Panama Permanent Residence
Answers provided by Panama residency experts NTL Wealth Advisors
An introduction to residence permits in Panama
Legislative frameworkThe 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 categoriesPanama has four immigration categories:
- Non-resident. Occasional visitors who do not have intentions to establish residency in Panama, such as tourists, passengers or crew in transit, or sailors.
- 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.
- Permanent resident. Foreigner who enters for economic reasons and investment, special policies and others in order to establish themselves in the country.
- Foreigners under the protection of Panama. This category includes refugees, asylum-seekers, and people covered by the humanitarian protection statute.
Travel PassportThe 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
- Fixed deposit option
- Hybrid option
- Social work
- Real estate agents
- Do I need to get a Visa before applying to a residence permit program?
- How can I apply for a tax residency in Panama?
- Which countries are restricted from applying for Panama residency?
- Is Panama a safe country?
- Does my residency permit allow me to work in Panama?
- After getting my permanent residency status, how can I get my ID card?
- Can I bring my family with me as qualifying dependents?
- Under the Friendly Nations program, what is the minimum amount necessary to deposit in the bank account to demonstrate economic solvency?
- How can I get a Panamanian passport?
- What is a Panama travel passport?
- If I qualify for Retirement and Friendly Nations programs, which is better for me?
- What types of investments grant permanent residency?
- What happens if, after getting my permanent residency card by investment, I decide to sell or recover my invested funds?
- If I invest in a free zone in Panama, what are my benefits?
- What is the procedure for obtaining permanent residency?
- What is the minimum stay in Panama to maintain the permanent residence status?
- What are the general requirements?
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:
- Favorable labor regulations
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
- 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).
- 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.