In May of 2012, President Ricardo Martinelli issued a Presidential Decree 343 declaring that citizens of 22 friendly nations could apply to become permanent residents in a fast track manner. This “fast tracked” visa has become to be known as Panama’s friendly nations visa.
Since then, other Decrees have increased the number of friendly nations to 50 along with clarifying the requirements to apply.
The formal wording of this permanent Panama residency visa is for “citizens of friendly nations with professional and economic ties with the Republic of Panama”.
The 50 Friendly Nations are:
- Great Britain
- Republic of Korea
- Czech Republic
- South Africa
- New Zealand
- Hong Kong
- San Marino
- Costa Rica
Clarifying the Requirements
The words “professional and economic ties with the Republic of Panama” means that citizens of these 50 countries must establish professional or economic relationship with Panama. This can be accomplished by starting a new business or purchasing an existing business or being hired to work for a Panama company.
An “Economic Activity” means the applicant owns either a Panama corporation or a Panama company (new or bought an existing business) which is doing business in Panama. Foreigners are prohibited from owning a Panama retail business.
Another option is to prove “Professional Activity”. Meaning the applicant is employed by a professional Panama company, has a Panama work permit, and is registered with Panama’s Social Security system. In addition, proof of income like the employment wages needs to be provided by the employer. Documents proving these activities must be submitted. Foreigners are prohibited from practicing certain professions such as: medical & veterinary doctors, attorneys, architects, and engineers.
Proof of Economic Solvency is another requirement. This can be met by having at least $5,000 USD (plus $2,000 for each dependant) deposited in a Panama bank account. Whether an applicant is solvent enough is not clearly defined leaving the matter up to the discretion of the immigration officials.
Dependants include the spouse and children up to the age of 25 if they are full time university students. The applicant must provide a written letter of responsibility regarding the dependants. Every son or daughter dependant over the age of 18 must provide an authenticated being single certificate from their respective country.
After the application is filed along with all required documents the immigration office will issue a one year temporary residency card (carnet) which will be replaced by a permanent residency card once the application is approved.
Once the application has been approved, the foreigner can apply for a Work Permit. Panama’s president recently issued a Presidential Decree ordering Panama’s Ministry of Labor to fast track acceptance of work permits for the 50 friendly nations citizens.
Current Panama Immigration Required Documents
Law 3 of 2008 under Article 28 requires the following documents from an applicant:
1. Application for Permanent Panama Residency with a Special Power of Attorney
authorizing a Panamanian attorney to act on behalf of the applicant who is duly
authenticated by a local notary with the proper government stamps.
2. Copy of the entire passport notarized by a Panama Notary.
3. Criminal history background check from the applicant’s country of origin or the country where he has lived consistently for the two past years. The Panama immigration department requires the applicant to provide an authenticated criminal history report issued by a “federal”, “central”, or “national” police force or criminal investigation authority. The criminal history records that do not have an expiration date will be valid for 3 months from the date of issue for immigration purposes.
(a) If the applicant is providing a criminal background report from a country where he is not a citizen, but a resident, the applicant must provide the legal residency identification which must be authenticated or Apostilled.
(b) If the applicant has been residing in Panama for the past two consecutive
years (without leaving the country) the criminal background check must be prepared by the national police (DIJ).
4. Panama immigration will require the national criminal history report to be authenticated by a Panamanian Consul from the country that issued the document or by Apostille which is an internationally recognized government agency authentification of its issued documents by attaching certain seals to the document. Here is a list of Panama Consulates Worldwide.
5. Original medical examination report from a Panama medical doctor.
6. Two Certified Checks:
(a) $250 USD in favor of the National Treasury for immigration fee; and
(b) $800 USD in favor of Immigration for repatriation purposes (deportation).
IMPORTANT: Once immigration has issued a resolution whether it’s an approval or denial of the application of residency the checks are non-refundable.
7. Personal Sworn Affidavit explaining the purpose for seeking Panama Permanent Residency and ability to support family and dependents. (This form will be supplied by Panama Offshore Legal Service’s immigration attorney.)
In Addition, the recent Presidential Decrees require the following documents:
1. 3 Passport Size Photos;
2. A written Statement describing the economic or professional activities to be conducted by the applicant in Panama. These can be explained in the following manner:
(a) Economic Activity: Produce documentation that the applicant is a member of the Board of Directors or majority shareholder of a Panama Corporation
or is the owner of a Panama company. If the Panama Corporation or Panama Company is new provide proof of its franchise tax being paid and its commercial license. If the corporation or company is over one year old provide proof of its tax return, paz y salvo, or in good standing certificate. Further proof of bank accounts in the corporation or company’s name along with any real property generating income it owns, and any activity generating income.
Note: The economic activity cannot be one reserved for Panamanian nationals such as a retail business.
(b) Professional Activity: A professional activity is a job with a local company. The applicant must provide proof of an employment contract, that the company is registered with Panama Social Security and the applicant has a social security card and work permit. There are several ways to obtain a Panama work permit including the allowable 10% foreign employees or the Marrakech Treaty. The professional activity cannot be one reserved only for Panama nationals such as an attorney, architect, engineer, medical or veterinarian doctor.
3. Proof of Solvency: In addition to the documents that demonstrate the applicant’s economic or professional activity the applicant must also provide the following:
(a) Proof from a Panama bank that the applicant has at least $5,000 USD deposited plus $2,000 USD for each dependant.
(b) Proof of income such as employment salary with a letter from the employer
which includes applicant’s social security number and work permit.
Note: Part (b) is vague which can be interpreted by Panama immigration at its discretion to verify the applicant’s solvency.
4. Copy of Applicant’s I.D.: From applicant’s country of origin such as driver’s license or government issued photo I.D. This is in addition to the passport to prove residency and citizenship. This document must be Apostilled or authenticated by a Panamanian consulate.
5. Dependants require a letter of responsibility from the primary applicant.
(a) Proof that the dependants are related either with a birth certificate or if it’s a spouse, a marriage certificate.
(b) Dependants other than a spouse can apply up until the age of 25 if enrolled as full time university students or are disabled
(c) Dependants over the age of 18 must submit an affidavit that they are single which must be Apostilled or authenticated by a Panamanian consulate.