Your Questions About The Friendly Nations Visa
Due to the recent legal changes in the immigration category of the Friendly Nations Visa we have received many questions and doubts. For this reason we have compiled for you the most frequently asked questions and their answers.
When do the new Friendly Nations Visa conditions come into effect and how much time do I have left to apply under the "old" rules?
The new decree becomes effective 90 days after its promulgation. If you still want to apply for your permanent residency in Panama under the "old" Friendly Nations Visa you can still do so in June and July.
I want to apply for the Friendly Nations Visa in June. Do I have to travel to Panama? How long do I have to stay in Panama for the application?
The residency application can only be submitted if the file is 100% complete and all applicants are present in Panama. During your stay in Panama an appointment is arranged at our office in Boquete to sign the necessary documents, deliver the original documents we have already received via email, make copies, open the bank account, go with a member of our team to the immigration office, register your passport with them, have your migration ID card photo taken and receive your multiply visa to leave the country without penalties. The minimum stay for this trip to Panama is four (4) weeks.
I want to start my process to obtain my residency in Panama under the "old" Friendly Nations Visa, what do I have to do? What is the next step?
We are currently organizing our agenda for June and July. Clients whose file is already completed (i.e. the company is already incorporated and the bank account is already opened or pre-approved by the bank) will be assigned a presentation date for filing their application in June or July. Due to the current workload the minimum stay in Panama for applications presented in the months of June or July is four (4) weeks. If we have not started to prepare your file yet, please contact us to evaluate your case and analyze if you are still in time to take advantage of the “old” Friendly Nations Visa regulations.
I have read on the internet that I can open a bank account in Panama online, without coming personally to Panama.
In the practice the personal interview with the client is one of the basic requirements in order to open a bank account in Panama. There are even banks in Panama that insist that you must first comply with the personal interview in Panama in order to subsequently send your file to the corresponding department and evaluate the approval of your bank account.
Can you submit my application without me having to come to Panama for it?
No. After formally submitting your file to the immigration office, a photo will be taken of you in order to issue your (temporary) migration ID card. This is why all applicants included in the application file must be personally present in Panama.
I want to apply for a Friendly Nations Visa according to the "old" requirements. What documents do I need? What do I have to do and what do you do or prepare for me?
As a first step please email us a colored scan of the apostilled police record, your passport, (just the photo page with your personal information) and second ID document such as identity card or driver's license, as well as the bank reference letter from your bank and proof of income (payslip of the last three months together with a copy of your employment contract). We prepare the power of attorney, forms and other necessary documents. The translation of the documents (if necessary) must be done in Panama. We will send the documents in advance to the translator.
Once you have scheduled your arrival in Panama with us, we will coordinate an appointment in our office where you will deliver all original documents, sign powers of attorney and other documents. Additionally, we will arrange an appointment at the bank to open your bank account and to make the first deposit (in cash), as well as to request the bank reference letter necessary for your application. At all immigration appointments a member of our staff will accompany you and give you the necessary instructions to follow. When filing your application immigration will not ask you any questions or conduct an interview, our firm is in charge of delivering and presenting your file and answering any questions from the officials.
Do the documents have to be apostilled?
This is correct. The police record must be apostilled. As well as the marriage certificate (if applicable), and if you have minor children that you want to include in your application you must also bring their birth certificates duly apostilled.
Do the documents have an expiration date?
The police record, as well as the marriage certificate, and the birth certificates of your minor children (if applicable) are valid for six (6) months from the date of issuance (not the date of the apostille). If your marriage certificate was issued before 2021 it is no longer valid for your residency application. You must apply for a new certificate at the competent authority. The document must be certified with an apostille. The same rule applies to birth certificates for (minor) children.
If you already have your police record and travel to Panama WITHOUT submitting a visa application, once you leave the country the record automatically loses its validity and you must apply for a new one (with apostille) prior to your next trip to Panama.
My police record is expired and I don't have time to apply for a new one, can we submit my application anyway and you will tell immigration that I will provide the document later?
No. Immigration does not accept incomplete files. The file must be 100% complete in order to be submitted. At the time of presenting your application an immigration officer will review your file, verifying if all documents are complete and comply with the minimum requirements as well as the expiration dates established by law. It is not possible to ask them to accept the file and submit a missing document at a later date. If the file is incomplete it will not be accepted.
Do I need a birth certificate?
No. Only if there are minor children that you want to include in your residency application. The birth certificate must be apostilled and must not be older than six months (date of issuance of the document, not of the apostille).
My partner and I are NOT legally married, can we apply together?
No. In order to apply for any visa in Panama as a couple (same file) you must be legally married. Otherwise you and your partner must file a separate application.
Do you take care of translations?
That is correct. The law requires that a licensed translator from Panama must do the translations. This is why you must send us all the documents by email in advance (before your trip to Panama) so we can forward everything to the translator in advance.
How do I obtain the health certificate?
We will give you the address of a laboratory in Boquete to obtain the certificate. The cost of the certificate is between 5 to 10 US dollars.
Where is your office located? Do I need to travel to Panama City for the application?
Our office is located in Boquete. All appointments for file preparation, bank account opening, presentation at the immigration office will be performed either in Boquete and/or David. Once your residency has been approved and to receive your permanent residency, we can make an appointment at the immigration office in David or Panama City, according to your preferences.
I have already booked my flight to Panama for my residency application, can you send me a short timeline?
It is best to book a hotel in David or Boquete. Boquete (from a tourist point of view) is more interesting to see. We can send you a list of hotels in Panama if needed.
Immediately after your arrival we need an appointment at the office and another one at the bank for the account opening. If you bring the necessary cash to the bank appointment (5,000US$ or 7,000US$ if you are a married couple) we can also apply for the bank reference letter at once. Otherwise, you will have to wait for the international wire transfer. Be sure to activate your online banking while you are still in Panama. Also make a note of your bank officer's contact information.
After the appointment at our office, the documents you sign during the appointment (and the copies we make) still have to go to the notary. Then we have to make copies of the whole file (there is one original and then two complete copies of the file). Afterwards we can submit the application at immigration office (for this we need your original passport). In the best case scenario we get an appointment at the immigration office on the same day of the presentation of the file in order to get your photo for the migration ID card taken. However, in most cases it will take up to three (3) days to get an appointment. Immigration will then hold your passport for 48 hours to issue the multiple visa.
I already have my residency approved in Panama, what is the next step? When should I return to Panama?
Before the COVID-19 pandemic clients had to travel within six (6) months (counted from the date of filing the visa application) to Panama to receive their residency in order to avoid any fines. Now (due to the new health measures) it is possible for us to be notified of your resolution without you being present in Panama. We then pay the new migration ID card and send your resolution with DHL to Europe or USA/Canada. This means that between your first trip to Panama for the visa application and the second trip to Panama to receive your residency, more than six (6) months may pass.
On your second trip to Panama you must have your resolution on hand to avoid problems at the passport control at Tocumen airport. Then we will coordinate an appointment at the immigration office in David or Panama City to take the photo for your new migration ID card. The minimum stay for this trip to Panama is seven (7) days, if everything is done in Panama City. Preferably the appointment is set on a Monday morning (7:30 am) and you will be able to travel back to your country on Saturday or Sunday of the same week.
I want to form a company for my "old" Friendly Nations Visa application, what do I need, how is the process?
We have an online form for you to fill out. Remember that in order to incorporate a company in Panama a minimum of three (3) persons are required. In Panama it is not possible to create a sole proprietorship. The two other persons needed can be friends, family members or relatives. It is not necessary that they travel to Panama or have residency in Panama. It is not necessary that they are Panamanians.
I have a company in another country, can I use this company for the visa application in Panama?
No. For an application under the "old" Friendly Nations Visa, a Panamanian company must be presented.
I want to apply for a residency as a single person, can I form a sole proprietorship?
No. Sole proprietorships do not exist in Panama. In order to incorporate a company in Panama a minimum of three (3) persons are required. Apart from you, the other two persons can be friends or relatives. It is not necessary that they travel to Panama or have residency in Panama. It is not necessary that they are Panamanians.
Can I use my friend's company for my residency? My friends and I want to use the same company for our residency application, is it possible?
In the past Panama's immigration service discovered that lawyers were "recycling" companies for residency applications. This is no longer allowed. You must have your own company in order to qualify for the “old” Friendly Nations Visa.
Do I need a business plan? Do I need to proof or deposit the share capital to incorporate my company?
No. The capital stock of a Panamanian company is generally 10,000US$, but it is not necessary to consign this capital with the competent authority.
How much are the company's annual expenses?
The annual maintenance expenses of a company are US$ 567.50 (including taxes) plus accounting expenses.
I already have my residency approved in Panama. Can I close the company I submitted for the "old" Friendly Nations Visa application?
Yes, if you no longer need the company you can close it.
How much is paid in corporate taxes in Panama?
In Panama for legal entities it is 25%. The tax office also applies a "notice of operations - commercial license"tax, which is 2% of the net assets or patrimony that may not be less than $100 and must not exceed $60,000.00. Corporations that exceed $1,500,000.00 of taxable income may be required to pay the 4.67% rate.
Income generated outside of Panama is really not taxed?
Panama is taxed under the territorial system, i.e. everything generated within the coasts of Panama is taxed in Panama. Income generated outside of Panama (offshore) does not pay taxes in Panama.
What if I invest in real estate? Is there any benefit for me?
Yes, if you wish to apply under the NEW Friendly Nations Law you will NOT need to open a bank account in Panama or create a company. With a real estate investment of minimum 200,000US$ in Panama you qualify for this new visa.
Do you have contacts of real estate brokers that you can recommend?
Yes, we can gladly send you contacts of real estate brokers in Panama. You can also research rental and sales prices on Panama's most popular classifieds portal called encuentra24.com.
I have pets, what do I have to do when bringing them to Panama?
There are agencies in Panama City that specialize in "Pet Relocation" services. We will be happy to send you contact information so you can communicate directly with them and verify the necessary documents and the process to follow to relocate your pets to Panama.
Do I need any vaccinations to travel to Panama?
No. When my wife first traveled to Panama, the Vienna Tropical Institute recommended her all kinds of vaccinations, including yellow fever, hepatitis, typhus, cholera and even rabies. But in the practice, as an adult, at no time have the Panamanian authorities ever asked her for any proof of vaccination.