Panama: The Benefits Of Obtaining Permanent Residency In Panama*

Last Updated: 23 July 2014
Article by Luis A. Quiel

For several years, Panama has been considered one of the ideal retirement destinations in the world. In 2014, Panama ranked 1st in Forbes Magazine's top 10 list of countries to retire.

Panama is a prime business destination due to the numerous advantages it offers, including: Panama City is one of the most affordable cities in the world, according to the latest cost report prepared by the intelligence unit of The Economist; the presence of first-class medical care and hospitals; the best airline connections in Latin America and a growing number of direct connections to Europe; a good business climate in general with 7.3% domestic economic growth in 2014, among the average rates of economic growth in Latin America according to figures issued by both national and international agencies; and a friendly immigration system that seeks to attract educated professionals and investment.

What is the País Amigo immigration program?

One of the mechanisms that Panama has put into place is an immigration system commonly known as "País Amigo" (Friendly Country) which seeks to attract both investment and professionals who wish to work in Panama. On May 16, 2012, the Panamanian Government established a new system of permanent immigrant visas for citizens or nationals of specific countries. Executive Decree No. 343 gives preferential treatment to the nationals of several countries. Originally including 24 countries, the list was subsequently expanded to include 48 countries or autonomous jurisdictions whose citizens are eligible for this special and preferential program.

What are the advantages of this preferential treatment?

Key benefits include the fact that once the application is approved, the National Directorate of Immigration grants Permanent Residence to the applicant; for other types of visas, permanent residence status is usually granted after two years, provided that the applicant meets all of the requirements. Another advantage is that the applicant does not have to establish domicile in Panama and is only required to travel to Panama at least once every two (2) years to maintain the visa. This offers a huge advantage to those who travel frequently for work or for business, or for those who wish to have a second home in Panama but still have not decided to emigrate per se. The flexibility offered with this visa is that the applicant can travel to Panama with an immigration status, without having to fully settle in Panama. However, the applicant must establish some kind of investment, business or work relationship with Panama.

Which countries are on the list?

Nationals or citizens of any of the following countries are eligible for this new visa: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Montenegro, Most Serene Republic of Marino, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Malta, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United States, and Uruguay. Mexico will soon be added to the list, according to a recently signed Free Trade Agreement.

Which relatives or dependents may be accepted under this visa?

The applicant can extend the benefits of this visa to: his/her spouse, minor children, minors who despite not being natural children are under his/her guardianship or custody and upbringing, unmarried children over 18 and under 25 who are pursuing higher education, the principal applicant's parents, and disabled relatives.

Can the applicant enter the country before applying for the visa?

The applicant must be in Panama when filing the visa application.

These are some of the elements and characteristics of the new immigrant visa for nationals of specific countries with professional or investment ties to Panama. This visa is an ideal means and simple tool for foreign nationals who wish to take advantage of the excellent opportunities currently offered by the Republic of Panama.

*This article is an updated version of my previous article released in 2013, available at:

http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=1fda3b01-b207-4269-a569-12a360f2ad33

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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