What are the visa requirements to visit Panama?
United States, Canadian as well as most European citizens do not need a visa to visit Panama and may stay to 180 days. All visitors to Panama need to carry a passport that is valid for at least 90 days following the departure date from Panama. Should you be traveling alone with a child, be prepared to carry a notarized letter of consent from the absent parent. Visitors to Panama are also required to have the equivalent of US$500 on their person or a credit card with an equivalent limit, plus a return or connecting ticket dated to depart the country within 180 days. Like every airport there is an airport departure tax which is charged upon departure, at Tocumen it is US$40 however, also like many other airports it is usually included in the price of your airline ticket. That said it is a good idea to confirm this ahead of time. If it is not included in your ticket you want to insure you have $40 cas only or you won’t be permitted to leave. That could obviously get messy, especially if you are at the end of your 180 days because you won’t be permitted to stay either!
Can a foreigner purchase property in Panama?
Absolutely. You have the choice of purchasing land with, or without, a house, or a business either in your own name or through a corporation. Most property in Panama is under freehold title, meaning you own your investment free and clear enjoying the same property rights as a Panamanian citizen.
There are some areas still being reviewed by the government for proper title to establish uncontested ownership, i.e., selected coastal parcels and, occasionally, native Indian acreage. As with all purchases in a foreign country, the importance of dealing with reputable brokers and lawyers can not be emphasized enough. Your lawyer will research your land document ensuring that you hold free and clear title. He will make certain that all necessary legal documents are properly registered with the local municipality. A reputable lawyer protects your interests, providing you with peace of mind. See my letter, Is Panama Safe for more details about titles and land ownership in Panama.
What are the Panama Residency Laws?
There are several attractive programs available making it easy for foreigners to move to Panama either part or full time. The most popular is the Pensionado Residencia, or Retiree Resident. Under this plan, you are allowed to import a new car duty free every two years. Panama also enhances this program with discounts for movies, sporting events, restaurants, hotels and your home utilities, to name a few. Even drugs and Doctor’s visits are illegible for the Pensionad discount. To qualify as a Retiree, you must show a verifiable monthly income of at least $500 which increases an additional $100 per dependent, for instance husband, wife or child. So that means $1,200 per couple. You are required to present a health certificate, which must include proof you do not have AIDS, along with a criminal free record provided by your local police facility. Here’s the low down on the Pensionado Benefits and why many consider it to be the best retirement program in the world which us offerred to foreigners:
In Panama, qualified pensionados or retirees are entitled to:
- 50% off entertainment anywhere in the country (i.e. movies, sporting events, live theater, concerts, etc.)
- 30% off bus, boat, and train tickets
- 25% off airline tickets
- 25% off monthly electricity
- 30% to 50% off hotels and resorts
- 15% off hospital bills*
- 10% off prescription medicines*
- 20% off medical consultations*
- 15% off dental and eye exams*
- 20% off professional and technical services
- 50% off closing costs for home loans, and more…
* Private Insurance benefits will be applied prior to any deduction.
If you become a pensionado, you are also entitled to a one time exemption on duties which would normally be due on the importation of household goods up to a value of $10,000. You are also exempt from paying duties on the importation or even the local purchase of an automobile every two years.
Panama’s pensionado law also stipulates that anyone who is granted status as a qualified pensioner is guaranteed their status will remain in effect for as long as they resides here. So, even if law changes the pensionado requirements, your status guaranteed…it will never change!
Panama’s business investor program
You may also apply for a small business, or investor’s, Residencia which involves a minimum investment of $160,000 in any legitimate new business and the hiring of 5 Panamanian employees. Should you be able to qualify as a tourist related business, forestry concern or restorer of national landmarks, you may be eligible for tax incentives, some as generous as 15 to 20 years exoneration on property, sales, vehicle, import, and business necessities taxes. A foreigner can start any type of legal business except for those reserved for Panamanians, namely, a legal firm (lawyers) and a medical practise (doctors).
Beware, the documentation required can be arduous and processing has been known to last up to six years before you are granted permanent residency status.
Panama Self Economic Solvency Visa
If you desire a permanent Residencia immediately, you can deposit a minimum of $300,000US in a three year CD at any Panamanian bank. This money is treated like an annuity program, or interest bearing account, with annual payments made to you over a fixed period of time. Should you decide to leave Panama early, the balance is payable in full. You can also invest the same amount in title real property or a combination of the two investments totally $300,000US.