Panama welcomes legal immigration and provides many paths to obtaining residency in Panama. The Pensionado Visa is the most popular Visa for those who want to retire in Panama. The Friendly Nations Visa is ideal for those who are not retired and who would like to work in Panama.
If a foreigner wants to work in Panama, they must first obtain a residency Visa then a work permit. The entire process takes 5-8 months. There are no government programs to help support someone while they are waiting to get a work permit. In Panama, there are no food stamps or welfare available for Panamanians let alone foreigners.
Employers can get a hefty fine if they hire a foreigner who does not have a work permit so it is less likely that an illegal immigrant would be able to find work in Panama.
The Panama government has checkpoints throughout the country to check IDs. If they find that someone is in the country illegally, they will be deported. Panama considers a person an illegal immigrant if they have been in Panama longer than 6 months but do not have a residency Visa.
Tourists are allowed to stay in Panama for 6 months. If they want to stay in Panama longer, they have to either (1) get a residency Visa, or (2) leave Panama for at least 30 days before they can come back. Tourists are not allowed to work in Panama.
Panama’s strict immigration laws, combined with no welfare programs, make Panama less attractive to immigrants who do not plan to, or cannot, get a residency Visa.