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Immigrate to Panama

Immigrate to Panama

There are many reasons why foreign nationals choose to immigrate to Panama. For foreign investors, the ease of doing business and starting a company can be an important motive, while for others the beautiful beaches, the pleasant weather and the low cost of living can be their top reasons.

In order to relocate to Panama, individuals will need to follow a few steps and spend a period in the country with a temporary residence, after which they can apply for permanent residency,

The purpose of stay in Panama can differ, however, all foreign nationals are asked to follow the initial entry requirements (based on their nationality) and the subsequent rules for temporary and permanent stay in the country.

 Quick Facts  
  Entry visa requirement (from EU)  (YES/NO) 

 

No

Entry visa requirement (outside EU) (YES/NO)

Yes, with some exceptions (USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, etc.)

Types of visas available

 Short-stay visa
Long-term visa (retiree visa,  work or investment visa)
Time frame for obtaining work visa (approx.) 

1-3 months

Validity of temporary residence permit 1, 2 or 3 years, depending on the visa type
Time frame for obtaining permanent residence (approx.)

30 days for the investment residence permit; the processing time can differ on a case-to-case basis.

Investor Visa Availability (YES/NO)

Yes

Sponsorship requirement (YES/NO) No
Time frame for obtaining citizenship  Applications are submited after a minimum lawful stay of at leat 5 years; the processing time can be of 1 year.
Citizenship/Residency by investment scheme availability (YES/NO) Yes
 Tax benefits for expats The regular Panamanian tax benefits: no taxes on income earned outside of Panama. 

In this article you can find out more about how to move to Panama and what you can expect in general. Because each case is different, and foreign nationals will arrive in Panama under varying circumstances, we advise those interested to reach out to our Panamanian experts who can give you personalized information.

A particular area of interest is for those who wish to open a company in Panama. In this article you will also find a few details about the conditions for investing and obtaining residency. For more information on this topic, you can always discuss with our company formation agents.

What are the main conditions for entry into Panama?

In order to be able to immigrate to Panama, one has to lawfully enter the country. This is done under a visa for most foreign nationals.

Nationals from more than 100 countries, including many countries in Europe, Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States of America are subject to a visa waiver and they can remain in the country for six months. An extension of the visa is performed with the Offices of Immigration for those who wish to immigrate to Panama.

Foreign nationals from several countries that do not qualify for the waiver will need an authorized visa. Included here are those from Afghanistan, Albania, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Laos, Mali, Morocco, Pakistan, People’s Republic of Korea, Suria, Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Yemen and others.

The purpose of the visa application is important and the supporting documentation will depend on it. Work purposes, as well as investment purposes are often used. For some types of investments, one should know that Panama citizenship by investment is an option. However, foreign nationals can also apply for a family regrouping visa. Our team can give you more details about the rules and regulations set forth by the government for those interested in how to move to Panama.

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Obtaining Panamanian citizenship can be the goal of many foreign nationals who relocate to Panama, as it is the end procedure followed for the purpose of immigration. The naturalization process is based on the applicants’ years spent in the country, as well as his ability to prove that he has integrated into the community and has assimilated important cultural norms. 

The following video summarizes the main requirements for immigration to Panama:

How has the law concerning immigration to Panama changed?

The Panama Friendly Nations Visa programme has changed starting with 2021. After many years during which foreign nationals were permitted a light regime to enter and remain in the country, the regulations were changed and, although the visa did not disappear altogether, interested foreign nationals (and especially those who are interested in starting a business) are be subject to different rules.

Some of the changes that started to take effect in August 2021, affecting the way in which one can move to Panama,are the following:

  • – Temporary residence: the first step will be to obtain a temporary residency visa with a validity of at least 2 years; after this the holder can make an application for permanent residency;
  • – Work permit: another change apart from the mandatory temporary stay is that the applicant will also need to apply for a work permit; buying a company in Panama does not longer suffice;
  • – The purpose of stay: the now temporary visa for those who wish to move to Panama can be awarded for work purposes or for buying property of no less than 200,000 $;
  • – List of eligible countries: the list of countries accepted for this type of visa has reduced to 53; Taiwan is no longer included;
  • – Processing time: it is expected that the approval process and the issuance of the Panama Friendly Nations Visa for those who immigrate to Panama will be longer, with an expected period between 8 to 10 months.

If you are interested in Panama company formation, as well as gaining temporary residence, our team can give you more details.

The beautiful coastline, the busy shipping route that offers investment opportunities, the low cost of live and the minimal language barrier (given the fact that Spanish and English are spoken here) are all very good reasons to immigrate to Panama. If you decide to take this step, we can help you with pre and post-arrival steps, such as when you wish to open a bank account in Panama.

Options for investors in Panama

While the option to acquire permanent residency for those who open a company in Panama has been eliminated from the Friendly Nations Visa, there are other options for investors that grant temporary residency which can, in time, lead to permanent residency and the final goal to relocate to Panama.

The Reforestation Visa is such an option and it is available to foreign nationals who are able to make a minimum investment in a national reforestation program. The minimum investment amount is $40,000 or $80,000 and it needs to be submitted to be approved. Both amounts of investment allow the individual to reside in the country, with the larger value granting permanent residency faster compared to the minimum amount. Like in other cases, the temporary residence permit needs to be renewed each year and after five years the holder can apply for permanent residency.  

There is no nationality restriction for the reforestation visa, however, applicants will need to observe the general entry requirements that apply to them based on nationality. Some of the documents that are required when applying for this visa include the following:

  • – a valid passport (valid for at least 6 months);
  • – criminal record issued by the authorities in the applicant’s country of origin or those in the last country the applicant was a resident of;
  • – birth certificate, marriage certificate (if applicable), the birth certificate of the dependents (such as children, if applicable);
  • – a medical certificate issued in Panama (our team can give you more details about this);
  • – proof of investment contract.

The application is submitted in person and the process also include the payment of the initial processing fees and the subsequent fees (these are calculated for the applicant as well as for each one of the dependents, if any).

The investment contract with the reforestation company is the basis upon which this visa is issued. In order for the investment to be valid, the applicant needs to submit the minimum amount with an approved company.

We advise you to work with our company formation and investment specialists in Panama in order to make sure that the reforestation contract is reviewed by a professional and that is complies with the requirements in force.

If obtaining this visa under the national reforestation programme is of interest, you can reach out to our immigration lawyers in Panama for more details.

Applying for a residence permit for Panama is easier with the help of a team of local professionals. Our immigration specialists can answer important pre-application questions, can evaluate your case specifically, and will provide you with details on the needed residence permit documents, the expected processing time, and more. Reach out to us as soon as you are ready to apply.

Retire to Panama

Another option for many foreign nationals can be that to retire to Panama. This is possible with a lower income requirement and there is no need to make an initial investment, as would be the case when opening a company or when applying for the reforestation programme.

A key element when applying for the option to retire to Panama is to be able to show that you have sufficient, stable income for the entire period you will be spending in the country (if you plan to retire permanently, the to the end of your life).

The minimum age is 18 years, however, there is no limit for the application age. There are two options to be taken into consideration: the private income retiree visa and the retiree visa. The first is available to those who are not working, do not have a monthly pension, however, they do have a retirement lump amount or another source of income that that guarantee their financial stability.

The retiree visa targets those foreign nationals who are retired pensioners and have a steady pension within the prescribed minimum monthly income.

For US citizens, the minimum monthly income for the retiree visa is USD 1,000 for the applicant and USD 250 for each dependent.

The minimum amount for other foreign nationals can be different as it can be calculated according to the currency in their country of origin. Before applying, we recommend that you verity this minimum amount with our experts.

As for other types of visas, retirees will need to submit additional documents, among which the mandatory ones such as the passport, the health certificate issued in Panama, photographs, proof of monthly income as well as information about the individuals who will be joining as dependents (if any).

Retiring to Panama can be a suitable option for those who are able to use the steady monthly income they receive from their home country in order to apply for the visa.

The retirement program also offers certain incentives such as discounts on utility bills, on loans, reductions on medical or entertainment services.

Some of the retirement benefits are listed below:

  • – discounts on utility bills (25%) and airline tickets and 30% for other types of transportation;
  • – discounts on loans and home mortgages for personal residence;
  • – discounts for medical bills and hospital bills if not subject to insurance;
  • – discounts on technical and professional services, hotel and cultural discounts.

Additionally, an import tax exemption for household goods applies, as well as an import tax exemption for new cars (subject to conditions; other taxes for importing cars apply, apart from the specific import tax).

If you wish to know more about the advantages, you can get in touch with our experts who can give you more details about how you can retire to the country and, while doing so, effectively immigrating to Panama.

The Panamanian Qualified Investor Visa

Making a qualified and substantial investment in selected fields allows foreign nationals to access the Qualified Investor Visa.

This type of visa, suitable for long-term stays, was introduced in 2020 and it targets certain specific investment areas.

Compared to other types of visas, such as those for employment, it can be a faster route to immigrate to Panama, given the fact that it allows the holder to remain in the country for long periods of time (and this comply with the minimum stay) and also bring family members, if appliable.

Some of the available investment routes include:

  • – real estate purchases of USD 500,000 or USD 300,000 (subject to a limited time and conditions);
  • – stock market investments, on the Panamanian Stock Market, through a licensed broker, also with a minimum amount of USD 500,000 in most cases;
  • – fixed term bank deposits, with a qualified Panamanian bank, of USD 750,000 in most cases.

In case of real estate investments, a public notary will authenticate the purchase agreement or escrow agreement.

Mandatory documentation is required before the investor visa foe qualified investors can be issued.

A passport copy, apostilled, valid criminal record, photographs, bank statements and fee payments are required in addition to the documents attesting to the type of investment made, as per the applicable categories.

Other conditions can apply for the property purchase. Our team is able to provide investors with details and solutions, according to the type of investment they target for permanent residency in the country.

The processing time for the visa foe qualified investors can take at least 30 days and it is subject to the prior investment.

This means that investors who are able to make the substantial investments listed above will first need to purchase the property and/or make the needed payments, and only after will they be able to submit their application.

Reasons to invest in Panama

Panama offers ample opportunities for business creation and the development of an international business that is incorporated locally, in order to benefit from the business regime.

Remaining lawfully in Panama for the minimum prescribed time as an investor will also allow the foreign entrepreneur to complete the process to immigrate to Panama, if he so wishes.

Some of the main reasons for opening a company in Panama are the following:

  • – a robust economy;
  • – open investment climate, allowing full foreign ownership;
  • – low labor costs and qualified employees in different fields;
  • – various business opportunities in multiple industries and business sectors;
  • – the possibility to incorporate a company that will be used for international trade, for the purpose of creating a trust or a foundation, or for holding purposes (an offshore company);
  • – various benefits for companies located in the country’s special economic zones.

Company creation in Panama is easier with the help of a team of local experts, such as our specialists.

We provide solutions for foreign investors who wish to open a company, and, at the same time, they are interested in remaining in the country for long-term purposes.

As previously mentioned, foreign entrepreneurs can choose to invest in dedicated programs or open a business in order to remain in the country.

Full compliance with the rules of lawful stay allows them the option to apply for permanent residence, with the ultimate goal for complete relocation.

Foreign nationals who are interested in knowing more about the process can contact us for personalized assistance. We can help you move to the country, and, for business owners, we can give you information on how to relocate to Panama with your company.

Our immigration lawyers in Panama will answer all your questions.