2012 saw a dramatic change in Panama immigration policies. The Panamanian Government issued several Presidential Decrees in when they created a new class of foreigners able to qualify for permanent residency leading to full Panama citizenship and a passport along with a work permit. This is known as the Panama “Friendly Nations” Visa which currently includes 50 countries.
Panama’s friendly nations are countries in which the Panamanian Government declared to be friendly to Panama with economic and professional ties to Panama.
The Panama 50 Friendly Nations
United States of America
United Kingdom (Great Britain & Northern Ireland)
Understanding the Requirements
The Panamanian Government specifically used the words “professional and economic ties” with Panama in their first decree.
These words have been interpreted to mean either starting a new business, purchasing an existing business, or being hired in a professional capacity by a Panama company.
If hired as a professional by a Panama company, the decree orders the Ministry of Labor to fast track the issuance of a work permit. In addition, the foreign professional must register with Panama’s Social Security Administration. The employer will need to provide an employment contract or a letter explaining the professional capacity the foreigner is hired for. Certain professions are restricted only for Panama citizens like architects, attorneys, engineers, and medical & veterinary doctors.
Economic Solvency is another requirement which only requires depositing $5,000 USD (and $2,000 USD for every dependent) in a Panama bank account. Panama immigration has the discretion to determine whether the foreigner is sufficiently solvent to live in Panama and to care for the family. The wages to be paid will help determine this requirement.
The dependents include the spouse and children up to 18 years of age or 25 if they are full time students. The foreigner must write a letter of responsibility for the dependents. Dependent children over 18 years old must submit a certificate verifying they are single from their country.
Once the application and all required documents are filed, immigration officials will issue temporary residency cards valid for one year to the family. Once the primary applicant is approved, a permanent residency card will be issued.
The foreigner can apply for the work permit with the Ministry of Labor.
Applying for Panama Immigration Permanent Residency
An explanation of the documents required by Panama immigration when applying for permanent residency can be found Here
In addition to the usual required documents for application to Panama immigration to become a permanent resident, here are the documents required for the Friendly Nations Visa:
1. Three Passport Size Photos;
2. A written letter stating the types of professional or economic activities you will conduct in Panama. Here are the 2 activities Panama immigration is looking for:
(a) Professional: Working for a Panama company in a professional capacity. While the decrees and Panama immigration have not come up with a list of
acceptable professions, note that some are reserved only for Panama citizens like engineers, architects, attorneys, and veterinarian & medical doctors. You will need to provide a copy of the employment contract, proof that the Panama Company is registered with Panama Social Security Administration, and you have obtained a social security card.
(b) Economic: Provide documents that you are either a Board of Directors member or a major shareholder in a Panama Corporation or you own a Panama
company. If the Panama Company or Panama Corporation is new, submit proof that its corporate franchise tax has been paid along with a copy of its business (commercial) license. If the company is over one year old, submit a copy of its tax return along with its business license. If the corporation is over one year old, submit a copy of its tax return or certificate of good standing. In addition, submit copies of Panama bank accounts in the company or corporation’s name along with proof of any income producing real estate owned by the company or corporation and any other income producing activities in Panama.
3. Proving Solvency: You must submit proof that you are economically solvent by:
(a) Proving that you deposited at least $5,000 USD into a Panama bank account plus $2,000 USD for every dependent.
(b) Proving income like a letter from your employer on company letterhead describing your salary. Include a copy of your Panama social security ID card.
Note: Proving sufficient income to support yourself and your family is discretionary by the Panama immigration officials.
4. Copy of Your ID: A copy of your driver’s license, or your country’s government photo I.D. card. A copy of your passport is also required to prove residency in your friendly nation. These copies must be authenticated by a Panama consulate or Apostilled.
5. Dependents: You must submit a Letter of Responsibility for your dependents.
(a) Submit proof that your dependents are relatives with a copy of their birth certificates or for your spouse a copy of your marriage certificate. These copies must be authenticated by a Panama consulate or Apostilled.
(b) Dependents (not your spouse) can apply up until 25 years of age if they are enrolled as full time students.
(c) Dependents over 18 years of age must provide a notarized affidavit that they are single. These copies must be authenticated by a Panama consulate or