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Panama Residency Visas; What is Available How to Get It
Panama has some of the most lenient residency requirements in the world. The flood of American retirees moving to Panama in the last ten years attests to that fact. Besides the Panama "pensionado visa" used by many retirees, Panama offers many other opportunities to live in this Central American paradise for the rest of your life.
This article covers the current law. The law is being changed. It is likely that those applying for Panama residency before the new Panama immigration law takes effect around September 1, 2008 will be covered by the old law. Please consult a competent immigration attorney in this regard as it appears that the new law will be more restrictive and more expensive. For an attorney referral feel free to consult ABPanama.
Several options for a Panama residency visa exist, not all of which come from immigration laws. For example, in order to attract investment or to promote reforestation Panama has laws allowing easy residency for a nominal investment.
Panama Residency Options
All Panama residency visas need to be filed by a Panamanian attorney.
Panama Pensionado Visa
The "pensionado" visa is perhaps the best known. Under current law a retiree need only prove a $500 a month pension plus $100 per dependent. This is done with a letter from the Social Security Administration in the USA or the governing agency in the retiree's country of origin for government pensions. For corporate pensions the secretary of state of the state in which the corporation is incorporated will need to certify benefits.
Other paperwork includes a passport valid for at least a year, a police report free of arrests or convictions for five years validated by the nearest Panamanian consulate to your home residence, and a medical exam done in Panama.
You will need to prove yearly that you are still getting your pension benefits.
Panama Reforestation Program Visa
Investment of either $40,000 or $80,000 in an approved reforestation project on five acres (two hectares) of land allows you to apply for a Panama residency visa with the ability to apply for citizenship after five years. The lower investment requires yearly renewals for five years and the higher investment grants a visa after a year.
In both cases it is important to deal with a reputable attorney as the project needs to be an "approved" project. For a referral to a competent attorney feel free to consult ABPanama.
Panama Private Income Retiree Visa
Retirees without a pension but a lump sum distribution at retirement can deposit a five year CD with the Panama National Bank (BNP) sufficient to yield at least $750 a month. This visa is renewable every five years and gives one long term Panama residency and a Panamanian passport for travel and but not for citizenship.
Panama Person of Means Visa
For this visa one needs to have a one year $200,000 CD in any Panamanian bank. $80,000 can go in cash to purchase a home leaving $120,000 for the CD. This investment leads in one year to renewal and a permanent visa with the right to a cedula or identity card. Five years after receiving permanent Panama residency the "person of means" is eligible for citizenship and a passport. See your attorney about your visa. See ABPanama about your property.
Panama Investor and Small Investor Visas
An investor must establish a business with at least $150,000 and employ three Panamanians permanently. Small investors must establish a business with at least a $40,000 investment and likewise employ three Panamanians permanently.
Both cases of Panama residency lead to a permanent visa and right to an identity card. Five years later it is possible to obtain citizenship and a passport. The small investor visa requires more renewals prior to getting the identity card.