Back in 2012, Panama introduced the Friendly Nations Visa under Presidential Decree 343. The fast-track permanent residency program not only made it easier to obtain residence there if you belonged to one of the 22 eligible countries, but it also opened up investment opportunities. Let’s talk about what I need to know about Panama’s Friendly Nations Visa.
Today, What Countries Are Eligible For Friendly Nations Visa
Today, the list of friendly nations has increased to 50 countries. These include:
9. Costa Rica
12. Czech Republic
18. Great Britain
20. Hong Kong
34. New Zealand
39. Republic of Korea
40. San Marino
44. South Africa
50. United States of America
What Makes You Eligible?
Panama is known for offering a low-cost and highly accessible environment to both migrants and foreign investors looking to expand in the international market and set up business in Panama. But before any of that happens, let’s take a look at the Friendly Nations Visa requirements.
Apart from being a resident or citizen of any of these 50 countries, you also need to meet a few other eligibility requirements to qualify for the Friendly Nations Visa. These include:
- An established professional or economic relationship with the Republic of Panama
- Clear proof of professional solvency
- Availability of all supporting documents and required fees.
Documentation For Friendly Nations Visa
- Proof of ownership of a titled property in Panama. The property must be free of liens and can be either in the name of the applicant or applicant’s corporation/business. If you own an LLC or IBC Panamanian company or work for a Panamanian corporation, you’re also eligible to apply—subject to additional documentation.
- Active passport with an additional ID such as driver’s license
- Eight passport-size pictures
- A criminal check that provides evidence of your legal standing in the country of residence. For US residents, the FBI is responsible for conducting background check but if you’re residing in any other country, make sure that it’s nationwide and not local. If you have a citizenship of another country, a background check is also required from there.
- A health certificate verified by a general physician in Panama and issued within the 90 days of application filing
- Proof of residency and address
- A sworn declaration.
If you’re applying for your spouse as well, you’ll also need a marriage certificate; whereas in case of children additional documentation is required which includes:
- Birth certificate
- Purpose of applying for residency in Panama
- Proof of ability to support dependents
- Authorization of both parents on the child’s application form.
This only applies to children that are dependents and under the age of 25 years. If your child is over 25 years old, you’ll also need to provide an affidavit that confirms their single status as well as show proof of enrollment as a full-time student.
Costs Of Applying For Friendly Nations Visa
Applicants over the age of 12 are required to fulfill the costs of deportation in case of criminal activity. Other costs include:
- A bank letter that certifies deposits of at least $5000
- $800 for repatriation fee in the form of a certified check made to the National Immigration Services
- $250 for application fee in the form of a certified check made to the National Treasury.
You may incur additional costs such as attorney fees, cost of opening a Panama bank account, charges for securing multiple entry visa and incorporation costs, among others. Keep in mind that for a single applicant, you’ll need to spend at least $10,000 USD; so, keep the cash ready and get started.
What Do You Need To Do To Get A Friendly Nations Visa
If you’re based in any of the friendly nations, this is your step-by-step application guide for Panama residence. This guide will help you minimize the applying costs and fast-track the process.
Start with documents
Prepare all that you can before arriving in Panama. If you need to translate or Apostille them, do it beforehand. The law company that you’ve hired in Panama can move along the company set-up and incorporation process, while you handle the documentation. Remember that legal assistance is imperative in applying for a Friendly Nations Visa.
Get Ready to Travel
It can take anywhere between a few days to a month on your first visit to Panama. If you follow the first step prior to travel, you may not need to spend more than a week. The purpose of the first visit is so you can open a bank account—which requires physical presence—because without an account, you can’t move ahead with the filing process.
Register Your Passport
The immigration office in Panama handles the registration process. The registration number on the stamp provided by an immigration officer is necessary for a smooth immigration process and application filing.
Open a Bank Account
Banks can deny your account opening application for any number of reasons, which is why you should apply at multiple banks. The process involves an interview, document submission and signature of all bank forms.
Once your application has been approved, apply for a reference letter and request the certified checks required to pay the fees for the application and deposit the $5,000 bank deposit fee.
File the Application
The attorneys can file the application on your behalf if you can’t or don’t want to stay in Panama for long. However, if you’re planning to stay longer, visit the immigration office for a temporary residence card.
Important note: Use the same passport as the one on the application to enter Panama if you have dual or multiple citizenships. Authorities will check this and in case of discrepancies, your application may be denied.
Request a Multiple-Entry-Visa
To leave the country, you’ll need to obtain a multiple-entry-visa otherwise you may be subjected to a $2,000 civil fine. It may take at least three days before you’re issued the visa, so plan your trip accordingly.
If you don’t plan on leaving Panama, you need the multiple-entry visa and can wait for the approval of the application for as long as the temporary residence card is active—which usually expires after 6 months (the same time it takes for the approval of the application and permanent residence card).
Here are a few great articles on Panama and what you can expect when you chose to invest or live there.
Panama is a business-friendly nation that offers a lot to investors and companies operating in the Republic. However, you should keep in mind that obtaining a permanent Panamanian residence through the Friendly Nations Visa isn’t the same as tax residence. So, if you’re applying for tax purposes, you’ll need to meet further requirements that include permanent address in Panama and at least 183 days spent in the Republic in a tax year.
I hope you enjoyed this article on What do I Need to Know About Panama’s Friendly Nations Visa. For more information and to talk to our expert, please contact us HERE.
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About The Author
Mikkel Thorup is the host of The Expat Money Show podcast and Director of Content at Escape Artist. He is also the author of #1 Best-Selling book Expat Secrets on Amazon. He has spent nearly 20 years in continual travel around the world, visiting more than 100 countries including Colombia, North Korea, Zimbabwe, and Iran. His goal is to help people just like you to generate additional streams of income, eliminate your tax bill, and take advantage of offshore structures so you can travel the world freely and never have to worry about money again. For more information on his legal (but creative) tax strategies for Expats watch this free video.
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