A New Visa for Panama

visa stampsIn May, Panama president Ricardo Martinelli signed an executive order that created a new type of visa. It’s a visa that will be relatively easy to get, and will help to solve some of Panama’s shortage of skilled labor.

There were more questions than answers about it initially.

A couple of weeks after the order was signed, I went with a native Panamanian to the local immigration office to try to get specific information. I was interested to see if this was a visa that would work for me.

Basically, they had no information about it at that time.

Since then, Panama has taken steps to implement it. While still not super-specific, there are now some reasonable guidelines in place.

You Need to be from One of These 24 Countries to Qualify

Sometimes referred to as the “Business and Professional Visa,” it’s also known as the “Specific Countries” visa. That’s because it’s only available to you if you’re a citizen of one of the following 24 countries:

  1. Argentina
  2. Australia
  3. Austria
  4. Belgium
  5. Brazil
  6. Canada
  7. Chile
  8. Czech Republic
  9. Finland
  10. France
  11. Germany
  12. Ireland
  13. Japan
  14. Netherlands
  15. Norway
  16. Singapore
  17. Slovakia
  18. Spain
  19. South Korea
  20. Sweden
  21. Switzerland
  22. United Kingdom
  23. United States
  24. Uruguay

You Have to Prove You’re Financially Solvent

You also must prove financial solvency by showing you have at least $5,000 in a bank account.

Now a third stipulation has been added: you need to own property in the country or set up a corporation and get a business license.

There is a bit of a catch-22 for people who want to work for someone else rather than run their own businesses. To get the work permit, Immigration has to approve your visa. But to receive the visa, you need a work permit. . .

Rules are still being hammered out, and it looks as though it will be possible to receive the work permit once you’ve applied for the visa.

Your dependants can live here legally once you have the visa as well. Your spouse and dependent children under 18 (25 if they’re students) are covered.

Does the visa lead to citizenship? I’ve read mixed reports on that.

Who’s it For?

If you’re retired and have regular income from a pension or Social Security, the pensionado visa might still be a better choice for you. But if you need to work, qualifying for this visa can legalize your status and save you those every-six-month visa runs to Costa Rica or elsewhere.

If you’re interested in the specific countries visa, though, you should move quickly. Since it was created by executive order, it may not be available once Martinelli leaves office in 2014.

Comments

  1. Hi,

    My husband is going to work for a french group in Panama.
    They don’t take care of my work permit but they will help us to the get the right to stay in the country. I was wondering if i can get a work permit before having a job ?
    Sorry for my english, i’m french 🙂
    Thanks a lot

    • FutureExpat says:

      Hi Sylla, normally a prospective employer would take care of that for you. Or, you could apply for the so-called Friendly Nations professional visa, which would also allow you to work in the country. If you decide to go that route, best to do so sooner rather than later. The visa was created by executive order from President Martinelli, and after the elections in June it may change or disappear.

  2. Hi Susana,

    It’s been a few years since you’ve blogged about this. Do you know if these immigration rules have changed?

    My husband and I are from Germany and Canada and would like to get permanent residency in Panama via these means if this still exists. Can you recommend any lawyers to help with the process? Or where we could look to find lawyers?

    Many thanks for keeping such an informative blog!! I’ve gone through many entries already. 🙂

    • FutureExpat says:

      Janice, the so-called Friendly Nations visa is not only still available, but the list of countries has expanded. It’s an excellent option if you’re from one of the approved countries, and allows you to work in Panama if that’s something you’re interested in. Here’s a complete list of the countries.

      The other top visa choice is still the pensionado visa. It doesn’t let you work, but gives you permanent residency and lots of benefits.

      • Thanks for the quick reply! That’s good news to know it still exists. We are going to look into starting this process soon. Do you recommend going to Panama in person to sort this out on our own (opening business, bank account, applying for residency) or to rely on an agency to start things before we arrive? (our first visit will only be 3-months long)

        I read in another entry that you do not have permanent residency in Panama and rely on renewing your tourist visa every time. May I ask if you still do this, and if so, why wouldn’t you get residency when it’s so ‘easy’?

  3. Hi

    Thank for your excellent website , it’s so helpful.
    I am looking to live overseas with my husband and children, we thinking about Argentina, we from Sudan and live in Saudi Arabia .

    Do you think what is the better to us panama or Argentina
    Thank you

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