. When choosing an attorney – look to see what their fees include. Many will create a comprehensive package, while others will charge a base fee and then require to add on “extras” as you go through the process.
The Pensionado visa is a common visa type throughout Latin America for retirees or those of retirement age. In Panama, the Pensionado Visa allows foreigners of any age to obtain legal permanent residency in Panama if they can prove they have a guaranteed pension income of $1,000 or more for life. Couples who both receive a pension are permitted to combine their pensions to meet the minimum income amount; it is also possible to apply for this visa program if your pension income is at least $750 and you own real estate with a value of at least $100,00.00 US. If applicants have dependents, (non-pensioned spouse, children under 18 or under 25 if enrolled full time in university) the applicant’s pension must include an additional $250 per dependent applicant.
To apply for the Pensionado Visa, the applicant must provide documentation, such as a letter from the institution or company that is paying the retirement or pension income. This letter or other forms of certification must be notarized and authenticated by a Panamanian Consulate.
Unlike the Friendly Nation’s Visa, the Pensionado Visa does not allow applicants to apply for citizenship or a work permit. Government and legal fees to apply for the Pensionado Visa start around $2,000 for the primary applicant.
The Reforestation Visa is an eco-friendly immigration program in Panama that requires individuals to invest a minimum of $80,000 to purchase a minimum of five acres of reforested land that is part of a certified Panamanian reforestation project or plantation. If the primary applicant is adding dependents, an additional $2,000 investment is required per dependent.
Unlike both the Friendly Nation’s Visa and the Pensionado Visa, which grant the applicant immediate permanent residency, the Reforestation Visa is provisional for the first two years. After the second year, you must reapply for permanent residency. Once your permanent residency application is approved, you are eligible to apply for citizenship after the 5th year of residency.
In addition to the minimum investment of $80,000, legal and government fees for the provisional residency application start around $3,000, and the permanent residency fee (after the 2-year provisional residency) is around $2,000.
Ready to explore your options? Find out more about the teak for residency program here.