Panama Visas and Residency
Wha sort of Visas do you need for Panama?
Visiting Panama for up to 90 days?
People with passports from the following countries do not need a visa to enter Panama:
Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay and the UK (except for persons who were born in Hong Kong, or if the UK passport was issued in Hong Kong).
Formal Panama Embassy Issued Visa – People with passports from these countries must get a formal tourist visa: Czech Republic, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Peru and Philippines.
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Panama Tourist Card
People with passports from the following countries also don’t need a visa but they have to purchase 30 day tourist cards:
Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Curacao, Ecuador, Greece, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Japan, Korea (Rep), Malta, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome & Principe, Surinam, Taiwan, Trinidad & Tobago, USA, Venezuela and Vatican City
The tourist card takes the place of a conventional visa. One can be purchased at the departure airport terminal or in Panama at the Immigration area for $5.00. The tourist card is good for 30 days and there are provisions to apply for a 60-day extension at the sole discretion of the immigration authorities.
Panama Tourist Card Extension – It is possible to obtain a 60-day extension for the tourist card. The application process includes the following:
• Valid passport good for six months
• Tourist Card and two copies of the Panama immigration stamp in your passport
• Return airplane ticket or voucher that is in effect for at least the sixty-day period
• Letter from a Panama Citizen or Panama Resident who will sponsor you and your visit and thus assume responsibility for you. This should be notarized along with a copy of their identity papers.
• Economic solvency documentation such as bank statements, credit cards, tax returns of the tourist or the Panama person sponsoring him or her is also required.
• Three passport-size photos
Apparently, although US citizens have to buy the $5 tourist card their visas are valid for 90 days without extending the tourist card.
Most European and US citizens can also renew their 90 day visa for a futher 90 days at the discretion of the immigration office.
U.S. citizens transiting the Panama Canal as passengers do not need to obtain visas, report to customs, or pay any fees. U.S. citizens piloting private craft through the canal should contact the Panama Canal Authority at 011-507-272-1111 or consult the canal’s web page at http://www.pancanal.com.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
Panamanian law requires all persons to carry official identification documents at all times. This law applies to both Panamanian citizens and visitors to the country. Due to an increase in illegal aliens in Panama, the police have been checking documents more frequently, resulting in the detention of people not carrying identification. For this reason, everyone is encouraged to carry their passports or other official identification at all times.
Retiring to Panama?
Panama’s immigration laws have created two types of resident permission, easily available to pensioned or retired foreigners who want to live their retirement in Panama.
Panama Pensioned Visa
This grants the right to reside in Panama, indefinitely, as long as you can prove you receive a pension, sufficient to pay for your expenses in the country currently set at a monthly minimum of $1000 or its equivalent in any foreign currency, plus $200.00 for each dependent.
These amounts may be increased after revision, according to cost of living indexes, by resolution of the Executive Body. This increase will not affect the rights of anyone who had already been granted the visa.
Panama self supporting Visa
If you put $300,000 in the bank in Panama for you get residency in Panama for yourself and family for as long as the money stays in the bank plus you get x a month (variable) in interest.
You can also get permenant residency at any age if you can prove you earn over $2000 amonth from a trust or fund or deposit account.
The Retired Pensioner’s residency permit offers the benefit of a special passport of the Republic of Panama but without granting the Panamanian nationality.
Apart from having a pension there are a number of other ways of obtaining permanent residency. One is buying a property valued at at least $300,000 or investing $80,000 in teak trees or by establishing a business with a minimum capital investment of $160,000.
$80,000 Investment in teak trees
This is a unique program where one invests $60,000 in an approved Panama reforestation program. This allows you to obtain a Visa for yourself and your spouse as well as any dependent children. This is the least expensive legitimate residency program.
They are renewable annually and after five years ($100) they can become permanent residency Visas allowing you to reside in Panama permanently. After five years one can apply for citizenship, but this application process for citizenship must be signed by the President of Panama and can take years.
The reforestation program is a government program. You invest in forestry projects generally dealing with teak wood but other types of trees are also available. Some projects give you title to the actual land, usually about 2 hectares. It is impossible to live on the land however. The land is land locked and has no roads, no electricity, no water, no plumbing. It would be hard to get a permission to construct a home or close to impossible on this land. The reforestation project must be a government approved one.
These projects are supposed to generate a very good return after 25 years however if you were to liquidate the land say after 10 years your return would generate substantial losses. This is because it takes years for the trees to grow. If you wait 15 years the loss would be less or perhaps you’d reach break even. There are no guarantees though. Best to think of the money as the cost of citizenship and then if you make money later all well and good.
Buying real estate
Buying $300,000 worth of real estate entitles you to reside in Panama for as long as you own the property. The entitlement is non-transferable.
Starting a small business and Investment Visa
The small investor visa is another option. You start a business which involves hiring three locals for $253 a month each and invest $160,000 which would also include your car or SUV, computers, office furniture, website, etc.
Agriculture Investor: Investment of $60,000.00 in a farm.
These visas are granted up to 6 years (renewal every year) to petitioners hired or to be hired within the following sectors:
Colon Free Zone Executive: Minimum salary US$ 2,000.00
Employees within 10% workforce: Minimum salary US$ 850.00
Expert or technical staff within 15% workforce: Minimum salary US$ 850.00
Workforce hired in accordance to Marrakech Accord: Minimum salary US$ 1,000.00
Film making industry with labor contract
Executivse for International Companies(activity must take effect out of Panamanian territory): Minimum salary $1,000.00
Multinational Regional Headquarter employees: Salary must be paid from abroad.
You can also get a temporary residency visa if you are an employee hired as permanent staff of the Panama canal authority with a labor contract or as an Employee hired as permanent staff of an operator in the special economic area (Panama-Pacific)with a labor contract.
Applying for a visa
To apply for any of the above you need a passport valid for at least 6 months, a police clearance report from last place of residence, marriage certificate, birth certificate for children dependents, medical clearance from Panama, application forms, pictures, proof of investment contract etc. You have to come to Panama to apply in person but you do not need to live here for this permit.
From the time of receipt of all documents and fees it takes 30-45 days to get residency. Much depends on the workload of the immigration department at the time of your application.
The visa immigration processing legal fees are around $1,500 for first person and then $250 for each dependent for the initial application. The fees in the following years are $795 for the first person and $250 for each additional person.
The multiple or simple return visa
Apart from the two visas mentioned above, to travel outside Panama and return under equal conditions, all foreigners having resident status in Panama must obtain a Return Visa.
Therefore, after the main visa is granted, a Multiple Return Permit should be obtained when traveling abroad. This only takes two days.
The simple one will serve for one return entrance only, while the multiple one lasts two years.
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