Panama Permanent Residence

Panama Residence Programs Overview

Answers provided by Panama residency experts NTL Wealth Advisors

An introduction to residence permits in Panama
Legislative framework
The Panamanian regulation that creates the legal regime for foreigners is based in the decree of the 22nd of February, 2008, and the Executive Decree No. 26 of March 9th, 2009 that amends the previous Decree No. 320 of August 8th, 2008.

The decrees regulate the migratory movement of entry and exit of foreigners, establish the requirements for nationalization by naturalization, define the migratory categories, and creates the controlling entity for such purposes. “The Panamanian National Immigration Service” functions as the supervisory body for the control and application of immigration policies in accordance with the law.

The Panamanian diplomatic and consular personnel abroad is also authorized to perform migratory functions in accordance with international agreements, but normally only handles the non-resident entry visa.

Immigration categories
Panama has four immigration categories:
  1. Non-resident. Occasional visitors who do not have intentions to establish residency in Panama, such as tourists, passengers or crew in transit, or sailors.
  2. Temporary resident. Foreigner who enters Panama for labor reasons, special policies or education, culture, religious, humanitarian and family reunification reasons. This permit is valid for a period of up to six years and also permits the inclusion of dependents.
  3. Permanent resident. Foreigner who enters for economic reasons and investment, special policies and others in order to establish themselves in the country.
  4. Foreigners under the protection of Panama. This category includes refugees, asylum-seekers, and people covered by the humanitarian protection statute.
The only category that entitles an alien to reside permanently in Panama is the third one. Below, we refer to the most important programs available for this purpose. For further advice, you may contact the NTL Wealth Panama office. Panama’s competitive advantages make it unique in the region and include the country’s the geographic position and connectivity. Panama is Caribbean’s commercial hub par excellence and the entry point to Latin America in terms of services, finance, logistics capacity, and world-class distribution. Panama is home to major ports in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, sees more than 132,000 direct flights annually to 90 destinations in 35 countries, has an interoceanic railroad, and 4.5Mb/s internet. The country receives 45% of all foreign direct investment into Central America and is the economy with the highest growth rates in Latin America.
Travel Passport
The residency visa is worth mentioning as it provides residency and a Panamanian travel passport as long as the minimum monthly interest is generated. It requires an investment of roughly US$370,000 in a fixed deposit bank account with one of the Panama government banks. The exact size of the deposit will depend on the interest rates offered at the time, but it must generate a monthly interest of at least USD 850. Within four months, a travel passport is issued by the Government of Panama for the holder and his immediate family members. Please note that this does not constitute Panamanian citizenship but rather a valid international travel document. The deposit is has a five-year term (the same as the validity of a normal Panama travel passport) with an option to renew the deposit and passport for another five years, if desirable. As long as the deposit is maintained, the investor and his family are entitled to reside in Panama. The deposit can be withdrawn at any time but, once withdrawn, the residency is lost. Investor Visa If you invest in Panamanian real estate or make a deposit in a Panamanian Bank for a sum of USD 300,000, you are eligible for permanent residence. Other members of your family, including spouse, and children, can qualify for permanent residency as well, upon the additional investment of US$2,000 per dependent. This program offers three investment options:
  • Real estate option
Perhaps the easiest form of investment is in real estate, which currently yields around 6-8%. A USD 300,000 investment in residential real estate returns roughly US$3,000 a month, or around 7-8% net.
  • Fixed deposit option
An investment of USD 300,000 or more in a fixed deposit account with one of the Panamanian banks. The minimum deposit term is three years and the investor needs to open an additional savings account in Panama for the collection of interest accrued. There is no income tax on the deposit within Panama.
  • Hybrid option
The investor may choose to combine the two above-mentioned options by both making an investment in real estate and making a bank deposit where the equity and cash amounts total at least US$300,000. For every dependent to be included with the visa, an additional US$ 2,000 must be invested. For each option, once the investment is complete, the authorities will issue a residency card valid for two years within about 4 months, after which permanent residency is achieved. Residents of Panama are eligible to apply for Panamanian citizenship after 5 years of permanent residency in Panama. Pensionado Visa (Retirement Visa) This is the world’s premier pension and retirement visa and is generally recognized as the best and easiest retirement program in the world. The program is open to any age or nationality, but you must be able to demonstrate that you have a fixed income from a pension or retirement fund equivalent to US$1,000 per month. Another US$250 per month must be generated by pension for each dependent. If an applicant has purchased a property in Panama with a value of at least US$100,000, the monthly pension requirement can be reduced to USD 750. Macro investor Under this category, the applicant must invest at least US$ 160,000 in a new or existing business that employs at least five Panamanian residents/citizens. Reforestation Visa The Panamanian Government has implemented a countrywide reforestation program to benefit from timber industry development. To encourage investment in this sector, the government offers residency for a minimum investment of USD 80,000 in an approved forestry project of at least 5 hectares. Professional If you are a professional whose skills are needed in Panama, you will be able to obtain residency without any capital requirements and without even having to have an existing job offer from an employer. Due to Panama’s rapid expansion, the list of skilled and qualified personnel is always expanding and it would be fair to say that Panama needs almost all types of highly skilled persons, from boat captains to business people. Indeed, Panama has the lowest unemployment rate in Latin America, demonstrating the desperate shortage of skilled professionals. At present, there is no requirement to be able to speak Spanish, no requirement to prove job history, and no requirement to have a job offer. All that’s required is a university degree and a medical record. Your degree should also be validated by a Panamanian university. Please note that there is a list of restricted professions that only Panamanians can perform. These are:
  • Law
  • Medicine
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Economics
  • Engineering
  • Nursing
  • Social work
  • Accounting
  • Real estate agents
The immigration department issues rules and regulations defining what type of professions qualify as “special”. Friendly Nations Visa To encourage immigration from countries considered favorable, Panama has created a low-cost immigration incentive that allows you to obtain residency in a matter of three months by simply opening a company in Panama and with the “intention to do business”. This category has 50,000 applicants per year and will likely soon become oversubscribed. The nationalities eligible for the Friendly Nations Visa are:
Andorra
Argentina
Australia
Austria
Belgium
Brazil
Canada
Chile
Costa Rica
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
Hong Kong
Hungary
Ireland
Israel
Japan
Latvia
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Malta
Mexico
Monaco
Montenegro
Netherlands
New Zealand
Norway
Paraguay
Poland
Portugal
San Marino
Serbia
Singapore
Slovakia
South Africa
South Korea
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Taiwan
United Kingdom
United States
Uruguay
Why Residency in Panama is easier to obtain than in most other countries The Panamanian government needs approximately another million people to fill the current demand for labor and capital in this booming economy. To this end, Panama has created a tailored series of immigration incentives that are better than almost anywhere else in the world. There is no Spanish language requirement and, in fact, no language requirements whatsoever, unlike in conventional destinations for investor migrants such as Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and Australia. About us NTL Wealth is an internationally renowned, closely held group of trust, corporate, and immigration providers with offices in New Zealand, Nevis, Grenada, Vanuatu, and Panama. We specialize in tailoring comprehensive wealth maximization and immigration solutions using trusts and multi-jurisdictional structures supported by a team of experts. WE WELCOME INTEREST AND APPLICATIONS TO BECOME OUR ASSOCIATE. Please write to info@ntlwealth.com WE GUARANTEE: A customized high-quality service for our clients providing you with the most up to date information and support: from organizing investment tours to the complete fast track residency. Applicants also receive legal consultation from immigration lawyer (in English, Russian or Spanish) as part of the package. You will be partnered with a personal representative who will answer all your questions about Panama, and we will assist you in all aspects of relocation from finding real estate, obtaining a mobile phone number to booking your holiday. Our concierge service is designed to assist you in the most difficult phase of residency when you are a new arrival. Prices depend on the type of program and number of applicants, range between 8.000 USD to 25.000 that includes, government check, legal expenses and professional fees. https://www.migracion.gob.pa/ official website

Panama Permanent Residence – FAQ

Answers provided by Panama experts NTL Wealth Advisors Jump to:

Do I need to get a visa before applying to a residence permit program?

There are three visa categories to enter Panama depending on your country of origin: Authorized visa, stamped visa and excepted visa, (this link can be used to identify what are your country requirements http://www.atp.gob.pa/requisitos-de-entrada-panama). A visa is requested from the embassy or consular authorities of the country before leaving and may be for reasons of tourism, study, work, etc. If your purpose is to apply for a resident permit, then all required documentation must be previously arranged before you arrive in Panama to avoid delays in the process. By Executive Decree number 248 of July 21st , 2009, it was established that: “Any person regardless of nationality, who has a valid visa duly issued by the United States of America, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and any of the states that conform to the European Union, and has used it at least once to enter the territory of the granting state, or that demonstrates its legal residence in those countries, may enter the national territory […]” without the need to process a visa.

How can I apply for a tax residency in Panama?

Once you get the permanent residency, tax certificate can be obtained by demonstrating local domicile and economic ties in Panama, like operative company, annual tax returns, bank accounts, and residence address. Finally, the law did not request specifically the 183 days of residency in Panamanian territory to request your certificate. Once the applicant gets the permanent residency status, he/she is able to apply for naturalization within a period of 5 years. The application needs to be submitted to the Ministry of Government and Justice and it can take between 6 months to one year, depending on the current government.

Which countries are restricted from applying for Panama Residency?

There are no restrictions on nationalities, but for the countries that require a visa, it should be applied according to the visa type, authorized or stamped, and must follow the corresponding procedure and requirements for the requested visa. In those cases, the Panamanian consulate accredited in the country of origin sends the request to the immigration department and, together with the Security Council, authorizes or denies them.

Is Panama a safe country?

Panama stands out among other Latin countries because it offers solid infrastructure and can be considered a safe destination for expats. The crime rate is high on dangerous spots, which are best avoided. You can regularly see people walking at night or exercising in the public sport courts. Panama is very attractive when it comes to safety and security. Women report feeling safe living in many Panamanian regions, whether in the city center, beaches, or mountain areas.

Does my residency permit allow me to work in Panama?

It will depend on the category of residency that you applied for. For example, under the retiree or pensioner schemes, you are not allowed to work with an employment relationship in Panama, except in the following cases: 1. When providing specialized services not offered by Panamanians to the national government or to its decentralized entities. 2. When the applicant has invested considerable amounts of capital in private enterprise, with the prior authorization of the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, in accordance with the limitations of the Work code. 3. When the applicants are members of the Boards of Directors of the companies in those that maintain investments. For the rest of the categories, the work permit is mandatory and should be requested to the Ministry of Labor and the requirements depend on the type of visa you hold.

After getting my permanent residency status, how can I get my ID card?

After the permanent residency status is approved and you receive your card, within a term of 30 days, the National Immigration Department will release a resolution that should be submitted to the Electoral Tribunal for them to issue the ID card. The ID card will be categorized as E, which means foreigner (Extranjero). There is an additional fee of less than USD 100. If you are not in Panama when the resolution is released, we recommend doing it within a year.

Can I bring my family with me as qualifying dependents?

Yes, you can bring your wife, children, and parents as dependents of the main applicant according to the following regulations: 1. Children below 18 y.o. 2. Child between 18 y.o and 25 y.o should provide certification of enrollment from an education center on a regular basis, an affidavit stating he/she depends economically on the main applicant, and certification that he/she is not married. 3. Marriage certificate for wife/husband of main applicant. 4. Relative with disability that is economically dependent of the main applicant. There are additional government fees to be paid for each dependent, although minors up to 12 y.o are exempted from paying the repatriation fee. Under the investment visas and macro investor visa, the investment should be increased to USD 2,000 for each dependent.

Under the Friendly Nations program, what is the minimum amount necessary to deposit in the bank account to demonstrate economic solvency?

For the main applicant, it is necessary to deposit USD 5,000 and additional USD 2,000 for each dependent member. This money can be used as soon as the bank gives them a bank reference letter. As an example, for a family with two children (4 members), the amount deposited would be USD 11,000.

How can I get a Panamanian passport?

Once the applicant gets the permanent residency status, he/she may apply for naturalization after 5 years. The application needs to be submitted to the Ministry of Government and Justice and it can take between 6 months to one year, depending on the current government processing speed.

What is a Panama travel passport?

The income-based Retiree is a temporary residency that you can get by making a fixed term deposit free of any liens or warranty of any nature for a minimum period of five (5) years. The actual amount to be deposited currently is around USD 372,100.00 in “Banco Nacional de Panamá” (Panama’s national bank). This is the only program that allows you to get a special Panamanian passport or Panama Travel Passport; this passport doesn’t give you the Panamanian citizenship but allows you to travel to more than 128 countries Visa Free, including all of Europe and Latin America. This passport is especially good if your country of origin doesn’t allow you to have a second citizenship.

If I qualify for Retirement and Friendly Nations programs, which is better for me?

The Retirement Visa or Pensionado program, which grants permanent residency status, is the easiest way to apply in this case, as long as the pension certificate is valid and complies with the requirements and the minimum income of USD 1,000 for life, married couples can combine their monthly pension incomes. Some considerations about the Pensionado program:
  • It is not possible to get a work permit.
  • In the case of children as dependents of the main applicant, their permit will be classified as temporary residency up to the age of 25 years, after which age each child should process an independent application for getting resident status under a different program.

What types of investments grant permanent residency?

1. Investing in Panamanian real estate with a minimum value of USD300,000 depending on the number of applicants. The investor should not sell the property until he gets the permanent card (2 years). 2. Investing in a fixed term deposit in a Panamanian bank with a minimum amount of USD300,000 for a minimum period of three (3) years. 3. Shared investment in real estate property and fixed term deposit, that adds up to a minimum amount of USD300,000. The investor should not sell the property or recover the investment in the bank until he gets the permanent card (2 years). 4. Investing in a Panamanian company with a minimum authorized capital of USD 160,000 depending on the number of applicants, or acquiring shares of an existing Panamanian company equivalent to the same amount (USD160,000). The investor should not sell the property or recover their investment until he gets the permanent card. (2 years). 5. Direct Investment in an approved project of minimum USD80,000 in reforestation projects in land measuring of at least five (5) hectares. The investor should not sell the property or recover their investment until he gets the permanent card. (2 years). Each of the above programs has different requirements and conditions, so please contact us for more details.

What happens if, after getting my permanent residency card by investment, I decide to sell or recover my invested funds?

Once you have your permanent residency card, you can recover your invested funds or resell the property acquired. The period in which you can recover it depends on every program holding period as stated above.

If I invest in a free zone in Panama, what are my benefits?

Free Zones such as “Panama Pacifico” have special incentives for investors like:
  • Tax exemptions on:
Income tax, dividend tax, and complementary tax, transfer tax, import tax, sales tax, export and re-export tax, registration tax, including industrial and commercial licenses, real estate property tax, withholding/retention taxes, stamp tax, insurance premium tax, taxes on the storage and movement of fuel or other hydrocarbons and derivatives.
  • Favorable labor regulations
24/7 operations are allowed, fixed rates for overtime (25%) and work conducted on national holidays or during employees’ day off (50%), flexibility to assign employees’ day off, work termination possible in case of losses or demand fluctuations. Special investor and worker visas available, visa benefits also extend to worker’s immediate, special visas for investors and workers. Visas are available for family members, there are expedited procedures for visas and work permits for foreigners, and there is a tax-free, one-time importation of any personal and domestic belongings (up to USD100,000), with National Migration Service onsite.

What is the procedure for obtaining permanent residency?

During the application process, a few visits are required to obtain permanent residency status. For investment programs, we recommend spending two or three additional weeks for the first visit, in order to get the property or fixed deposit completed before applying. The Pensionado program, Friendly Nations program, and the Retiree program do not have a temporary card and their processing time is faster than for the other permanent residency programs.
  • Initial visit: 5 – 10 working days, the duration depends on the specific situation and on what needs to be done. As a result, the applicant can walk-away with a procedure permission card with multiple visas (of course only if all requirements are duly met).
  • Second visit: 2-3 days, after max 3 months. As a result, the applicant can walk-away with the provisional residence card valid for 2 years.
  • Third visit: 5-8 working days, after 23 months. As a result, the applicant can walk-away with a procedure permission card with multiple visas (new application process).
  • Fourth visit: 2-3 days, after 27 months. As a result, the applicant can walk-away with the permanent residence card.

What is the minimum stay in Panama to maintain the permanent residence status?

  • It is not necessary to reside in Panama permanently. As a matter of fact, there is no clear definition of how many days a residency holder needs to spend in Panama.
  • However, in order to apply for the Panamanian citizenship (passport), frequent presence in Panama would be required to show ties with the country.

What are the general requirements?

The requirements vary for each program. For some, you will have to create a local company and open a personal bank account (like in Friendly Nations), or acquire shares in an existing company (as in Macro Investor). Here, we only present the standard requirements. For each applicant:
  • Criminal history background check (police record) apostilled or duly authenticated by the respective Panama Embassy/Consulate
  • Passport and second I.D.
  • Five (5) passport size photos
For spouse and children:
  • Spouse: Marriage certificate apostilled or authenticated by the respective Panama Embassy/Consulate
  • Child: Birth certificate apostilled or authenticated by the respective Panama Embassy/Consulate
  • Adult child: A certification from the relevant authority in their country confirming they are not married. This certificate must be apostilled or authenticated by the respective Panama Embassy/Consulate. Also, a certification from a Panamanian university where the dependant is enrolled (to be done in Panama and for which secondary school or undergraduate diplomas are needed).
Other documentation requirements:
  • Certification of the public register office that confirms the ownership of the real estate investment
  • Confirmation that the initial funds were transferred from overseas: Bank statement, swift confirmation, etc.
  • NTL can provide the opening bank account assistance service
  • Two certified checks to government institutions, issued by a Panamanian bank (USD 1,050 for each applicant, different amounts for children below 12 years)
  • Original medical examination report from a certified Panama medical doctor for each applicant
  • Power of attorney and request for an application from a lawyer duly notarized
  • Declaration forms for each applicant
  • Letters of responsibility from the main applicant for each dependant
  • Panama address proof
  • Official translations signed by a licensed official public translator from the Republic of Panama.
  • Legal Fees: The average fees range from USD 3,000 to USD 6,000 for a single applicant based on a standard service.

For more answers about the Panama’s residence by investment programs, visit NTL’s website.

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