Residency permits & Naturalization

Types of permit and application procedures

Residency permits & Naturalization

Due to the increasing number of foreigners seeking residency in Panama, the Panamanian government recently updated its immigration and visa laws.

A residency permit request must be made through an attorney. Residency permits have many options that you need to examine carefully before choosing the one best suited to you. For example, if your wife or husband is following you to Panama, and you do both of your applications together they will have a residency permit as a dependent, and therefore they won’t be able to apply for a work permit.

Second of all, immigration law is not codified yet and there are a lot of laws and regulations; some allow you to have permanent residence after one year, while some require you to renew the visa.

Among the different visas that a foreigner may apply for in Panama are:

  • Temporary permits for labor reasons: In this case, the conditions are very similar to the work permit requirements. The only common required documents are your work contract and a proof of registration at the local social security office. For the rest, it depends on which category you apply for. For example, if you fall under the category of foreign personnel hired by a private company or foreign personnel hired as an expert or technician, a minimum monthly salary of US$850.00 is required. But if you are in the category of personnel hired by a company in virtue of the Marrakech Agreement, you will have to be hired by a private company with less than 10 Panamanian workers, and have a monthly salary of at least $1,000.
  • Permit of temporary resident because of familiar regrouping: Foreign national spouses, children under 18 years old and parents of a temporary resident will be able to request this permit. Children over 18 and up to 25 years old, may be requested as dependents if they are regular students and are under the economical dependency of the temporary resident. You will have to submit a wedding certificate and birth certificates for your children.
  • Panama’s “pensionado” program: Panama has put together an appealing program of special benefits for foreign retirees referred to as the pensionado scheme, or pensioner visa program. To qualify under the pensionado program you must show proof of receiving pension of at least $1,000 per month, or a pension of $750 and invest at least $100,000 in property in Panama.
  • Self-Economic Solvency Visa: It requires a fixed-term deposit of $300,000 in a bank in Panama, or the purchase of real estate (under your own name, not through a company or other avenue) with cadastral value of $300,000.
  • Temporary visa in agreement with the City of Knowledge: You have to be a student, professor or administrator of an Institution of the City of Knowledge (an academic area of Panama City featuring universities, research centres and business institutions).

All residence permits require the following documents; a copy of your passport, two passport-sized photographs, a certificate of good health, and a Registry of Criminal or Police records of your last place of residence.

All foreign documents submitted to the authorities must have been translated into Spanish and authenticated in the country of origin (you will find more information in the subsection on apostilles).

For more information on the requirements to apply for any residence permits: 

Naturalization - How to become a Panamanian citizen?

After five years of residence, if you are willing to deny your nationality of origin, and if you can prove that you speak Spanish and have a basic knowledge of the geography, history and Panamanian political organization, you can apply for the Panamanian nationality by naturalization.

Or, after three years of residence, if you have a baby born in Panama whom mother or father is Panamanian, you can also apply for naturalization.

And if you are native Spanish or from a Latin American country, you will just need to comply with the same requirements as the ones asked of the Panamanians who want to become naturalized into your country.

Further reading

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