Panama’s New Immigration Option – The Friendly Nations Visa
Come on in. … The Friendly Nations Visa is an excellent relatively new immigration visa option that has become one of the most popular paths to legal residency in Panama.
Panama’s people are blessed with low unemployment, many would say full employment for those willing and able to work. The entry of many multinational companies and Panama’s scorching economic growth have generated the need for more brain power and labor power. This visa partially answers those needs.
This visa provides immediate permanent residency with the option to apply for citizenship in only five years (or 3 for those who has children of panamanian mother of father or those who are married to a panamanian.) It provides the option to obtain a temporary work permit upon application and an indefinite work permit once visa is approved and is readily available to citizens from a long list of countries friendly to Panama which include: The United States, Canada, Argentina, Austria, Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Spain, Slovakia, France, Germany, Finland, the “Low Countries” (according to Wikipedia – includes The Netherlands/Holland and Luxembourg), Ireland, Japan, Norway, The Czech Republic, Switzerland, Singapore, Uruguay, Sweden, Chile and other countries.
Ricardo Martinelli, the President of Panama until June, 2014, with Singapore sometimes cited as an example, has long touted the country’s dedication to free trade and increased freedom in the movement of people into Panama. In this spirit, Executive Decree 343 of May 16, 2012, created this new immigration option for people from at least 23 countries.
Why do this now? With such enormous economic growth rates, Panama is experiencing a skilled labor shortage. By encouraging immigration from mostly wealthy nations, the country hopes to bring educated workers who can fill the current and projected job openings. Of course, many of those workers will be people of means who will bring resources to Panama and contribute to continued economic expansion. This visa will also make it easier for the many new international companies establishing operations and headquarters in Panama to bring in staff. The visa is intended to open the doors to people from all friendly countries for the economic benefit of growing Panama.
In order to fulfill the requirements of the friendly nations visa, recipients must open a Panamanian bank account with a starting balance of at least $5,000 plus 2,000 per dependent on the application (children, wife/husband) and either have a property or Panamanian corporation or a labor contract with a Panamanian company. Panamanian corporations are easy to establish with the help of an attorney; usually the same one that handles your immigration.
The popular Pensionado Visa program with its numerous discounts (hotels, restaurants, airfare, electricity and many services) will most likely remain the residency option of choice for retirees.
Thanks to attorney Lourdes Miranda for assistance with the facts in this post.