What are the requirements for residency in Panama?
This is by far one of the most frequent questions I get from our visitors and home purchasers on Isla Palenque. Many who are looking to relocate to Panama for their retirement, or even those who are just searching for a vacation home, want to know what their Panama residency options are.
During my talks with expats while establishing residency here in Panama, everyone reiterated the importance of finding a good lawyer upon arrival to aid the process and explain the ins & outs of residency requirements and choose which option is right for you. They insist that this is a crucial part of the process!
Establishing Permanent Residency
Formerly, a couple of different options existed for people looking to establish residency in Panama for both permanent and non-permanent status.
Last week, the Panamanian government announced sweeping changes to their visa requirements, making it easier for “countries that maintain friendly, professional, economic, and investment relationships with the Republic of Panama.” These new (more lax) residency requirements are valid for citizens of the following countries:
- United States
- “The Low Countries”
- Czech Republic
Citizens of these countries qualify for permanent resident status in Panama and will be able to partake in professional and/or economic activities to the same extent as Panamanian citizens. They will also be subject to the same rules and laws for commerce and business. The application process is very straightforward and requires that the following documents be submitted through the National Immigration Service:
- Three passport-sized photographs
- A copy of the identification card or residency card from your home country
- A document that demonstrates your reason for seeking permanent residence or that details the professional and economic activity that you will be partaking in
- Proof of economic solvency, in the form of a banking certificate/bank account statement from the past month reflecting an account balance of no fewer than 4 digits or demonstrating sufficient monthly income
- A letter of responsibility, if necessary
- Documentation to verify family members and dependents accompanying you
It’s worth noting that requirements for temporary and student visas stand unchanged by Executive Order 323.
Tourist Visas last up to 90 days and can be renewed for an additional 30 days by visiting the Immigration Office. A fair number of “residents” comply with this rule by traveling every 3 months to Costa Rica, Columbia, or back stateside and returning with a renewed visa. If you do overstay your 90 days, you’ll have to pay a fine before departing — so take these rules seriously if you don’t want to deal with hassles and delays later on at the airport! Specific requirements: passport.
Student Visas are granted to those planning a longer stay for studying or research purposes. You will be issued a Carnet, or temporary ID card, upon your arrival and then you’ll need to submit an additional application through the Immigration Department. Often, school programs employ counselors in both Panama and in the reciprocal country to help with the paperwork process. Specific requirements: passport, other requirements depend on school program.
It’s exciting that Panama has opened the door for so many new residents! It’s another reason (as if you needed it) to take a trip to Panama and discover whether this wild & welcoming place is where you want to make your new home.
If you decide to obtain Panama residency, here are some tried-and-true tips for a smooth application process:
- Bring all documentation (passport, paperwork, notarized documents) and be sure to make copies of everything!
- Be polite. Something we recommend no matter where you travel — a buenos dias or a smile and a hello can brighten the day of the person stuck behind the desk you’re standing in front of.
- Bring a book, magazine, and your patience. Waiting in lines and complying with protocol can be a nuisance, but being prepared can make it less so.
- Stick with it! Just close your eyes and picture the sunset over Playa Palenque; life in Panama is worth a little wait.