The Panama Friendly Nations Visa is a unique opportunity for millions of people around the world. The citizens of 50 countries can live and work indefinitely in this beautiful country. You’ll need to show that you have economic ties to Panama, and there are several achievable ways open to you.
The visa allows your family the same rights as you, and the program is a pathway to Panama citizenship and a second passport. There is one drawback. The process is bureaucratic, and you must have a Panama immigration lawyer to represent you in the application process.
In 2012 the Panamanian government announced this new immigration program to the world. The Panama Friendly Nations Visa was the first of its kind and was established to encourage economic immigration into the country. From an original group of 22 countries, the list has expanded to 50 nations around the globe.
Expats love living in Panama. There is a great quality of life and a strong community. This visa program offers an excellent opportunity to join them and enjoy all that Panama has to offer. And, your visa gives you Panama permanent residency, after you have obtained the visa you can call Panama home. It is also a pathway to Panama citizenship and passport.
- The 5 main requirements for this visa
- Countries that qualify for the Friendly Nations Visa
- How to show economic or professional ties to Panama
- You can include your family in your Friendly Nations Visa
- How much does the Friendly Nations Visa Cost?
- The Friendly Nations Visa application process
- Documents required for your application
- Can you get a Work Permit on a Friendly Nations Visa?
- Do you need a Panama Friendly Nations Visa Lawyer?
- Advantages of living in Panama (beyond the taxation)
- Next steps for a Panama Friendly Nations Visa.
For more ways to immigrate to Panama, please see our Panama country page. We cover visas, residency, citizenship, and more in detail.
The 5 main requirements for this visa
- You need to be a citizen of one of the fifty friendly nations. Check our list below to see if you come from a qualifying nation.
- You need to have economic or professional ties to the country. We’ll cover this requirement in detail below.
- You have enough money to support yourself, your spouse, and any dependents. To show this, you’ll first need to open a local bank account with a licensed bank. Then you deposit at least USD $5,000 of your own money into your account. You’ll need a local bank reference letter from your personal bank to provide proof of this deposit. No extra is required for dependents on the residency application, and you can withdraw the full amount once the visa is approved.
- Complete the application, provide all documents, and pay the application fee.
- Engage a qualified Panama immigration lawyer to submit your application to the immigration office.
Countries that qualify for the Friendly Nations Visa
There are fifty Friendly Nations of Panama. This list has grown from the original twenty-two, and we expect the Panama Immigration department to add more countries in the future.
|Austria||Estonia||Japan||New Zealand||South Africa|
|Costa Rica||Greece||Malta||Republic of Korea||Uruguay|
|Croatia||Hong Kong||Mexico||San Marino||USA|
How to show economic or professional ties to Panama
There are two common ways to show your economic or professional ties to the country.
- Own a controlling stake of a Panamanian company. The entity can be a new or existing company. The legislation required that the company not be dormant. But, for the application, you just need to show that there are three directors of the company (including the applicant).
- Be an employee of a Panamanian company. You’ll need an employment contract and a letter from the company. If your job requires the visa first, then an agreement conditional on the visa will be acceptable. Once you have the visa, you’ll need to apply for a work permit (see the section below for more information on work permits). Only certain roles qualify, and you’ll need a university education, proof of qualifications, and a current license if your profession requires one.
However, there are two other ways that you can meet the requirements of the visa.
- Own a property in Panama. The property must be free of mortgages, should be valued at more than USD $100,000 in the Panama Public Registry. The property must be registered in your name, and your application should include a notarized Property Certificate.
- Invest in an approved government scheme. This option works similarly to the Reforestation Investor Visa which requires an investment of USD $80,000 minimum. For the Friendly Nations Visa, you can invest in similar projects at a lower cost, depending on the scheme. These investments can qualify as your economic ties for residency.
You can include your family in your Friendly Nations Visa
Your spouse and any dependent children under 25 years qualify for Panamanian residency under your visa. They have full rights to live, work, and study with their residency permit.
How much does the Friendly Nations Visa Cost?
here is an application fee of USD $250 per applicant for all applicants. In addition, there is a fee of USD $850 per applicant over the age of 12 years. Those over 12 will pay a total of USD $1,050 per applicant.
This payment is made by two separate certified checks from a local bank. One in favor of the National Treasury ($250) and the other in favor of the National Immigration Service ($850).
You should also budget between USD $1,000 and USD $1,5000 for setting up your corporation (if that is the pathway you choose.). And, you should budget around USD $1,000 for the documents, translations, and other administrative costs.
There is also a cost for your multiple entry visa for Panama exit and entry.
The final budget item is for legal fees. You will need a lawyer to represent you through the process, and the fees charged by Immigration lawyers vary massively. We have done the research for you and partnered with a fantastic law firm that offers great service at very fair pricing. We suggest that you book a consultation with them here to start the process.
The Friendly Nations Visa application process
The required documents for immigration can be confusing. Your lawyer should check all your documentation, translations, and authentications before submitting the application. The process is complicated, and the immigration department requires a lot of documentation to approve the application. Missing documentation or incorrect formats can result in applicants having their visa rejected.
You’ll need additional documentation for your spouse and any dependent children under 25 years.
Two visits to Panama are required
Once you have completed your document preparation, you’ll need two visits to Panama. For each visit, you’ll need to be in the capital for at least 7 – 10 days. This amount of time will be sufficient to get everything done. If you have engaged a high-quality local immigration law expert, you may need less time.
As part of the process, you’ll need to set up a personal bank account with a local bank. This process requires an in-person interview with the bank. This account is to allow your deposit of the USD $5,000 for the financial solvency evidence.
The entire visa application will take from two to five months. The time frame will depend on your local lawyer, how organized you are, and the pathway to the visa you have selected.
Once your application is approved by the Immigration department, you’ll need to sort out other documentation. Driver’s license, residency card (e-cédula), tax residency certificates, and others may be on your personal list.
You will have two residency cards through the process. The first is a temporary residence card to use while your application is being processed. Then, once your application is approved, the immigration office will issue your permanent residency card.
Documents required for your application
You’ll need lots of supporting documentation for your application. If your supporting documentation is not in Spanish, you’ll need to get official translations. Copies of documents must be correctly certified and, where necessary Apostilled. You may also need to have documents authenticated by a Panamanian public notary.
Document preparation can slow down your application if you are not well-prepared, so clarity is very important.
- Completed applications forms.
- Passport of your qualifying nationality. This should also be the passport you entered Panama on, and it must have an entry stamp.
- A second ID Document from your home country, or an Apostilled birth certificate.
- Eight official passport photographs.
- Documentation to support your claim of economic ties to Panama. This can range from a notarized certificate of company shares to an authenticated certificate of investment in a qualifying scheme.
- Proof of address (many people use a letter from a hotel, or a notarized rental contract).
- Proof of financial solvency (local bank reference letter).
- A medical certificate of good health from an authorized Panamanian doctor.
- Police records and criminal background checks. These should be from the country, or countries, you lived in for the two years prior to your application.
- Two certified checks (see the fees section above for details).
There are additional documents for each dependent included on your application.
For your spouse
- Eight passport size photos
- Apostilled marriage certificate
For your children
- Eight passport size photos
- Apostilled birth certificate
- A notarized statement declaring that you’ll support them financially.
Can you get a Work Permit on a Friendly Nations Visa?
Yes, when your Friendly Nations Visa is processed, you can apply for a Panama work permit. The Ministry of Labour (MITRADEL) issues your work permit (the Immigration Department issues your Friendly Nations visa.)
Historically, MITRADEL can be slow to process applications for work permits. If you need to get working soon, you should prioritize this application and have all your documentation prepared in advance.
Your work permit will give you full employment rights to work for a Panamanian company or to work as a self-employed person.
The application fee for a Panama Work Permit is less than USD $500.
Please see our page for more information on Panama Work Permits.
Do you need a Panama Friendly Nations Visa Lawyer?
By law, you must have a Panamanian certified lawyer to submit your application. You are not allowed to submit your application personally.
This cost should not be wasted money. A good lawyer will save you time, money, and hassle. A Panama Friendly Nations Visa lawyer will know the process and understand the requirements. They’ll know where to speed up the visa application process, and understand which parts are non-negotiable.
For non-Spanish speakers, local representation will also make navigating the system much easier. Many quality Panama immigration lawyers have English-speaking lawyers available to help you.
They’ll be able to advise you on the best pathway to qualifying for the visa. And, they’ll assist with making that happen by helping with company setup or purchase, real estate purchase, your investment, or getting a work permit. And, if you want help with other immigration processes, your lawyer should be able to assist. This can include getting identification cards and registering as a resident.
With the right lawyer, you’re more likely to avoid mistakes which means that your application will be accepted at the first submission.
Advantages of living in Panama (beyond the taxation)
Panama ranks highly on many Expat satisfaction surveys, and more and more people are moving to Panama to live and work. The quality of life for Expats is wonderful. Panama offers great natural beauty and is perfectly positioned to explore Central America, the Caribbean, South America, and North America.
Please see our Living in Panama page to find out why the country rates so highly in Expat surveys. The cost of living, climate, and healthcare attract many remote workers, location-independent businesses, and retirees.
The low tax rates are an enormous appeal for people generating an income from outside the country. Tax residence in Panama can give you access to a zero percent income tax rate on your global income. If you understand the tax system, this can offer massive benefits. Just be aware that there can be complications, especially if you are a US citizen.
Next steps for a Panama Friendly Nations Visa.
If you think you qualify for this visa, we suggest checking out more information on Panama as a starting point. There are many Expat sites, blogs and forums that will give you a good starting point.
If moving to Panama sound like a great idea, then book a consultation with our handpicked Panama immigration lawyers. In the first consultation, they will help you to understand what documentation you need and your next steps. If you like them (and we are sure you will) they can help you through the entire process.
Good luck with your adventure. Panama is a beautiful country with unique and varied people and culture. This visa makes it accessible to millions of people around the world.