Panama Quick Facts
Home to the most important maritime gateway in the world, Panama is a country a lot of people around the world have heard about.
Famous for its financial sector, beaches, mountains, colonial and contemporary architecture, and booming economy, Panama is one of the most popular destinations in Central America.
Panama’s capital, Panama City, is the largest city in the country and the only capital in the world with a rainforest! In addition to the ruins of the city that remain from a time when it was looted and burned by pirates, it also has an ultra modern city center.
The Panama Canal would make the country an important tourist and economic center after its opening in 1914, almost 400 years after being considered for the first time back in 1534 by Charles V of Spain.
The country can also brag about its biodiversity, with over 700 animal species unique to the country and more than 978 bird species, making it a special place for people looking to explore nature in different ecosystems.
If you are looking for a destination where you can experience nature, enjoy pristine beaches, walk through a piece of living history, enjoy local hospitality as never before, and take advantage of an open and booming economy, Panama might be the right place for you!
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Panama Digital Nomad Visa Overview
Panama is no stranger to the importance of migration and international relationships as evidenced by its open and highly diversified economy as well as its international ties – most of which are connected to its strategic importance in global trade.
It’s no surprise that the Panamanian government has reflected this attitude in its immigration policies, having over 17 types of non-resident visas, 33 types of temporary residence visas, and 19 types of permanent resident visas.
While this means the country is pretty open when it comes to receiving foreigners, it can make the research process pretty difficult when you don’t know exactly what kind of visa you are looking for.
One of the most popular Panama visa programs, especially among digital nomads, is the “Permanent resident as foreign nationals of specific countries that maintain friendly, professional and economic relations with the Republic of Panama” visa, most commonly known as the “Friendly Nations” Visa.
While the name of this program is quite a mouthful and suggests an overcomplicated process, this is one of the easiest visas for citizens of eligible countries to obtain.
This visa was initially created back in 2012 via a presidential decree that declared 22 countries that Panama considered friendly nations, which means that its citizens could apply for permanent residence in an easier manner.
Now, a total of 50 countries make part of the list of friendly nations.
If you are a citizen of one of the 50 countries eligible to apply for this resident visa(listed below), you will be able to apply for it and move to the country as a resident of Panama if Accepted. This will create business opportunities, provide you with tax benefits, and allow you to move and work freely in the country.
Citizen Remote has a broad range of resources to assist with the exciting process of relocating to another country!
Who Can Apply for the
Digital Nomad Visa for Panama
The friendly nations visa has certain requirements that need to be met in order to apply, as with any other travel permit. However, in this case, the fulfillment of these requirements is not difficult to achieve and by doing so, a permanent resident status will be obtained
This visa can be applied for by citizens of any of the eligible countries who are interested in establishing themselves in Panama to “conduct economic or professional activities of any type”, this includes Digital Nomads and remote workers
There are some other requirements you must meet beyond nationality, as you will need to provide evidence that you have financial or professional ties with the country. This can do either by being employed by a Panamanian company and being registered in the social security system or by having your own company in the country.
As we are looking at this visa as an option for Digital nomads, we will be focusing on creating your own Panamanian company as a means of supporting your economic activity.
It is also important to note that if you are planning on moving to Panama with your family, this visa will allow you to do so by providing a letter of responsibility and proof of dependence when applying for the visa.
Dependants over 18 can move with you if they are enrolled in a Panamanian College or have any disability. In both cases, they should not be married.
We will go into more details on the requirements and necessary documentation further in the article, but these are the most important requirements you should keep in mind before considering this visa.
Are there specific nationalities that can apply?
As the name of the visa suggests, this program is intended for citizens of one of the nations that have friendly ties with Panama.
The countries considered as “friendly” at this time are:
Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech, Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France,
Germany, Greece, Holland, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Monaco,
Montenegro, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay.
If you are not a citizen of these countries, you will still be able to apply for a different visa or a resident program but the process might be more complicated. You can find the official list of available immigration permits here.
How many applications do they accept each year?
Unlike other countries offering residence visas, Panama has not established a quota on the maximum number of applications that can be submitted or granted. This means that you won’t be required to apply at the start of the year to ensure there are any slots left.
This also facilitates the process in the sense that you won’t be competing with third parties to obtain one of the visas, allowing the relevant authorities to process your application based on your own merits.
That being said, international travel restrictions and the requirements for specific visa types are known to change, so you might want to consider applying as soon as possible, especially amid the COVID19 pandemic.
How To Apply For the
Digital Nomad Visa For Panama
While the Friendly Nations Visa is a really good way to move to the Central American country and work from it, the application process has a lot of bureaucracy involved. This is in part due to the benefits the residency provides as well as it being a path toward Panamanian citizenship.
Unlike other visas for digital nomads, both offering temporary and permanent residency, the Panamanian friendly nations visa not only requires you to meet certain requirements and provide documentation but also to have a local lawyer assist you with the process.
While this will result in higher costs to obtain the visa, it is important to keep in mind that this is not an ordinary 6 or 12 months residency permit, but a full-fledged permanent residency permit that will not only allow you to work remotely in the country but also to be hired by Panamanian companies.
Once the application process for permanent residence is completed, you will be a permanent resident of the country and able to become a tax resident, which might exempt you from paying taxes in your native country.
Requirements for Applying
Let’s start by talking about the requirements you need to meet before applying for this visa. While most of this is pretty straightforward, some will explain the need for a local lawyer.
The requirements are:
Showing economic or professional ties with the country. This can be done in 2 different ways:
Being hired by a Panamanian corporation and being registered in the social security system.
Owning a corporation registered in Panama that does business in the country. This corporation can be purchased or set up before applying for the visa.
Proving economic solvency by providing wage certificates if employed by a Panamanian Corporation or by opening a local bank account and depositing a minimum of $5000.
Being a citizen of one of the eligible countries.
Being able to provide supporting documentation.
If you are traveling with dependents, they must be under 25 years old and single if not your spouse.
As most digital nomads might not be planning on moving to Panama under a contract with a local corporation, you will want to set up a local corporation in Panama to do business with. This process might vary depending on the area you are working on, but you will get all the required information from your lawyer at the time of application.
This company is only required at the time of applying, which means you can close after acquiring the visa. It is also important to note that you do not need to operate it if you don’t wish to do so, as the company only needs to exist for you to apply.
You will be required to provide documentation when applying for this visa independently of your economic activity. Further documentation might be required depending on your specific situation and needs.
The documentation required by all applicants includes:
Three (3) passport-size photographs.
Documentation supporting and explaining your reasons for the application, depending on the economic or professional activity to be conducted.
Proof of financial solvency, which you can show with the following documents:
Bank certificate or account statement for the past month, which shows a balance, not below the mid four figures ($5000).
Other documents might be accepted by the National Migration Service depending on your case, such as ownership of the real estate in the country.
A copy of your national identity document, residency document in another country, or any secondary form of ID:
A letter of responsibility if you are applying with dependents, as well as certification proving kinship.
Power of attorney.
Certified checks paying the fees to the National Treasury and NationalMigration Service.
Criminal record with apostille for Panama.
Affidavit declaring you have no criminal record.
If you have dependents over 18 years old, a certificate showing legal status and enrollment to a Panamanian college.
As the documentation requirements can change, you might want to check the official information when considering applying for this visa. You can do so here.
It is important to keep in mind that other documentation such as certificates for your newly created company might be needed, but your lawyer will be able to provide you with further information in that regard depending on your specific circumstances.
Citizen Remote has a broad range of resources to assist with the exciting process of relocating to another country!
How much does it cost?
While it is not possible to provide a specific number for the costs you will incur when applying to the friendly nations visa due to the variation in lawyer fees and the range of services provided, certain costs can be accounted for in advance.
The application process itself will have 2 non-refundable fees associated with it:
250 Balboas (about $250) to be paid to the National Treasury.
800 Balboas (about $800) to be paid to the National Migration Service.
While not a “cost” per se, you will be required to deposit at least $5000 in a Panamanian bank account to prove financial solvency, as well as an extra $2000 for each dependent.
This money is not a payment to the government or any entity, which means you will be able to operate with it in any way you want after the completion of the application.
There are costs associated with setting up a Panamanian company but as you will only be required to have minimum ownership of 50%, you can divide costs with other interested parties.
The average setup cost for the company during the first year is between $1000 and $1500 but gets lower after that if you plan on keeping the company.
As you will be required to provide proof of the corporation of the company as a means to show economic activity, you will need to demonstrate the franchise tax was paid as well as submit the company’s commercial license.
Other costs will depend on your legal fees, fees charged by the bank you choose, and fees for the documentation requested by your lawyer, as well as any necessary trip to the country before the application.
A lawyer will be able to provide you with a closer estimate of the whole process for your specific case, but for most applicants, the total cost is around $9000 according to most reports. This would be a real cost of $4000 if you keep in mind that you are not losing control of the money deposited in the bank.
When compared with digital nomads programs like Barbados’, the price is pretty similar and the benefits are more. But it is up to you to decide if the costs are worth it based on your plans and needs.
Timeline for Applying
As you can see, the documentation required and processes you must follow before applying for this visa as a digital nomad are quite bureaucratic. This is another reason why a lawyer is needed in the process, which will facilitate it considerably.
Just as with costs, the time required for this application process will vary depending on different factors, but this is what you should expect from it in most cases:
- Review the general requirements and consider the costs of the application process.
- Look for a local lawyer specialized in immigration laws and procedures.
- Open a personal bank account in Panama. Depending on the bank, you might be required to travel to the country, and/or the process might take as much as 1 month
- Set up a local company in Panama by yourself or with a partner.
- Passport registration, multiple entry visa, and temporary residence permit processing, which will require you to be in Panama and can take up to 2 weeks. Your lawyer will provide you with further information on how this part of the process will be for you, but the documents resulting from these processes should allow you to stay in the country for 1 year.
- Permanent residence application.
The whole application process can take between 3 and 6 months depending on what documentation is needed and how fast can you acquire it, as well as how good your lawyer is knowing the ins and outs of the Panamanian bureaucracy.
Now that you know the general aspects of applying for the friendly nations Panamanian visa, you should be able to decide if Panama is the right destination for you.
If you decide it is, be ready to enjoy the incredible hospitality, culture, beaches, and booming economy the central American country has to offer.