Jul 16, 2019

Residence in Panama with a “Friendly Nations” visa – from US$ 18,000

Panama has been making every effort over the last fifteen or so years to attract foreign investments in the country. Its recent past marked with drug production and trafficking, civil riots, poverty, and high levels of criminal activity is gone and almost forgotten now. Since the 1980s, this Latin American country has been able to fully rebuild itself and turn into a progressive law-abiding nation whose economy is growing at an amazing pace. Panama’s GDP has been steadily increasing by around 6% every year for quite a number of years in a row now. Such a stable increase in the national prosperity is rarely to be found in the ever changing modern world.

Panama’s gorgeous tropical nature combined with the economic stability and impressive social security that it offers makes this country an enticing option for those who are thinking of changing their domicile. Immigrating to Panama is not difficult at all, and this is especially true for the citizens of fifty Panama’s “Friendly Nations” who would experience the least trouble moving to this wonderful country.

Panama and its international reputation

In September 2016, the Panama Papers scandal broke out when an international group of journalists (previously unknown) claimed that a great number of rich and powerful people, including several national leaders, used Panama as a jurisdiction that allowed them to evade taxes. However, these were simply yellow-press-style allegations not supported by any concrete evidence whatsoever. The Panamanian Government passionately rejected all these ungrounded accusations. It pointed out that the journalists did not mention any of the anti-corruption and anti-money-laundering laws that Panama had passed recently.

The truth is that the vast majority of world countries have taken Panama off all kinds of black and grey lists admitting that the transparency of Panama’s financial regulations are sufficient. A small number of countries such as France, for example, remain suspicious about this jurisdiction but the Panamanian Government takes further steps to comply with all the international rules. Thus, only a few days ago, the new President of Panama Laurentio Cortizo created a special department in his Administration that is going to study and eliminate all the drawbacks of the current Panamanian legislation regulating the country’s financial sector. The FATF complaints are taken seriously in Panama and now a group of specialists is going to take measures that will prevent the country from returning to the FATF gray list. All in all, the Panamanian authorities are making every effort to let the country fully integrate into the civilized international economic community. Notwithstanding the anti-Panama propaganda found in some media, such efforts are evidently paying back. Today Panama is de facto one of the most respected jurisdictions in the whole of Latin America.

Panama and its economic growth

Not only is Panama a highly respected jurisdiction in Latin America, it also has the fastest growing economy in the region. Some thirty to thirty five year ago, the world was amazed to see the tremendous achievements that Singapore made over a short period. Its financial sector grew rapidly, new skyscrapers were built one after another, and the overall prosperity of the nation increased at an extremely high pace. Today very much the same is happening on the other side of the globe in Panama. Perfection has not been achieved thus far and a lot remains to be done in closing the gap between the rich and the poor in the country, in fighting crime and corruption, in improving the educational standards and so on. One thing cannot be denied, however: Panama’s growth is fast and steady in terms of both its economy and its social security. It is one of the few countries on the planet that is beginning to seriously prosper.

Panama and its nature

Panama can be thought of a ‘bridge’ between North and South America located between Costa Rica and Columbia and between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It is a tropical country with a very mild climate. Summers here are not as hot as in the countries in the Near East – the average daytime temperature is about 28 degrees centigrade (82 degrees Fahrenheit). It rains in the wintertime in Panama but the rain is far from ceaseless: a one-hour rejuvenating shower will fall a couple of times a day. The average winter temperature is about 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit).

The rainforests in the country are breathtaking indeed. Other elements of nature that are bound to inspire awe in the viewer are the beautiful mountains, the numerous islands off the coasts partially uninhabited, and endless sandy beaches on both coasts. Paradise on earth does not exist, unfortunately, but Panama is very close to it.

Panama and its capital city

The capital of Panama is Panama City that was first founded in 1519. After the famous pirate Henry Morgan set the place on fire in 1671, the city was moved 5 miles away from its original location and rebuilt in 1673. As is the case in many other countries, the capital is the country’s cultural, social, economic, and financial center. The city is located next to the Panama Canal.

Panama City is divided into two parts – the Old City and the New City. Many outstanding historical buildings and cozy little streets can be found in the old part of the city. The New City, on the contrary, boasts hundreds of high-rise buildings, fast-pace round o’clock movement, neon lights, numerous shopping centers, restaurants, nightclubs and other attributes of a modern megalopolis. At the same time, Panama City is not as huge as some other capital cities in the world: around 1.5 million people live there if one includes the population of the metropolitan area in the count.

Panama and its medicine

Many developed countries should be envious of the level of medical services that Panama provides. The majority of doctors there studied medicine in the USA, and most clinics work by the famous European and American health centers’ methods. For this reason, ‘medical tourism’ to Panama has been gaining popularity over the recent years. Due to the wonderful climate, low cost of living, and first-class medical services many European and American retirees in particular love to come and stay in Panama forever.

Panama and its real estate

The real property on offer in Panama is quite diverse. You can buy or rent houses, apartments, offices, and other commercial accommodations of different sizes and prices. There are accommodations with the view of the ocean, or of the mountains, or of the rainforests. You can freely choose where you want to live in Panama – in the capital city, or in the provinces: housing is available everywhere. The supply of real estate in the country currently exceeds the demand, so it is a good time now to invest into real property in Panama. Many foreigners purchase accommodations there not only for their personal residence but also ‘for the future’ waiting for the time they retire and come to Panama to enjoy the old age, or for a time the price of the property grows so much that it can be sold at a considerable profit. Private property in Panama is protected by the Constitution regardless of the owner’s citizenship or nationality.

Panama and its business environment

The most attractive factor about doing business in Panama is the country’s taxation system. Both Panamanians and foreign businesses are taxed only if they derive profit from the deals made on the territory of the Republic of Panama. The profit made by Panama citizens and foreigners from international business transactions is not taxed. It must be stressed that Panamanian resident non-citizens have the same rights as the citizens of the country. (The only thing the former cannot do is elect and be elected to the state offices.)

This is exactly why many wealthy business people relocate their companies to Panama or establish new corporations in this country. One more serious advantage of Panama as a business location is a strong banking sector that the country is proud of. Over eighty international banks have branch offices there including to most famous ones. The average capitalization and reliability of Panamanian banks is noticeably higher than that of many European and US banks. Besides, the legislation regulating banking services in this country provides for confidentiality of the account holder’s financial information. Thus, keeping your money in a bank in Panama is arguably safer than in any other country in the world. In addition to that, there are two more highly attractive factors that make many businesses come to Panama. One is the famous Panama Canal, and the other is the availability of Free Trade Zones in the country that offer weighty tax privileges to the business corporations registered on their territories.

Panama and its security

Even though Panama borders Columbia, it is among the safest countries in Latin America. One of the reasons why many US pensioners like living in Panama is the lower level of crime there in comparison to some American cities. Of course, there is no country on this planet that would be totally free from crime. Small theft, pickpocketing, corruption occurrences – it all happens in Panama like everywhere else in the world. However, the percentage of serious offences is considerably lower there than in other countries in the region. And the new President of the country is not less determined to combat crime than the previous one was.

Another safety factor that has to be borne in mind is lack of natural disasters in Panama typical of many other tropical countries. Panama is lucky to encounter very few floods, hurricanes, or tsunami waves. Somehow, Nature (or God) keeps Panama from this sort of catastrophes.

Residence in Panama

Probably the largest source of income to the Panama state budget is the money coming from the financial service organizations. The Government keeps working hard to make the country alluring for foreign investors and the latter do come and put their capitals into the Panamanian economy. Such investments have already greatly contributed to the economic growth that is reflected by an immensely improved infrastructure that can be found in the Panama of today.

As the result of the ongoing state projects in the construction and energy sectors, and also the re-opening of the Panama Canal that has been widened now, the Government anticipates reduction of the unemployment rate in the country. At the same time, the state officials admit that the education level that the local workers have is still to be greatly improved. They often lack competence and/ or professional skills to be able to work in the high-tech modern industries. Lack of qualified personnel is one of the central problems Panama experiences today.

To combat this problem the Government of Panama has introduced several special programs aimed at attracting highly qualified specialists to the country from abroad. Engineers and skilled technical workers are those Panama needs most of all. One of such programs is the “Friendly Nations” visa that is designed so that coming to Panama and acquiring official employment or registering a business company in the country has become especially easy for citizens of fifty foreign countries.

“Friendly Nations” visa: who can use this immigration program

The immigration program “Friendly Nations Visa” gives preferential treatment to the people coming from the developed countries that Panama has especially close economic and cultural ties with. These countries include:

Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United States of America, and Uruguay.

Please do not be surprised not to find Italy on this list. The matter is that Italians have been enjoying even more favorable conditions than the “Friendly Nations” visa offers since 1966 when Italy and Panama signed a special friendship and cooperation agreement.

Compared to the state immigration programs that some European countries offer, the Panamanian “Friendly Nations” visa is much easier and cheaper to obtain. The European programs will cost a pretty penny, they all have traps and pitfalls, and take a long time to go through.

The “Friendly Nations” visa program guarantees an almost automatic residence to the citizens of the fifty aforementioned states, and not just a temporary residence permit of the kind that many European immigration programs offer. The citizens of the Friendly Nations can use this immigration instrument in the following ways:

  1. By conducting economic activities in Panama. This means that they can establish a business company in this country or purchase an existing enterprise there.
  2. By conducting professional activities in Panama. This means that the program applicant can find an employment at a Panamanian company or institution. The job offer has to be confirmed by the company administration. This confirmation letter must also contain information about the employee’s salary. In order to have an employment, the applicant has to register with the social security service and obtain a work permit.

Those who have to use their university diplomas as proofs of their professional qualifications must have these diplomas authenticated by the Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá. It must be borne in mind though that in accordance with the Panamanian Labor Legislation, foreigners are not admitted to the following professions:

  • Engineers;
  • Medical doctors and vets;
  • Lawyers and legal advisers;
  • Architects;
  • Real estate agents;
  • Economists;
  • Accountants;
  • Social workers.

The foreign citizen who applies for a “Friendly Nations” visa planning to conduct economic activities in Panama has to supply a bank statement that shows that he or she has at least US$ 5,000 in a Panamanian bank account.

Apart from that, the applicant has to whether register a company in Panama in his or her name or purchase real property worth at least US$ 100,000. Those who are moving to Panama with their families (spouse and children under 18) have to put additional US$ 2,000 in the bank per each dependent. Children up to 25 years of age are considered dependent family members if they are still attending a college or university or if they are handicapped. Besides, children over 18 have to submit proof of not holding a marriage license.

The Panamanian state authorities will take about three months to process and consider all the application documents. If they are satisfied, the applicant’s temporary residence permit will be exchanged for a permanent one.

On his or her first visit to Panama, the applicant receives a six-month temporary residence permit (or residence card) with a multiple entry visa in the passport valid also for six months. This procedure takes only a couple of days.

Depending on the number of applications the immigration authorities have to process, within three to five months the applicant will normally be granted permanent residence permit (or card). This is when he or she has to pay a second visit to Panama to fetch the permit. It must be noted that a work permit can be issued only after the permanent residence permit has been obtained.

Main advantages of Panamanian residence

  • There is no age limit for prospective immigrants.
  • The cost of acquiring a residence card including the state duties is considerably lower than that in other countries.
  • The immigrants to Panama are not required to be able to speak Spanish (or any other language). This also makes moving to Panama simpler than moving to the countries where language requirements are in force.
  • After holding the permanent residence card for five year, the foreigner is entitled to applying for Panamanian citizenship, which will bring additional benefits.

The Panamanian legislation does not specify the minimum time that the permanent residence card holder has to physically spend in the country in order to qualify for citizenship. At the same time, if you are planning to apply for Panamanian citizenship after five years elapse, you will have to prove to the authorities that you have developed close ‘ties’ with Panama by visiting the country often and staying there for considerable amounts of time.

If you are not planning to apply for Panamanian citizenship but want to retain the five-year residence permit, you have to visit the country once every two years and stay there for a few days.

Offshore Pro Group invites you to apply for our assistance in acquiring residency in the Republic of Panama with the “Friendly Nations” visa. We have been corroborating with Panamanian lawyers, tax advisors and officials for a long time. Our representative will meet you on your arrival to Panama and accompany you throughout the time period needed to submit all the documents and go through all the procedures. He or she will help you fill out all the necessary forms and make all the mandatory payments. Our experts will also provide consultations to you on the Panamanian immigration laws in English, Spanish, or Russian

We can also assign a personal consultant to you who speaks your language and will assist you in all matters related to moving to Panama. These include purchasing or renting real estate, choosing the mobile network operator, and all other tasks that have to be performed in connection with relocating to a new country. Our experts will also advise you on the specifics of incorporating a business company in Panama, opening a bank account in this country, or making a secure property purchase deal.

To obtain permanent residence permit in Panama you will have to visit the country more than once:

  1. Your first visit will have to last for five to fifteen business days. The exact duration of this visit will depend on several factors. Sometimes national holidays will make you stay a bit longer. Delays may also happen with the bank account opening, and so on. As the result of the first visit (if all the conditions are met and all the tasks performed), you will leave Panama with a temporary residence card in hand.
  2. Your second visit to Panama will have to be made after two or three months. It is going to be only a short two- or three-day visit that is needed to acquire a permanent residence card.
  3. Your third visit will have to be made after one more month even though this particular visit is not mandatory. It is needed to acquire a Panamanian ID card, which serves as an inner passport.

A special note: The second and the third visits can be combined. In this case, you will have to stay in Panama for about two weeks. During your stay you can also obtain a Panamanian driving license. This will require taking a simple test.

The cost and procedure of acquiring residency in Panama with the “Friendly Nations” visa

If you are a citizen of one of the fifty friendly countries listed above and you want to move to Panama, the first thing you should do is write to us at the following address: [email protected] and request our residence acquisition assistance service. Then you will have to cover the cost of this service by use of the payment method that you prefer – a credit card, Bitcoin, PayPal, Western Union, WebMoney or a bank transfer.

The cost of the service depends on the number of applicants to the “Friendly Nations” visa:

  • For one applicant – US$ 18,000.
  • For a married couple with one or two children under twelve – US$ 24,000.
  • For an extended family with more than two dependents – additional US$ 3,000 per each dependent.

Special note: 50% of the service price is to be paid at the moment the service contract is signed. The other 50% is to be paid on your arrival to Panama.

The service price includes:

  1. The cost of having a business company registered in Panama. We can register the company on your behalf and in your name prior to your visit to Panama and without your personal presence there. (One year company maintenance cost is also included.)
  2. The cost of the VIP bank service and account opening in a Panamanian bank. The “Friendly Nations” visa program requires that you put minimum US$ 5,000 in a bank in the country. However, non-residents may omit requesting some of the necessary documents from the bank when opening an account there. With our assistance, this procedure will go smoothly and efficiently.
  3. Legal advice.
  4. Mandatory state duties and tolls.

You can also request the following additional services:

  1. Lease or sublease agreement for a piece of real property in Panama – US$ 2,600.
  2. Panamanian tax residency certificate – US$ 9,000.

In your message to us, please specify what services you require. If you would like to clarify anything about our services, please ask us any questions without hesitation.

The documents that we undertake to provide to you:

  • A multiple entry visa to Panama and a three-month immigrant resident card that will be exchanged for a permanent residence permit on your second visit to the country.
  • Permanent residence permit in Panama.
  • Panamanian Identification Document.

Requirements for acquiring residency in Panama

For the primary applicant to the “Friendly Nations” visa program:

  1. A bank statement from a licensed Panamanian bank certifying that the applicant has at least US$ 5,000 in his or her personal account with this bank. It might take you up to one month to set up a bank account in Panama if you try to do it on your own, but with our VIP banking service the procedure will take two to three working days only.

The following documents have to be supplied in order to open a bank account in Panama:

  • A letter from your home country bank addressed to the bank in Panama.
  • Copies of all foreign passport pages and also those of a second ID – a domestic passport or a driver’s license. These documents are necessary for your citizenship identification. The copies have to be authenticated in a Panamanian embassy or consulate or otherwise apostilled.
  • A confirmation of a legal personal income. It can be your tax declaration, or employment agreement with your position, salary, and social security number specified there. You can also submit other documents officially certifying sources of your personal income.
  • Proof of residency in your home country. A utility bill, groceries or other goods receipts, or any other documents where your current residence address is indicated can serve as such proof.  Alternatively, you can submit a lease agreement for an accommodation in Panama. Our company will gladly help you obtain such an agreement.

Special note: All the documents have to be not more than three months old at the moment of their submission to the Panamanian authorities. Besides, they have to be translated into Spanish and translations notarized.

  1. A proof of personal interest in moving to Panama. An extract from the Panamanian State Registry certifying your ownership and/ or directorship of a business company in Panama will usually serve as such proof. (The best option would be incorporating a new company in Panama and registering it in your name.)

If you would like to have a company registered in Panama before applying for residency, we will be happy to assist you with this task. In this case, you have to submit the following documents:

  • Color copies of the passport pages of the company beneficiary and executive director (president) who shall be the primary applicant to the “Friendly Nations” visa. (If the company has a Board of Directors, all other directors can be nominal, and we can arrange for that as well.)
  • The company registration form that we will supply.

Each program applicant shall supply the following documents BEFORE they are submitted to the Panamanian authorities:

  • A (clear) criminal record covering the last two years of residence in the home country. The migration authorities insist that this record should be issued by a central or a federal Internal Affairs agency, or National Police, or Criminal Police head office.

Special note: The criminal record to be submitted to the Panamanian Migration Service is valid for three months since the date of issuance.

  • In case you are providing a criminal record from the country you are not a citizen but a resident of, you have to supply the documents confirming your legal residence in this country. Such documents shall be notarized and their translations apostilled.

Special note: ALL documents containing the applicants’ criminal records have to be authenticated by the Panamanian embassy or consulate in the country of origin or otherwise apostilled.

  • Copies of all passport pages and those of a second ID such as a national passport or driver’s license. All these documents need to be authenticated by a notary in Panama.
  • Five passport size photographs (better be made in Panama).
  • Two receipts for payment of state duties:

US$ 250 to the Panama National Treasury (immigration duty);

US$ 800 repatriation (deportation) deposit to the Panama Immigration Service.

  • Applicant’s medical examination certificate signed by a Panamanian doctor. Offshore Pro Group can arrange for obtaining such a certificate for you.
  • All the documents to be submitted to the Panamanian authorities for acquiring residency in the country shall be signed by each applicant personally.

Special note: Regardless of the ultimate decision of the migration service to grant or not to grant a permanent residence permit to the applicant, all state duties are non-refundable.

Please bear in mind that all the documents you submit shall be translated into Spanish. The translation costs shall be covered separately, and the sum will depend on the number of pages to be translated.

If you have any questions related to immigrating to Panama, please contact us via e-mail [email protected], and we will promptly reply to you.