Panama: First-World Convenience at Third-World Prices – Visa Requirements.

Visa Requirements

Tourist visa: If you are from the U.S. or Canada you do not need a visa for tourist visits of up to 90 days.Tourists may stay for up to 90 days and, in general, extensions are available if you can show you need more time because you are changing your status from that of tourist…for example, if you entered Panama as a tourist and then decided to apply for residency.

The Pensionado program: The most popular visa option for people relocating to Panama is the Pensioner’s or PensionadoResidency Program. It has always drawn expats to Panama because, in addition to allowing you to stay in Panama permanently, it also entitles pensioners to discounts.

To qualify you must draw a minimum pension or pension-like income of $1,000 (no real estate requirement).

A big new plus: you may now pool your pension with your spouse’s pension to meet the minimum pension requirement, provided you’ll be applying together.

There are many other visa options to meet your particular needs. The most popular—after the Pensionado program, of course—are the Person of Means visa and the Forestry Investor visa.

Person of Means visa: This visa is designed for those who wish to live in Panama and not seek employment, but live off their own means or private investments. To qualify, among other things, you must invest $300,000 in one of three ways: by buying property here; by placing $300,000 in a fixed-term deposit; or by applying with a “mixed use” split between a property purchase and fixed-term deposit, provided the total investment adds up to at least $300,000.

The Forestry Investor program: Known as the Large Forestry Investor visa, one of Panama’s most popular programs awards residency to investors of at least $80,000 in accredited forestry land. Once you apply, residency is granted provisionally for two years, and after that, you may apply for your residency to be granted permanently.

Five years after obtaining permanent residency status, you’ll be eligible to apply for Panamanian citizenship (you do not have to do this, however; most expats find that they are quite content to remain permanent residents without ever applying for citizenship). The major payoff for the forestry investment generally comes when the crop reaches maturity, at about 20 years (though crop thinning’s in the years before can also provide handsome profits).

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