A girl in Panama on the friendly nations visa

The Panama Friendly Nations Visa (FNV) changed on 1st August 2021, but don’t despair. For many citizens of the 50 approved nations, there is still a pathway to Panama permanent residency and Panama citizenship and passport. And, if you don’t qualify for the FNV, we cover a wide range of visa and residency options for Panama.

1) How to qualify for the Panama Friendly Nations Visa

The biggest change comes in how to qualify for the program.

The ways to show economic ties to Panama, which is how to qualify, have changed. There are now three options.

  1. Be an employee of a Panamanian company.
  2. Buy a Panamanian property for at least $200,000 in your name. You can finance the property through a local bank.
  3. Deposit a minimum of $200,000 into a Panama bank fixed deposit account with a minimum three-year term.

2) The visa gives you two years of temporary residence.

There is no longer automatic permanent residency. The Immigration Service will issue a two-year provisional residence permit when they approve your application. You can then apply for permanent residency (PR) after the two-year visa expires.

3) Taiwan removed from the list of Friendly nations

Citizens of Taiwan no longer apply for the Friendly Nations Visa.

The 5 main requirements for this visa

  1. You need to be a citizen of one of the fifty approved nations. Check our list below to see if you come from a qualifying nation.
  2. You have economic or professional ties to the country. We’ll cover this requirement in detail below.
  3. In case of dependents, you’ll need to show you have enough money to support 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 $5,000 of your own money into your account. You’ll need a local bank reference letter from your bank to provide proof of this deposit. No extra is required for dependents on the residency application, and you can withdraw the total amount once the visa is approved.
  4. Complete the application, provide all case documents, and pay the application fee.
  5. Engage a qualified Panama immigration lawyer to submit your application to the immigration office in Panama City.

Countries that qualify for the Friendly Nations Visa

There are fifty qualifying countries.

AndorraCyprusHungaryMonacoSan Marino
ArgentinaCzech RepublicIrelandMontenegroSerbia
AustriaEstoniaJapanNew ZealandSlovakia
BelgiumFinlandLatviaNorwaySouth Africa
ChileGreat BritainLuxembourgPolandSwitzerland
Costa RicaGreeceMaltaPortugalUruguay
CroatiaHong KongMexicoRepublic of KoreaUSA

Italy is excluded from the list, but if you are Italian, don’t despair. Italy and Panama have special arrangements, and you can find out about this Panama Visa for Italians in our immigration guide.

How to show economic or professional ties to Panama

There are now only three ways to establish your economic or professional ties to the country.

  1. Buy real estate for more than $200,000 in Panama. You can use a local bank to finance the property. Generally, you’ll need a 20% – 30% deposit and be able to show income to get a loan.
  2. 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. You’ll need to apply for a work permit (see the section below for more information on work permits).
  3. Deposit a minimum of $200,000 into a Panama bank fixed deposit account with a minimum three-year term. The account must be in the primary applicant’s name, but a legal contract in Panama can set it up.

Important: Owning a Panamanian corporation is no longer a way to obtain your FNV in 2021.

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?

There is an application fee of $250 per applicant for all applicants. In addition, there is a fee of $800 per applicant over the age of 12 years. Those over 12 will pay a total of $1,050 per applicant.

You should make the payment with two separate certified checks from a local bank. One is in favor of the National Treasury ($250), and the other is in favor of the National Immigration Service ($800).

You should consider a budget of $5,000 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 excellent 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. Before submitting the application, your lawyer should check all your documentation, translations, and authentications. 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 applications 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. You’ll need to be in the capital for at least 5 – 8 days for each visit. This amount of time will be sufficient to get everything done. You may need less time if you have engaged a high-quality local immigration law expert.

As part of the process, if you have dependents, you’ll need to set up a personal bank account with a local bank. The reason for this account is to allow your deposit of $5,000 for the financial solvency evidence. Sometimes, setting up the account requires an in-person interview with the bank.   The account is not mandatory if you are applying alone.

The entire process can take from two to five months for the visa to be issued. Once the Panama Immigration Department approves your application, you’ll need to sort out other documentation. Your list may include a driver’s license, residency card (e-cédula), tax residency certificates, and others.

You will have two residency cards within the whole process. The first is a temporary residence card to use while processing your application. Then, once your application is approved, the immigration office will issue your provisional residency card.

Panama Permanent Residency

After two years of provisional residency on the FNV, you can apply for Panama permanent residency for you and your family.

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 essential.

Primary applicant

  • Completed application 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. The evidence can range from the property transfer documents, your employment contract, or your fixed deposit bank certification.
  • Proof of address (many people use a notarized rental contract).
  • If you have dependents, 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 Apostilled. 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 in your application.

For your spouse

  • Passport
  • Eight passport-size photos
  • Apostilled marriage certificate
  • Apostilled police records and criminal background checks

For your children

  • Passport
  • Eight passport-size photos
  • Apostilled birth certificate
  • A notarized statement declaring that you’ll support them financially.
  • Apostilled police records and criminal background checks (older than 18 years)

Can you get a Work Permit on a Friendly Nations Visa?

Yes, when your application is submitted, you can apply for a Panama work permit. The Ministry of Labor (MITRADEL) issues your permit (the Immigration Department issues your FNV.)

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 permit will give you full employment rights to work for a Panamanian company or work as a self-employed person.

The application fee for the 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 understand the process and the requirements. They’ll know where to speed up the visa application process and understand which parts are non-negotiable.

For non-Spanish speakers, the 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 assistance 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.

2021 Changes to the Panama Friendly Nations Visa

The Government made changes to this immigration program through two decrees.

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 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.

Is the Friendly Nations Visa still a good option for Panama Immigration?

Yes, it is if you fit into the new tight qualification categories. However, the changes plus the two-year qualification for PR have made it less attractive.

So, for many people, the 2021 changes to the FNV mean that they should look at other options for moving to Panama.

Some good options to explore are:

Next steps for your FNV.

If moving to Panama sounds like a great idea, book a consultation with our handpicked Panama immigration lawyers. The first consultation will help you 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 cultures. The Panama Friendly Nations Visa makes it accessible to millions of people around the world.


  1. I and our child (5) qualify for the friendly nations visa ( British passports) but my wife does not ( Chinese passport, Chinese marriage certificates). We are currently all resident in Portugal. Can she be included in a friendly nations resident visa if I apply?

    1. Hi David. Yes, your spouse and any dependent children can be included in your Friendly Nations Visa application.

      1. Hi,

        I’m a US citizen, are you able to recommend a lawyer to help me get started?

        Question- do perminent residents of Panama have the right to bring a wife if they get married later to a non friendly nation national?

  2. What is the cost and prerequisites for a Pensionado Visa? Can they be arranged in most respects remotely meaning beforehand?

    1. Hi Mario. The Pensinado Visa allows you to get immediate permanent residency in Panama. You’ll need to show a lifetime income, pension, or annuity of at least $1000 per month plus $250 for any dependents. The amount drops to $750 per month if you own a property in Panama worth more than $100,000. You’ll need a lawyer to submit the application, and you must travel to Panama for a visit to the Immigration department in Panama. Good luck with your retirement!

  3. Hi there. I have read your article and would love to know how can I get permanent residency in Panama? I am Iranian and my nationality is not included on the list.

    Any solution how to proceed?

    Thanks for the great site.

  4. Hi, Alastair. Great article! Are you able to give a cost estimate of a good local Friendly Nations Visa lawyer?

  5. Hi Alistair,
    Article is very helpful. Any changes to the info since it was published? I am a British national and looking to obtain the Friendly Nations Visa and am looking to source an attorney (or two) that comes recommended – are you able to provide a ‘list”?

    1. Hi Michael. We’re working to finalize a Panama immigration partner in the coming weeks. Our detailed selection process takes some time but we hope to have this locked in soon. We’ll let you know as soon as we have some news. We believe the information is current and correct.

  6. Hi Alastair, Myself and my business partner , along with our dependents, would be interested in obtaining friendly Nations Visas. We are from the UK. Are you able to provide us with a friendly nations lawyer or recommend someone who could help us?

  7. Hello,

    My mother was born in Panama and lived there for a bit, now resides in the US. I have a copy of her birth certificate. Two Questions – can she become a Panamanian Citizen and Can I become one too? Is it possible now that Im 45 years of age?

    1. Hi Jason. If your mother was born in Panama she is a Panamanian citizen. You’ll need some paperwork to get everything in order, but she is a full citizen. If you move back to Panama, then you can claim citizenship through your mother, and there is no age restriction on this claim. Check out our article on Panama Citizenship for more details.

  8. I am a Nigerian living in South Africa. i want to know if its Possible to move my investment to Panama with my Dependent, i want to know the Cost of setting up a company in Panama, or you can let me know if there are other ways to move to Panama for Investment

  9. Hello, I’m citizen of Lithuania I was wondering if me and my wife could aply for Panama Friendly Nations Visa permanent residency outside Panama.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Ritmantas.As a citizen of Lithuania, you do qualify for the Friendly Nations Visa. However, you do still need to visit Panama for a part of the application process. However, our excellent Panama partner can start the process on your behalf and minimise your time in Panama. All the best, Alastair

  10. Hi,
    you mentioned working to finalize a Panama immigration partner.
    Can you already provide contact details?
    Best regards
    Georg Lang

    1. Hi George. Yes, we’ve signed up an exceptional immigration law firm in Panama city. They are very experienced in Friendly Nations applications and a wide range of other Panama visa, residency, and citizenship matters. You can book a consultation with our Panama Immigration Lawyer here. All the best, Alastair

  11. Hi Alastair,

    I am a Canadian born citizen, a 68 years old men in good health, divorced with no kids and no police record. The monthly government pension here is kind of low, the equivalent of around US$500, but my earnings from my 100% own Canadian company are sufficient for me to live very well. After lots of reading about Panama residency requirements, I found out that US$1,000 month for life was the minimum needed and that it could be reduced to US$750 by buying a US$100,000 condo or house. Could I further reduce the minimum monthly requirement with either a more substantial condo purchase and/or by setting up a company in Panama? Thanks, Best Regards, Michel

    1. Hi Michel. Panama has a range of visa and residence permits that may suit you. The Panama Pensionado Visa discount for a property purchase is capped at the $100,000 price point bringing the monthly amount down to $750. However, if you’re looking to spend $300,000 you may be eligible for a Self-economic Solvency Visa. A chat with our brilliant Panama Immigration Law partner would be valuable to help you choose the perfect immigration option. All the best, Alastair

  12. Please could you advise of the recent changes being made to this type of visa. I would like to apply but I worry that I am too late.

    1. Hi Taryn. The changes to the Panama Friendly Nations visa program are are effective from August 18th. The changes are dramatic and limit the ways you’ll be able to prove financial links to Panama.

      There will only be two options:
      1) Make an investment of USD$200,000 more more in real estate.
      2) Have approved employment in Panama.

      However, there is a window to take advantage of the old rules if you act quickly. Book a consultation with our Panama Immigration Lawyer to get the process started as soon as possible. All the best, Alastair

    1. Hi Tinella. All is not lost if the Panama immigration department rejects your application. However, it is best to review this with a Panama Immigration lawyer so that your specific issues is addressed in any follow up. Our Panama partner will be happy to assist. All the best, Alastair

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