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Panama - Visas

For those who wish to live in Panama on a long term basis, there are a number of different visas and permits that can be applied for, depending on the circumstances of the individual.

The "Turista Pensionado" is one of the most popular visas here and it is designed for those who wish to retire to Panama. Those who receive pensions which are at least $900 per month, either from their own government or privately, can apply for this type of visa. The pension statement is enough evidence to apply for this. It is also important to know that lawyers’ costs for this application are around $900-$1000. This type of visa is valid indefinitely, but applicants must provide a proof of interest on an annual basis. This type of visa includes exemption from duty payments on household goods that are imported into the country and the exemption of duty when importing a car in Panama.

Those who wish to live in this country on a retired person’s visa, but who are not in receipt of a pension, may do so if they prove that they have a private income. In order to qualify for this visa a lump sum would need to be deposited with the National Bank of Panama and it should be enough to provide a monthly income of at least $750 per month. This visa needs to be renewed every five years.

Some might wish to apply for a visa on the Reforestation programme which requires an investment of $40,000, where another level of investment is available at $80,000. Investors can obtain a visa not only for themselves but for a spouse and any dependent children as well. This visa needs to be renewed every year and after a period of five years an application for citizenship of Panama can be made. This may seem expensive but is a fairly popular route for obtaining citizenship in the country. An approved programme provides a return on investment, enabling investors to leave their money untouched for a minimum of ten years. Any profit made during this period is not taxed in Panama. Both levels of investment give residency status. Applicants must provide a passport which is valid for a minimum of six months, a certificate from the police in their home country to declare that they do not have a criminal record, a marriage certificate if applicable, proof of investment and the relevant completed application forms. Fees are payable for each person who needs a visa.

Those who are not retired, but who have independent means to support themselves can apply for a "person of means" visa. They must be able to prove that they have a minimum of $200,000, of which $80,000 must be earmarked for the purchase of a home in Panama. This visa is granted for a period of one year, but after one successful renewal it is considered to be permanent and gives the holder the right to apply for a local identity card. After a period of five years, the holder can make an application for citizenship.

Expats who wish to establish their own business can apply for an Investor visa or a Small Business Investor visa. Each carries a minimum level of investment and a requirement of the minimum number of native Panamanians who are hired to work in the business. These visas are granted provisionally for a period of one year, but are permanent after being renewed successfully. After five years, an application can be made for citizenship.

Processing time

For most visa applications people usually wait for between 1 and 2 months, although if some incorrect information or missing documents occur, this period can last much longer. Application forms can be obtained from the Panamanian consulate or embassy in expat's home country. For the residents of some countries, a visit to Panama can be made on one of the 30 day tourist visas. Fees for each type of visa are different and are subject to regular reviews. A medical exam is not essential when applying for a visa.

Citizenship in Panama

Those who wish to become citizens of Panama can only do so once they have been a legal resident of the country for a minimum of five years. Expats must have the status of an immigrant, rather than retired expat status. Those who are married to a Panamanian citizen need to wait three years to apply for their own citizenship status. Citizenship status is not permanent in Panama, but obtaining immigrant status or citizenship is not difficult. It is important to know that this status or citizenship can be canceled at any time.

In order to make an application for Panamanian citizenship, expats must have a number of documents. An applicant must also have five testimonials from Panamanian citizens who are not related to the applicant in any way. These must state that the applicant has been a legal resident of Panama for the minimum of three or five years and has been living in the country on an uninterrupted basis. Some medical documentation is also required. Proof of a negative HIV test must be presented, along with a lung X-ray and proof of a general medical examination, which shows that the applicant is in good health and free from any infectious disease.

There is also the requirement of a notarized copy of the applicant’s passport, but it has to be a copy of the entire passport. It has to be submitted along with two passport-sized photographs. There are fees payable and the amounts change frequently. The latest information about it can be obtained from the Panamanian immigration department. All applicants must also write a statement which declares that they are renouncing their current citizenships. It should be noted that the applicant’s home country may not consider this to be legally binding and this should be clarified before making the official declaration. There are also stamps to a total of $300 that have to be attached to the letter of naturalization.

Those who wish to become citizens of the country need to be able to prove that they have a means of income and they need a letter from their employer to confirm the salary amount they earn or a letter from the applicant’s bank to show that they have savings that will support them while they are living in the country. If the applicant has already been working in the country they may also need to obtain a copy of their Social Security Fund record to show that they have made contributions. Other documentation that should be included is a power of attorney form to request confirmation from the Personal Identification Division of the date that the identity card was issued to confirm that the applicant has met the minimum three or five year requirement of immigrant status.

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