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.
Entry visa requirement (from EU) (YES/NO)
Entry visa requirement (outside EU) (YES/NO)
Yes, with some exceptions (USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, etc.)
Types of visas available
Long-term visa (retiree visa, work or investment visa)
Time frame for obtaining work visa (approx.)
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)
Sponsorship requirement (YES/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)
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.
The following video summarizes the main requirements for immigration:
How has the law for those who immigrate to Panama changed?
The Panama Friendly Nations Visa programme will change starting with 2021. After many years during which foreign nationals were permitted a light regime to enter and remain in the country, the regulations will change. Although the visa will not disappear altogether, interested foreign nationals, and especially those who are interested in starting a business, will 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 team for more details.
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. 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.
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.
Call us now at +230 5252 6703 to set up an appointment with our business consultants in Panama City, Panama. Alternatively you can incorporate your company without traveling to Panama.
As a our client, you will benefit from the joint expertise of local lawyers and international consultants. Together we will be able to offer you the specialized help you require for your business start-up in Panama.