The Fastest Way to Get Your Panama Residence
The government of Panama has created over the years more than 50 immigration categories to facilitate the immigration of foreign professionals, investors, entrepreneurs, family members, or retirees.
In recent years, Panama has become a popular emigration destination. The constant economic growth, the warmth of the locals, the pleasant climate, the extensive beaches, as well as attractive investment opportunities, and the US dollar as local currency are among the many advantages that Panama offers newcomers.
The six most common residence permits in Panama, either as a part-time resident or to stay permanently in the country are:
Retire in Panama: "Jubilado Pensionado" visa.
The "Friendly Nations" Visa
Especially for Italians: "Convenio Panama - Italia"
For investors: "Golden Visa”
Application for family reunification "Dependiente de Residente Permanente"
Panama "Marriage Visa”
Step by step: How to get your residence permit
We have listed for you the steps to apply for a residence permit in Panama below. The individual procedures may vary in detail depending on the immigration category and the personal situation of each client:
Step #1 Choosing a lawyer and first contact: The Immigration Law in Panama requires that all applications for residence permits in the previously mentioned immigration categories must be submitted by a licensed attorney in Panama.
Step #2: Which Immigration category fits you: Together with your attorney you select which category suits you best and which are the required documents.
Step #3: Compilation of documents: Collect all necessary documents and papers required for the application. Pay attention to the validity of the various documents and take care of the necessary certifications (apostille) in time.
Step #4: Review of documents: It is best to email all documents and papers to the lawyer in Panama in advance for review in order to be sure that everything is complete and nothing is missing. At the same time, the documents can already be forwarded for translation in Panama.
Step #5: Trip to Panama: Once all documents are ready, a personal trip to Panama is necessary to complete your file and submit the application in person together with your lawyer.
Step #6: Completion of your file: Once you have arrived in Panama you will meet with your lawyer and hand over all original documents, sign the lawyer's power of attorney and any other documents necessary, make copies of your passport, fill out the immigration forms, get your health certificate and any other procedure where your personal presence is required.
Step #7: Filing your application at the immigration office: As a rule, the file must be complete and all applicants must be present in person in order to submit the application.
Step #8: Registration of the passport ("registro de pasaporte"): The registration of the passport is done in advance online by your lawyer. During the application process, all information is checked again and an immigration officer stamps the registration stamp ("sello de registro") in the passport of each applicant.
Step #9: Temporary migration card ("carné de migración"): Once the application has been submitted, your status in Panama also changes. You are no longer considered a "tourist" but a "resident". All applicants receive an identity card from the immigration office. This card is valid for six months (enough time to process the application within this period). A photo is taken on-site for the ID card. From now on your migration ID card must be shown at passport control every time you enter or leave Panama.
Step #10: Multiply Visa ("visa multiple"): The multiple entry and exit visa is a stamp in the passport that allows you to enter and exit Panama while your residence permit application is being processed. The multiply visa is valid for six months (just like the migration ID card).
The Immigration Department takes about 48 hours to issue the Multiply Visa. They will hold your passport for this period. Foreigners (with ongoing immigration proceedings) who leave Panama without having a Multiply Visa stamped in their passport, or whose Multiply Visa has expired, must pay a fine of 2,000.00 US dollars (per person) to the Immigration Department upon re-entry into Panama.
Step #11: Processing your application: Upon receipt of the application, the National Immigration Service assigns a case number to the file and transfers it internally to the responsible department in Panama City. After the application has been successfully processed by the responsible caseworker, the decision ("resolución") is reviewed by the head of the department. Then the Director of Immigration signs your resolution and the file finally moves to the Notifications Department. The processing of the application usually takes three to four months.
Step #12: Receiving your residence permit and a second trip to Panama: Once the residence permit has been approved, you will be notified by your lawyer. A second trip to Panama is required in order to undergo the notification process and obtain your new migration ID card. Upon completion of this procedure, you will be allowed to stay in the country permanently or temporarily, depending on your immigration category.
Foreigners who hold permanent residence status in Panama can also apply for a Panamanian identity card (Panama E-card or Cédula E) at the Civil Registry (Tribunal Electoral). This process is a separate procedure and is not done automatically as part of the application process. The application for the Cédula E must be submitted separately and the decision is forwarded internally by the Immigration Department to the Tribunal Electoral. Subsequently, an appointment at the Tribunal Electoral is required to verify the personal data of the applicant and to take a photo for the Cédula E. The Cédula E is not printed immediately and will be available for pick-up after approximately two to three weeks.
It is not mandatory to have a Cédula E. However, in daily life, it facilitates many administrative, legal and/or business procedures such as opening a bank account. Furthermore, the Cédula E is a prerequisite to register with the tax authorities in Panama and to apply for a personal tax number.
Stay safe and healthy!
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