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Panama residency: benefits, what to know, permits, fees

If you're interested in Central and South America and want to combine expatriation with favourable tax treatment, Panama may be a good alternative. 

What should you know about Panama?

Panama is the southernmost country in Central America, bordering Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the south-east, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. It is best known for the Panama Canal, which, since its completion in 1914, has revolutionised trade and the transport of goods between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The Panama Canal continues to play an important role in the rapidly growing local economy, attracting many foreign companies to Panama.

The benefits of settling in Panama: who is a good alternative?

  • Panama taxation very favourable, and income earned outside Panama is tax-free. This makes it a good choice as a sole trader or as a company if you have clients in several countries.
  • Panama residency under the Friendly Nations Visa is now available not only to the upper classes. You can also apply for it as an employee or self-employed person under favourable conditions.
  • Although the resettlement process is full of bureaucratic hurdles, it is quick compared to other nearby countries. On average, a permanent residence permit is granted in 5 months.
  • You'll be living in a tropical paradise that's also developing rapidly economically.
  • If you've been deterred from settling in Panama by the fact that you can't stand six months of wet weather, here's some good news. You only need to visit Panama every two years to keep your Panama permanent residency permit. So it could be a good choice if you're a digital nomad, maybe you travel a lot.
  • You can become a Panamanian citizen after 5 years of permanent residence.

Panama City in the evening

Source: istockphoto.com

Working as an employee in Panama

If you were moving to Panama to work for a foreign company, you would not usually need a work permit. However, if you work for a local company, you will need a permit, which is not easy to obtain. In most companies, there is a government limit on the proportion of foreigners they can employ, typically 10%.

Panama visa requirements - Friends of the Nations VISA

Thanks to a presidential decree, since 2012 47 Nationals of a Panama-friendly nation are eligible for permanent residence. The good news is that Hungary also for these countries include. You can apply for a visa as a retired person, as an employee, to start a business or to invest in real estate or fixed-term deposits.

Whichever route you choose to settle in Panama, it is likely to be a lengthy and bureaucratic process. It's worth seeking the help of a team of experts who are well aware of the pitfalls, so you're sure your application won't be rejected.

Documents required for permanent residence in Panama:

  • Passport registration at the National Immigration Office
  • 5 passport size photos
  • Bank statement or bank statement for the last month showing at least four figures (USD) or steady income
  • Full copy of passport certified by a notary
  • Certificate of good conduct with Apostille certification
  • Obtaining a health certificate in Panama
  • A declaration of intent to resettle, including other reasons for resettlement and an oath to abide by the laws of the country

Optional documents for employment:

  • A contract signed by your employer company, which includes your job title, salary and resettlement costs
  • Company registration documents of the company providing the work
  • Documents proving the operation of the company

Optional documents for real estate investment:

  • Official Panamanian Property Registry certificate showing the ownership and value of the property

The minimum value of the property must be 200 000 Panamanian balboa. It is essential to know that property purchased with a bank loan is also accepted for residency. 

Panama resettlement process step-by-step

You'll need to start the paperwork at home, but you'll be able to apply for a permanent residence permit in Panama.

1. Get the necessary documents at home

  • First, you will need a certificate that you do not have a criminal record. In Hungary this is the Moral certificate, through the Client Portal or at the Ministry of Interior's Customer Service
  • You will also need to apply for a recent birth certificate, in Hungary epapir.gov.hu-you can do it on. 
  • The papers received must be certified by an apostille.
  • Have at least 5 ID photos taken of yourself.

The process can take a long time, so it's worth checking how long your documents are valid. Unfortunately, you may find yourself in the unfortunate situation of arriving in Panama and finding that you don't have much time left to file. That's why smooth paperwork can be a lifesaver when settling in Panama, and our expert team can help you with this.

2. Travel to Panama

As a Hungarian citizen, you can travel to Panama visa-free for 90 days on presentation of a valid passport, a return ticket and 500 $ financial coverage. The deposit can be made in cash or by credit card. Make sure that your passport is stamped on entry. Plan your trip carefully and make the necessary preparations, as without them the time taken to obtain a residence permit can be significantly extended.

a man wants to enter the country to settle.

As a Hungarian citizen, you can travel to Panama visa-free for 90 days on presentation of a valid passport, a return ticket and 500 $ financial coverage. The deposit can be made in cash or by credit card. Make sure that your passport is stamped on entry. Plan your trip carefully.

3. Obtaining a work permit in Panama (optional)

If you want to work for a Panamanian company, you need to get a permit. The Ministry of Labour will only issue a work permit if you have a guaranteed job offer before you move to Panama. The local employer will need to prove that there are no qualified Panamanian nationals who are suitable for your job. This is particularly difficult for engineering and health care positions. 

Source: istockphoto.com

You should hire a lawyer, as he or she will apply for a work permit from the Ministry of Labour. Make sure you consult a specialist lawyer, as he or she will be able to advise you on the documents you need to submit with your application. You will definitely need a health certificate and a negative HIV test, but this will be done for you in Panama.

4. Meeting the conditions for residency in Panama

Depending on which residency condition you wish to obtain a permanent residence permit in the country, you will either need to obtain the appropriate Letter of Work document or have at least 200 000 balboas (usd) tied up for three years in a local bank or present documents relating to your pension or have a document proving ownership and value of the property you are buying.

5. Additional payments

You will then have to pay 250 $ to the National Treasury and 800 $ to the Immigration Office. You will receive a cheque for these payments, which is an important part of the documentation to be submitted. Our costs include these items.

6. Getting a permanent residence permit in Panama

Once you have all the documents, you must take the application forms to the Immigration Office. In Panama, you must have the foreign language documents translated into Spanish. Your application will usually be processed by Immigration in 4-5 months. However, within a few days you will have your Panamanian ID card, valid for 6 months. In case of a positive decision, you will receive an identity card valid for two years. At the end of the two years, you can apply for a permanent residence permit, at which point you will again receive an ID valid for 6 months, and after the decision is made, an ID card valid for 2 years. Once the permanent residence permit is accepted, the office will notify the registry office, where they will issue a permanent residence permit, the Cédula, within 20-30 days, which will also replace the E-Cedula. You will only need to travel to Panama a maximum of two times. It takes about 3-5 days to apply for a Panama permanent residence permit, but you should allow a few days for this. Applications for residency must be processed within 6 months (usually 4-5 months), so once submitted you will receive an ID card valid for six months, which is also a residence permit, so you can stay in the country if you wish, but you can also fly home.

Living and settling in Panama
Panama City, panoramic view of the Panama City skyscrapers from the Panama jungle.

Source: istockphoto.com

Costs of settling in Panama

We have collected the most common costs associated with settling in Panama.

The full cost of obtaining a permanent residence permit is Usd 4050 per adult. For spouse as dependent 3000 Usd, dependent children 2000usd. 

The temporary residence permit does not yet require a work permit, but the permanent residence permit does, at a cost of 650 usd to the lawyer, 75 usd for other costs and 80 usd for the worker card. 

If you don't want to set up a company outside the country for the time being, we can provide you with the appropriate employer's letter that triggers the company formation and is required for establishment. The fee is 500 usd.

If you want to set up your own company abroad, the cost is 1700 usd. 

Of course, you'll also have to factor in travel and living expenses.

Stress-free overseas settlement with expert support.

Our experienced staff is ready to assist you with fast, reliable, discreet and professional administration of your Panama residency.

Panama Resettlement - summary

Panama is one of our favourite destinations. Not only can you settle here, but you can also relatively easily and cheaply get to obtain Panamanian citizenship. Another important advantage is that you do not need to visit the country several times a year and once you have a permanent residence permit, it is valid for life. The disadvantage is the distance, as Panama cannot be reached by a flight of a few hours. We are receiving more and more enquiries from people looking for an escape route in case of a possible third world war. Panama's geographical location could be a great alternative for such an eventuality. In this case, a person with a permanent residence permit is allowed to enter the country at any time. The Panama Canal offers the country a high degree of stability, both economically and politically. You also have the possibility to become a tax resident and citizen in a country where the foreign income is not taxed, a And income earned in Panama is well above the tax rates in most high-tax countries.

Among other things, you can count on us for the following tasks:

  • Panama immigration assistance
  • Translation of foreign language documents by an official Panamanian translator
  • Apply for a Panamanian residence permit and identity card
  • Collecting local documents for permanent residence in Panama
  • Proof of local address for permanent residence in Panama
  • Business start-up and sole proprietorship, expert assistance on tax residency

If you would like to get help, contact us and we will guide you through the process. 

Call me with confidence!
Contact us with confidence! We are at your disposal.

Sources:

Consular Information - Panama

Panamanian Immigration Service - REQUIREMENTS AND CONTROL LIST - LETTERS

Panamanian Immigration Service - REQUIREMENTS AND CONTROL LIST - LETTERS – AS PERMANENT RESIDENTS, NATIONALS OF SPECIFIC COUNTRIES THAT HAVE FRIENDLY, PROFESSIONAL, ECONOMIC AND INVESTMENT LINKS WITH THAT COUNTRY (PDF)