In 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:
- Czech Republic
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
- United States
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.