Before you come to Panama, It’s important to know what kind of Visa you will be entering with and or seeking while you are there. Understanding your visa allows you to know how long you are able to stay in Panama, what benefits you may get and your ability to work while in the country.
1- Tourist Visa
If you are from the USA or Canada you do not need a visa for tourist visits of up to 180 days. With an entry stamp in your passport, tourists may stay for up to 180 days or 6 months. Technically, by law, tourist visas are only valid for 90 days but by executive order they are automatically extended to 180 days. Tourist visa holders can rent and own property in Panama, but cannot work.
- For a tourist visa, passports from the USA, and Canada, need to be valid for at least three months beyond your intended stay.
- When you stay in Panama for 180 days or 6 months, you must leave the country for at least 30 days before returning to Panama.
- When you enter Panama on a tourist visa, you will be asked for proof of return to your home country or of onward travel out of Panama within 180 days. This can be a plane ticket, a bus ticket, or a ticket by boat.
- As a tourist, you can drive in Panama using your International Passport and Drivers license for 90 days or 3 months. To “renew” your tourist drivers license, you must leave Panama for a minimum of 3 days or 72 hours. Upon your return you are able to drive for 90 more days.
2- Pensionado Visa
Panama provides fantastic benefits to retirees or “Pensionados” and grants immediate permanent residence to those who qualify.
- 50% off entertainment anywhere in the country (movies, theaters, concerts, sporting events)
- 30% off bus, boat, and train fares
- 25% off airline tickets
- 25% off monthly energy bills
- 30% to 50% off hotel stays
- 15% off hospital bills* (without insurance)
- Any Panamanian Citizen or Permanent Resident with “Jubilado” status (over the age of 55 for women and 60 for men) is entitled to these discounts as well
So how do you qualify?
- You must receive a pension of at least $1,000 per month and an additional $250 for each dependent. If your monthly lifetime income for a pension is less than $1,000, but greater than $750, you may be able to qualify by purchasing a property of at least $100,000, which reduces the monthly lifetime requirement to a minimum of $750.
- You are not required to buy real estate in Panama to qualify
- Foreigners who obtain residency via the Pensionado Program are protected from changes in the law, in effect allowing them to maintain residency in perpetuity
- Foreigners on Pensionado status are not entitled to apply for Panamanian citizenship. Someone with a Pensionado visa cannot work in Panama but can rent and own property
If you qualify to obtain residency in Panama via the Pensionado Program, you are entitled to a one-time tax free exemption to import up to US$10,000 of household goods a and tax exemption every two years on the importation of a car 0r the local purchase of a car.
3- Friendly Nations Visa
Panama opens the Friendly Nations Visa to citizens of 50 countries that “maintain friendly, professional, economic, and investment relationships” with Panama. The countries included in alphabetical order 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, Marino, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United States of America, Uruguay, United Kingdom (Great Britain & Northern Ireland).
To qualify for the Friendly Nations Visa, along with being a citizen of one of the above countries you must, open a bank account in Panama with a minimum balance of $5,000 (plus $2,000 for each dependent). In addition you must also do ONE of the following:
- Start a business or buy an existing business in Panama
- Find professional employment, and show proof of employment when you apply
4- Professional Employment Visa
To be employed as a foreigner in Panama, you must obtain a work permit. After you have obtained a job offer, you are able to apply for a work permit. To apply for a Professional Employment Visa you must:
- Have a university education and proof of any professional license
- You must make two applications two years apart to qualify. After two years as a temporary resident, permanent residency is usually granted
- When filing the final application, applicants must show that they have been employed in Panama for the last nine months and have been paying local social security.
Panamanian companies are only able to have a maximum of 10% of their workforce as foreigners. There are also specific professions that are limited to Panamanian citizens. These 25 professions are reserved for Panamanian citizens:
The only exception to this professional rule is if you are married to a Panamanian.
5- Panama Investor Visas
- Self Economic Solvency Visa
Panama’s Self Economic Solvency Visa requires a $300,000 investment. There are 3 ways you can qualify for this visa.
- Invest a minimum of $300,000 in a Panama bank CD for a minimum of 3 years. You must invest an additional $2,000 for each dependent.
- Invest at least $300,000 into titled Panama real estate. This must be cash equity, as the loan amount from a mortgage does not qualify. As in option one, an additional $2,000 must be invested for each dependent.
- The 3rd option is a combination of the other two options. A minimum total of $300,000 can be invested in Panama real estate and a Panama bank CD. Again, an additional $2,000 must be invested for every dependent.
- Reforestation Investor Visa: To qualify for this visa you must invest at least $80,000 ($2,000 for each additional dependent) in a government certified teak or mahogany reforestation project. This allows you to apply for a Permanent Residency Visa for you and your family.
- Business Investor Visa: To qualify for this visa you must invest a minimum of $160,000 in capital stock of a Panamanian corporation ($2,000 for each additional dependent). The investor can be a shareholder and/or an officer, and the business must employ at least 5 local employees.
- Agriculture Investor Visa: Investing a minimum of $60,000 (an additional $500 for each additional dependent) in Panama aquaculture, farms, or agriculture enable you to become a temporary resident. The Department of Farm Development must determine the aquaculture, farm or agriculture investment to be in the national interest of Panama. This visa allows temporary residency for 6 years, with the temporary residency permits being extended every two years. You cannot receive permanent residency or Panama citizenship from this program.
In addition, if you marry a Panamanian Citizen or have a child in Panama you can also qualify for a visa. If you do have a child in Panama, as parents you can apply for a permanent visa when the child is over five years old.