The Ultimate Guide to the Panama Friendly Nations Visa

Panama offers the best residency option in the Americas, and one of the best in the world.

Key benefits of the permanent residency in Panama are:

⭐️ A straightforward and fast process
⭐️ Cost-efficient (~5000$)
⭐️ Virtually zero minimum presence requirements
⭐️ A very advantageous tax system
⭐️ Excellent geographic location (“gateway to Latin America”)
⭐️ Western culture & Spanish-speaking

Panama, being one of the freest countries in the world, has gained its reputation as one of the most sought after country in terms of foreign residency programs. Panama residency is the perfect program for entrepreneurs and travelers because it is the least pricey and the easiest to get of the desired programs. It gives you access to all of the investments, banks, and international services that are available in Panama. For entrepreneurs, having a Panama residency will improve your standing especially when holding investments and running a business in Panama.

Visa Requirements for Panama

Prior to moving to Panama, it is important to take note about its visa requirements. One way of finding out whether you need a visa or a tourist card in entering the country is to consult the nearest Panamanian Embassy or Consulate in your country of origin. US, Canada, and EU citizens and some other states can easily enter and stay for six months. However, it is advisable to get an updated information well in advance.

A tourist visa has a maximum of 30 day period of stay. With the Servicio Nacional de Migración Panama, you can apply for an extension up to ninety (90) days if you wish on staying in Panama for a little bit longer period of time. Staff at the migration office will ask you to fill out an extension for tourist form.

Some people go to Panama with a tourist visa intended in staying indefinitely. This can be done by leaving the country for 72 hours every three months. Nonetheless, being a perpetual traveler in Panama doesn’t account you to work in the country.

Working Permits for Panama

There is no need for a work permit for expats who come to Panama to work for a foreign company. However, there is a need for such if you are moving to Panama to work for a local company. These aren’t easy to come by. Panama has a strict regulation in its employment market. Most of the companies are bound by implementing restrictions on employing foreigners. Also, this is the reason why most expats find a job from an international company rather than in domestic.

Work Permit

The Ministry of Labor grants work permits only to people who already have a guaranteed job offer prior to moving to Panama. This is an important obstacle since your local employer has to show proof that no Panamanian citizen is qualified to do the job. Your future employer will act as your sponsor once you’ve signed the contract.

Nevertheless, expats’ requirement is to hire a lawyer who is in charge of applying the work permit on their behalf with the Ministry of Labor. Ensure on getting a qualified lawyer because you’re relying on him or her in telling you the documents that serves as the support to your application. The requirements vary depending on the type of work permit and visa that you are applying for. However, it is a requirement to have a health certificate and a negative HIV test.

Hiring a lawyer

Once the work permit is successful, your lawyer can contact the Migration Department about the visa for your move to Panama. The visa will be issued for one year at a time.

Requirements for permanent Panama residency

Migrating to Panama is still relatively easy even though it is inevitable to create some kind of investment in obtaining a permanent residence.

You are fortunate enough if you are from the UK, Canada, Australia and many other countries because you get high chances in obtaining a permanent residence through the Friendly Nations visa. Thus, Panama facilitates this migration to 50 “friendly nations”.

Establishing a business in Panama that can be either used or not is one of the requirements in participating this programme. In addition, a deposit of 5, 000 US dollars with an additional of 2, 000 US dollars for each family member) into a private account in Panama within four to six months. The waiting game comes to play for a temporary residence permit together with an ID card that after four to six months, becomes permanent residence after two trips to your local immigration office and a lot of paperwork. With the help of a multiple entry visa, you can enter and leave Panama as much as you want.

Required documents for permanent residency in Panama

  • Identification document
  • Driving licence
  • Passport
  • Six (6) passport photos
  • No history of criminal record certificate with apostille for Panama
  • Medical certificate (lawyers office deals with this)
  • Proof of hotel or housing stay
  • Bank references for establishing the company
  • Various forms

In opening a necessary bank account, being fully-equipped in facing the conservative banking sector of Panama is a must:

  • Two (2) personal references
  • Two (2) bank references
  • Financial report
  • Proof of the earnings/business
  • Identification document/passport and driving licence
  • Various forms

Providing any kind of utility bill is surprisingly not necessary. They allow you to provide the tax settlements from the last few years. Also, you can skip with not providing personal and bank references. In this case, Panamanian banks are flexible but the lesser your references are, the more questions the bank will ask you. The least you will do is to talk about your income and explain your business activities.

All of the relevant documents will have a Spanish translation. Otherwise, the law firm that organized the paperwork will help you with the translation.

Process to acquiring a permanent Panama residency

Mnimum of at least 2 visits to Panama is one of the requirements if you want to be a permanent resident in this country. It usually takes 2 or 3 weeks for the first application but even though with good planning, it is feasible to present a successful application in just a week. A three day visit is fairly enough to retrieve a granted permanent residence.

To make the application process faster, you must sort out a lot of things prior to arriving in Panama such as preparing all the required translated documents, setting-up of the company, payment of the lawyer’s fees and government’s fees and having a 5,000 US dollars available for a bank deposit.

Sorting of documents

Bank transfer in Panama

Bank transfers to Panama are not easy and time consuming. It is advisable especially in case of emergency to transfer the bank deposit previously to the fiduciary account of a trustee (the corresponding lawyer), who will immediately send the money when the required bank account is opened. In this way, you can save your valuable time.

Bank Transfers

On-site application process

Before arrival: Preparation of the documents, company’s payment and fiduciary account’s money

First Working Day: Verification of documents and preparation of all forms, acquire hotel letter and payment of government fees and lawyer fees on site through credit card

Second Working Day: Set up your first appointment with the immigration offices and open a bank account with deposit

Third Working Day: Set up your second appointment with the immigration offices with issuance of the identification  card

In absence: Travelling around Panama

Multiple entry visa

Your passport stays in the power of the Panamanian authorities once the provisional certificate is being issued. This is to get an issuance of multiple entry visa for Panama. This will be granted in three working days and it is then a requirement to leave and re-enter Panama. You’ll pay a fine of of 2,000 US dollars if you leave the country without the multiple entry visa.

The entire process can be completed in five working days. You could travel around Panama for two days and, the following Monday, get your passport with the multiple entry visa prior to going back home. Hence, you can request a permanent residence in within two weeks and spend a few days relaxing in your new country of residence at the same time.

You will be granted a permanent residence after four to six months. This is necessary in collecting on another visit to Panama. Thenceforth, what may appear on your passport as your country of residence is Panama. Also, an additional Panamanian driving license may be issued without providing your driver’s license from your country of origin.


The country Panama specifies the term ‘tropical paradise’ and it is much more than being a well-known tourist destination. It is indeed an excellent country for retirees and expats to live in. This makes it a top choice among immigrants and working professionals from all over the world, most especially Americans.

Moving abroad can dramatically change your life for the better. In fact, there are a lot of reasons on why people end up moving to another country. Living abroad can offer new lifestyles, new careers, new opportunities and a new direction. It gives you a chance to leave your past behind and recreate yourself. Everything is different when moving overseas. So, maybe you would try doing something different too.

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