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Article By Marie Gomez-Tomiczek, Partner, Gomez Tomiczek International

Panama, a country located in Central America, has become a popular destination for immigration in recent years. Even The New York Times has listed the mountain town of Boquete, Panama as one of the 52 Places to Visit in 2023.


With Panama’s thriving economy, diverse culture, and breathtaking natural beauty, it’s no wonder that so many people are considering making the move to this Central American paradise. In this article, we will explore the reasons why immigration to Panama has become so popular, and what you can expect from this unique and fascinating country.
 

Panama has a rich cultural heritage, with a mix of indigenous, African, and Spanish influences that have shaped its society and traditions. It is a country that truly comes to life through its culture. From its rich musical traditions to its street festivals and carnivals. Panama is also famous for its delicious cuisine, which is a fusion of indigenous, Spanish, and Afro-Caribbean flavours and ingredients.
 

ADVANTAGES OF LIVING IN PANAMA

One of the biggest draws for immigrants to Panama is the country’s thriving economy. In recent years, Panama has experienced tremendous growth and modernization, making it one of the strongest economies in the region. The country’s strategic location, with the Panama Canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, has made it a hub for international trade and commerce. But Panama is more than the canal and a strong financial and business hub. It is also consistently ranked as one of the best places to retire. Besides the lower costs of living, sunny weather, and US-dollarized economy Panama offers a unique discount program for retirees, offering discounts of up to 50% on hotels, airfare, restaurants, utility bills, entertainment, and public transportation.
 

Panama also has a rich and diverse natural environment, with everything from pristine beaches and lush tropical forests to towering mountain ranges and vast savannas. This natural beauty makes Panama a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts, and there are many opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, and other outdoor activities. Whether you are looking for a quiet and peaceful place to retire, or you are looking for a more active lifestyle, Panama has something to offer everyone.
 

TYPES OF RESIDENCY VISA IN PANAMA

For those who are considering immigration to Panama, there are a few things to keep in mind. One of the most important is to research and understand the immigration process and which kind of residency visa you are interested in. The government of Panama has put in place a number of programs and initiatives to encourage immigration, but the process can be complex and time-consuming. All residency applications in Panama must be filed through a licensed Panamanian lawyer. That’s why it’s crucial to hire an experienced immigration attorney who can guide you through the different options available to you and ensure that everything is done correctly.
 

There are several visa options available, including the Pensionado Visa (for retirees), work visas (through a job offer in Panama), investor visas (like the Friendly Nations Visa, the Golden Visa, or the Reforestation Visa), the Convenio Panama Italia (a special visa only available to Italian citizens), marriage visa and there are also visa programs available for short term stays like the Digital Nomad Visa.
 

The Pensionado Visa is one of the most popular residency permits in Panama. This visa is designed for retirees who receive a lifetime pension or annuity of at least $1,000 per month from a foreign government or private entity. Retirees who receive a monthly pension of at least $1,250 may also add their spouse to their visa application. The Jubilado Pensionado Visa is a one-time application and grants the applicant permanent residency in Panama. Additionally, retirees with this visa are exempt from paying income tax on foreign income earned outside of Panama.
 

Another popular residency permit in Panama is the Friendly Nations Visa. This visa is available to citizens of 50 specific countries, including the US, Canada, and most European countries. To qualify for this visa, you must invest at least $200,000 in Panamanian real estate or a fixed-term deposit (CD) at a Panamanian bank and in return, you receive a temporary residency permit for two years. After two years, the applicant can renew their residency permit and apply for permanent residency by providing proof that they still have their investment in Panama. In case you want to apply as a family or married couple you must also prove economic solvency by means of a Panamanian bank account with a minimum balance of $5,000. The Friendly Nations Visa allows you to work, live in Panama, and even start your own business.
 

Whereas the Reforestation Visa is a unique residency permit that encourages foreign nationals to invest in reforestation projects in Panama. To qualify for this visa, you must invest at least $100,000 in a reforestation project approved by the Panamanian government. After two years, you can apply for permanent residency in Panama.
 

The Investor Visa or Golden Visa offers a straightforward path to residency for foreign investors. To qualify for this visa, you must invest at least $300,000 in real estate properties in Panama. The Investor Visa is the only residency permit in Panama that can be filed remotely through a Panamanian immigration lawyer without traveling to Panama. All applications will be processed within 30 days by a special department at the National Immigration Service and offer permanent residency for the main applicant and his dependents (spouse, children, and even the applicant’s parents).
 

PANAMA’S VISA APPLICATION PROCESS

The process of obtaining any residency visa in Panama is straightforward. The first step is to hire a Panamanian lawyer to assist with the application process. The lawyer will help and advise the applicant to gather all the required documents, including proof of investment (if applicable), and other documents. To be eligible for any visa in Panama all applicants must have a clean criminal record and provide a police clearance certificate from their home country. Once all documents are in order, the lawyer will submit the application to the National Immigration Service for processing. In order to present the formal application all applicants must be personally present in Panama. After the passport registration and formal application has been completed all applicants will receive a temporary migration ID card which is valid for six months.

During this time the National Immigration Service will then review the application and conduct a background check on all applicants. If everything is in order, the applicant and his dependents will receive their residency permit. Once the visa has been successfully approved, the lawyer will pick up the formal resolution issued by the National Immigration Service and coordinate another appointment with the applicants in order to get their photo taken for their new migration ID card.
 

PANAMANIAN PASSPORT AND CITIZENSHIP

Citizenship is the ultimate goal for those who are committed to making Panama their permanent home and wish to enjoy all the rights and privileges of being a Panamanian citizen. To be eligible for citizenship, you must have had your permanent residency in Panama for at least five years and be able to demonstrate a good understanding of the Spanish language and Panamanian culture.
 

COST OF LIVING IN PANAMA

Compared to many other countries, particularly in the United States and Europe, the cost of living in Panama is much lower. But remember, while the cost of living is generally lower in Panama than in many other countries, it depends on the location, your standard of living, and whether you need to pay rent. For example, a rental of an “American standard” two-bedroom apartment/house in Boquete can range between $800 to $1,500 whereas in Dolega, Bugaba, or David you will find offers for $180 to $800. Generally speaking, the average cost of living across Panama (for a couple) ranges from $1,250 to $3,000 per month. When choosing an area to live in Panama it is important to do your research and understand the costs associated with living in Panama, including housing, food, transportation, and other essentials.
 

Finally, take your time to learn about the culture and traditions of Panama before making the move. While the country is welcoming and friendly, it’s still important to be respectful of its cultural norms and customs. This can include things like learning basic Spanish, dressing appropriately, and being aware of local customs and practices.
 

In conclusion, Panama is a unique and fascinating country that has a lot to offer people of all ages and backgrounds. Panama is definitely worth considering whether you are looking for a new place to live, a place to retire, or a place to start a new business. With its rich cultural heritage, thriving economy, and breathtaking natural beauty, it’s a place that will definitely capture your heart and make you feel right at home.   EG

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