The friendly nations visa – how it works

This post is also available in: Spanish

By Staff at Panama Offshore Legal Services
E-Mail:    Phone: (507) 227 – 6645

Panama recently created the “Friendly Nations” visa to allow the citizens 47 countries which “maintain friendly, professional, economic and investment relationships with the Republic of Panama” the opportunity to get on a fast track to residency.
Unemployment was very low at 4.5% in 2011. That figure, combined with a very high growth rate of 10% in 2011 left Panamanian employers short staffed in the categories of professional and skilled workers.
Permanent residency is offered to professional and skilled foreigners who can apply for Panama citizenship after residing here for five years.
A major difference from all of the other immigration visas is that the Friendly Nations Visa has a lower solvency requirement. An applicant needs to only show ownership of $5,000 USD while other immigration visas offering permanent residency require from $80,000 USD (Reforestation Visa) to $300,000 USD (Self Economic Solvency Visa) investment. The pensioner Pensionado Visa requires proof of a lifetime monthly income of $1,000 USD
Here are two ways to qualify:
1.Economic Activity
The visa defines this as owning a Panama company by starting a new one or buying an existing one; or
2.Professional Activity
The visa allows a foreigner to be hired by a Panama company to work in a professional capacity.
About the Work Permit: A big problem foreigners find here is obtaining a work permit.  Most companies are limited to only hiring a maximum of 10% foreigners of their entire workforce. A recent Presidential Decree ordered Panama’s Ministry of Labor to approve work permits for applicants of the Friendly Nations Visa on a fast track basis.
Does the Friendly Nations  Visa Work?
A good example is from a Panama-based overseas relocation and investment company whose recent newsletter proclaimed that when they advertised in Craigslist Panama a year ago to fill a professional job position they only received a few applicants. Applications only came from Panamanians and expats living here.  Their recent advertisement resulted in applications from all over the world from citizens from many of the 47 friendly nations. The company asserted this was a direct result of the 47 Friendly Nations Visa.
A Panama lawyer must submit all applications for immigration visas. The application for the work permit can also be submitted by the Panama attorney at the same time.

The 47 Friendly Nations are:

Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein,  Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Marino, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United States of America, Uruguay, United Kingdom (Great Britain & Northern Ireland).

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