Updated July 22, 2017
Panama has 4 Popular Residence Visa Options
2 created to attract workers & entrepreneurs
2 tried-and-true residency visas for expat retirees or investors
I give information about those 4 visas below.
1) Pensionado Visa
This is Panama’s best-known residence program.
- Lifetime pension of at least $1,000 a month
- or $750 a month if you own at least $100K worth of property here. The property must be in your personal name, not in the name of your corporation.
The definition of pension is very loose. It can include an annuity from an insurance company, bank, or even a private company.
You can usually obtain this visa within six months of applying.
Perks of The Pensionado Visa
- 50% off entertainment, that is, movies, theaters, concerts, sporting events, etc
- 30% off bus, boat, and train fares
- 25% off airline tickets
- 25% off utility bills
- 30% to 50% off hotel rooms
- 15% off hospital bills (unless you have insurance)
- And more, such one-time exemption of duties on the importation of household goods (up to $10,000) and tax exemptions every two years on the importation of a car (or, better yet, the local purchase of a car).
Plus, you cannot arbitrarily lose your Pensionado status.
In other countries, new laws have affected the status and perks of long-time ex-pat retirees.
Panama’s government has kept its pledge to grandfather in Pensionado residents. Which means that even if Panama changes it’s laws regarding the Pensionado visa in the future, your status will never change!
I have written more extensively about the perks of the Pensionado Visa, elsewhere on my site.
NOTE: If you legally reside in Panama and are of retirement age—60 for men, 55 for women— you can enjoy most of these Pensionado Visa discounts. It doesn’t matter what type of residence visa you have.
2) Friendly Nations Visa
The legal name for the Friendly Nations visa is: Permanent Residence for Nationals of Specific Countries (NSC).
Yup, it is quite a mouth full. And it is full of possibilities.
Panama’s NSC or Friendly Nations visa pushes the door wide open for people from the U.S., Canada, and 48 other countries that “maintain friendly, professional, economic, and investment relationships” with Panama.
It is a pretty straightforward visa process.
You must also do 1 of the following
- Purchase real estate in Panama (titled, minimum value $10-15K)
- Open a business in Panama
- Hired for a job by a Panamanian company
Until March 2017, getting this visa also put you on the fast track to get a work permit. But no longer. You can find out more about the change in friendly nation residency visas holders ability to get a work permit.
For more details, read a post I did specifically about the Friendly Nations visa option.
3) Professional Residence Permit
This option lets you know how eager Panama is to attract workers to their country.
If you don’t qualify for the Friendly Nations visa option, Panama has created yet another new visa type.
This was crafted for expats who don’t qualify for the Friendly Nations visa, and who want to work in Panama.
This is your visa option if you
- Don’t buy property
- Don’t start a business
- Don’t have a job with a qualified Panamanian company
- Don’t qualify for Pensionado Visa
- Want to work in Panama
Since March 2017, I advice you speak to your lawyer about whether this could still be an option for you. The work permit rule change affecting Friendly Nation Visa holders also applies to this visa.
4) Person of Means Visa
Apply For the Person of Means or Investor Visa If You
- Don’t qualify for the Pensionado Visa
- Don’t plan to work or to do business in Panama
- Do Have $300,000 or more to invest
You must be prepared to make a fixed-term deposit or invest $300,000 in Panama.
You can invest these funds in 1 of 3 ways
- Buy at least $300,000 worth of property in Panama
- Put $300,000 in a fixed-term deposit in a bank with a physical branch in Panama
- A combo of those 2 options.
Your total investment must be at least $300,000.
You must keep the property and/or fixed-term deposit until you are granted your permanent residency.
Once you have your permanent residency, you can sell the property or withdraw your money from the fixed-term deposit.
Paperwork and Documentation For All Visas
No matter which visa you decide to apply for, you will need do fill out alot of paperwork and provide a significant amount of documentation.
Follow Instructions Carefully
Make sure you follow the submittal requirements to the letter. It will speed things up immensely.
Keep in mind, all documents and paperwork will need to be translated, stamped, and certified by various officials in your current country and in Panama. Panamanian officials are very particular about the correct form and certification of documents.
You should start gathering the required documentation well in advance of when you plan to apply. It will save you alot of headaches.
Gathering your paperwork and applying for residency may not rank high in the fun category, but you will be glad you did it.
Why Get Residency In Panama?
Panama is a wonderful place to live.
- Beautiful weather
- Tropical beaches
- Relaxing life style
- Low cost of living
- Stable banking sector
- Fastest growing economy in the Americas
- Tax benefits
Read more about why get residency in Panama.
If you are looking for beach property in Panama, check out our Puerto Armuelles real estate.
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HI great information! How does this work? “If you legally reside in Panama and are of retirement age—60 for men, 55 for women— you can enjoy most of these Pensionado Visa discounts. It doesn’t matter what type of residence visa you have”. Is there sort of “Seniors Card” to get the Pensionado discounts even if we are on a Friendly Nations Visa? Trying to figure out the best plan for my spouse and I who will be “of age” for the benefits but may still want to work for a few years in Panama. Thanks
I was stationed in Panama while in the US Army back in the late 80s & early 90s spending time both in Colon and Panama City. My wife and I are investigating retirement options in Panama. My wife is a Quality Control/Food Processing professional that would be a great asset to many Panamanian companies. Can you recommend a local “help wanted” publication or Panamanian employment agency that can help her reaching out to national companies inside the country.
Hello! We are French nationals arriving in Panama on next May 7th, and are getting completely confused on the formalities to perform to get the residence : My companion just signed a contract with a french company and is to be settled in Panama as an export director covering Latin American and the carribean. We wonder whether we have or not to go through a lawyer to set up a company to be able to get the residence (friendly nations) and the work permit? I see that there is also the professional residence visa, that would match our needs also…… Read more »
Hi Betsy, I was happy to find your site. Your posting is the first that I’ve heard mention of the Professionals Residency Permit. I am an Electrical Power Systems Engineer that works on Protection and Control applications for Substations and I was wondering if you happened to know if Engineering is one of the professions that would be eligible for the Prof. Res. Permit, or possibly how I could find this out. My husband and I will be visiting Panama City at the end of January, traveling cross country to Boquette then North to Boca del Toro for our vacation.… Read more »