Other Panama Permanent Residency Visa Options

The most popular permanent residency Visa in Panama is the Pensionado Visa. It is ideal for retirees because you only need to prove $1000US per month in lifetime income plus an additional $250 for each dependent. Lifetime income must be a government-issued pension, like Social Security or military retirement or it can be a pension from a job. Unfortunately, rental income, business income, annuities, 401k, or IRA do not qualify for a Pensionado Visa. A Pensionado Visa is also the most affordable visa because Panama waives their fees ($1050) for getting a visa.

In August 2021, the rules are changing for the “new” Friendly Nations Visa.

It isn’t so friendly anymore. Under the new rules, you either need to get a job in Panama, or you need to buy real estate worth at least $200,000, or you can deposit $200,000 into a 3-year CD earning 3.5% at Banco Nacional.

Effective in January 2022, with the Friendly Nations Visa, there “may” be an option to set up a corporation that hires you to work in Panama. You will need a legitimate business (can be an online business), you’ll need a work permit and you’ll need to pay yourself a monthly salary. We have more details about exactly what you need to qualify, and an attorney who can help you set this up, in the Complete Panama Relocation Guide

See this article about getting a job in Panama. I do know some tour clients who have been able to get six-figure jobs working for multinational companies in Panama. If you’re a US citizen, you could be exempt from paying US taxes on the first $108,000 in income under the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.

We at Panama Relocation Tours have always recommended that you live in Panama for at least 6-12 months before you even think about buying real estate. Twelve months gives you time to know that you like living in Panama and that you like the area you have selected. You get to experience both the rainy season and the dry season – which can be dramatically different. Twelve months also gives you time to better understand the real estate market so you don’t pay too much when/if you buy.

For many people, it makes more sense to “just rent” the whole time you live in Panama because it’s fast and easy to buy but it could take many years to sell real estate in Panama. Renting gives you the flexibility to move anytime or even leave Panama anytime you want to. If you own real estate in Panama, you may need to wait for it to sell before you can move on with your life.

Just renting, is possible with the Pensionado Visa. But, it’s become more difficult to “just rent” with the other visa options.

What are some other options for living in Panama?

For those who do not qualify for Pensionado Visa and don’t want to get the unFriendly Nations Visa, there are other options available for you. Keep in mind that we are not attorneys, and this information is subject to change. We do our best to keep up to date with the latest requirements and laws.

Remote Worker/Digital Nomad Visa (9 months with one renewal)

Executive Decree No. 198 of May 7th, 2021 (hereinafter, the “Decree”), published in the electronic Official Gazette on May 20th, 2021, creates the Short Stay Visa as a Remote Worker.

For its renewal, the foreigner must meet the same requirements submitted with the first application.

Short Stay/Remote Worker/Digital Nomad Visa

This visa will be granted to those foreigners who intend to work remotely within the Republic of Panama for a period of nine (9) months, renewable once for the same period. The foreigner who applies for this Visa must meet, in addition to other applicable specific requirements, Health Certificate, Criminal Record, etc. with the following prerequisites:

To  have a work contract with a foreign transnational company, or be a self-employed worker, in the remote working model.
Perform duties that have effects abroad.

Receive income from a foreign source and with an annual amount not less than USD 36,000.00 or equivalent in foreign currency.

Have a valid medical insurance policy, with coverage in Panama.

The requirements to apply for the visa include:

*Completed application form, which includes the commitment of   
 the applicant to assume the costs to return to their home
 country or destination,
*Three passport photos,
*Certified passport copies,
*Criminal record certification,
*Good health certificate,
*Health insurance policy which must include coverage for the 
 period of stay in Panama,
*Affidavit of personal background,
*Affidavit of non-acceptance of any work or service offer to
  carry out business in Panama,
*Certification of proof of registration of the foreign company
  where the applicant is employed,
*Letter of employment stating the position and functions 
  exercised, monthly income, work modality, and commitment to
  assume the costs of return to their country of origin.

Self-employed applicants must prove ownership of a company registered outside of Panama and a sworn statement describing the business activity, services, clients, and revenue. All documents issued abroad must be apostiled or legalized.

The website for registering for this visa online has not yet been established so you’ll need to use an attorney to apply. A $250 fee is paid to immigration plus whatever your attorney charges.

Citizenship for Zonians

Panama provides citizenship to those born in the former Panama Canal Zone between 1904 and 1979. This group of people, also known as Zonians, need to provide proof that they were born in Panama.

Married to a Panamanian

Just because you are married to a Panamanian, it does not grant you residency in Panama. You can apply for temporary residency. Immigration will visit your home, unannounced, several times to verify that you are really married. Two years after you apply for temporary residency, you can apply for permanent residency

Self Economic Solvency Visa

Another residency visa option for those who do not qualify for either a Pensionado Visa or a Friendly Nations Visa, is a self-economic solvency Visa. In order to qualify you will need a minimum $300,000 investment in one of 3 investment options:

-$300,000 in a 3 Year CD in a Panama bank. Plus $2,000 per additional dependent.

-$300,000 in titled real estate in Panama. Plus $2,000 per additional dependent. *The titled property CANNOT be in the name of a corporation. The titled property must be in name of the applicant.

-Combination of a 3 Yr CD and Real Estate amounting to $300,000. For each additional dependent, there is a $2,000 investment.

Once you are approved, the Panama government will issue a 2-year temporary residency visa. After two years, you can apply for permanent residency.

You can also apply for a work permit (so you can be employed under a labor contract) under the Self-Economic Solvency visa.

Business Investor Visa

If you are planning on starting a business in Panama in order to obtain permanent residency, there is a $160,000 minimum investment per applicant in any legitimate new business, or a new setup corporation.

As the applicant, you will have to prove that this is your own capital and that you are going to start an actual business. In order to process this type of business visa, you will have to also get a business license, register with the Panama social security (Caja de Seguro Social or CSS). Hire at least 5 Panamanian employees paying their social security benefits, and at least pay the minimum wage.

Keep in mind that there are “protected” professions exclusive to Panamanians only such as: Lawyers, Doctors, Accountants, and Retail Sales among others. The best way to learn the specifics on this and any other type of residency visa, you should contact an immigration attorney.

Reforestation Visa

The reforestation visa was put in place as an incentive to allow foreigners to be granted residency by allowing them to restore much of the land that has been destroyed by man.

In order to qualify, you must invest at least $100,000 in land and purchase at least 5 hectares. The National Environmental Authority (ANAM) states that the land shall be used in activities of reforestation or authorized forest plantation, or any other activity authorized by the National Environmental Authority.

There is an additional $2,000 investment per dependent. Once the visa has been approved, there is a 2-year temporary visa issued before you can apply for permanent residency.

There is also a provision that if you spend $350,000 on a reforestation program you get instant permanent residency.

You need to be careful with the Reforestation Visa. There are a lot of scam operations claiming to be the reforestation visa for about $25,000 but they are illegal. Your immigration attorney can verify if a Reforestation Visa program is legit.

Panama Qualified Investor Visa (also called Golden Visa or the Red Carpet Visa)

The Executive Decree 722 of October 15, 2020, created a new category of permanent residency for economic reasons. Through this program, the applicant can become a permanent resident by making a qualified investment in Panama, including the following options:

Buy real estate worth $300,000 (until October 2022 or $500,000 after that date)

Investment in the Panamanian Stock Market: Purchase securities through a qualified and licensed brokerage firm for $500,000 or more.

Fixed-term deposit in Banco Nacional for $750,000 – must be free of liens.

You can apply for this visa without coming to Panama (not advised) and you get instant (less than 30 days) permanent residency.

Note that the government fees are about $10,000 for this visa and lawyers are charging about $10,000 for this visa so it makes it one of the least attractive visas to apply for.

Panama Free Zone Investor Visa

In order to qualify for a free zone investor visa, you have to show that you are investing in a business in one of the designated free trade zones for the purpose of operating a business from Panama that exports its products or service. Your immigration attorney may have information about investments in the free trade zone.

In order to qualify, you have to prove that you have an agreement to rent a plot or land in the free trade zone with a contract for a minimum of 10 years. The visa encourages foreigners who can generate revenue from Panama to the rest of the world.

The designated tax-free zones in Panama have distinct tax advantages for operating businesses such as assembly lines, software creation facilities, call centers, and other such businesses that export their products or services.  These businesses also get tax breaks on a certain percentage of their products or services sold locally.

Italian Passport

The visa for Italian citizens was created in Law 15 of 1966 – called the Friendship, Business, and Navigation treaty between the Republics of Panama and Italy – with the objective to encourage Italians to establish economic and professional activities in Panama.

With this visa, you will still need to show proof of economic ties with Panama, in the form of a corporation, ownership of titled property, or a job offer. This visa does NOT require you to purchase real estate in Panama, you can simply set up a corporation to show economic ties. It costs about $1200 to set up a corporation.

This is a great visa option because the applicant’s spouse and dependents do NOT have to be Italian citizens to be included in the application.

Agriculture Investor Visa

In order to give foreigners an opportunity to become a permanent residency through their land, Panama also has an agriculture investor visa program. In order to qualify the applicant must invest a minimum of $60,000 in an agricultural business in areas that are approved by the government.

Once approved, the visa is valid for 6 years and can be renewed every 2 years. It is important to note that an investor on this visa program does NOT qualify to become a permanent resident but it could be an option if you were planning to get involved in agriculture anyway.

Golden Investor Visa

Purchase $300,000 in real estate or deposit $500,000 into the Panama Stock Market. There are $15,000 government fees to get this visa plus what your attorney charges.


We love living in Panama but we realize it’s not right for everyone. So, we highly recommend that you come for a visit to see if Panama “feels” right before you make a decision to move to Panama or get a visa.

A good way to check out Panama is a Private Tour of the area(s) you are most interested in. Our Private Tour guides know the area well and will give you the inside-scoop about living in that area. Our Private Tours start at as little as $200 a day for a couple. See details about Private Tours here

Once you move to Panama, unless you qualify for the Pensionado Visa, you may want to just be a tourist for 6-12 months before you jump into spending money on any of the other visa options we have mentioned above.

Jackie Lange

Jackie Lange is the founder of Panama Relocation Tours and lives in the highlands of Boquete Panama. She has helped thousands of people relocate to Panama.

Reader Interactions


  1. ROGER GREEN says


    • Jackie Lange says

      Hi Roger

      Since you have retirement income, you can get the Pensionado Visa. There is NO requirement to buy real estate with the Pensionado Visa.

      • Suzanne says

        If my same sex partner has a canadian military pension can we both retire in panama on it ?and get pension visa Or would I have to get my own visa and apply differently?

        Another option may be we just live there 6 mths at a time and go back to Canada in summers?

        • Jackie Lange says

          HI Suzanne. Panama does not recognize same sex marriages. So each of you would need to qualify for a visa independently.

  2. Robert says

    Jackie, is there a visa available for US citizens who marry Panamanian nationals?

    • Jackie Lange says

      Robert, if you marry a Panamanian, you can get temporary residency. For two years, immigration can visit your home any time they want to to verify that you are really married. After two years, you can apply for permanent residency… assuming you are still married.

  3. Rob says

    All the best Jackie and hope you recover soon! The July 19th is a date I was not aware of- thought deadline was August 5th. Can you clarify? Many thanks and best wishes!

    • Jackie Lange says

      Most lawyers say all application for the current Friendly Nations Visa must be submitted by July 19th. A few are taking applications until the end of July … but there’s a risk in waiting. If your application is not approved by August 5th, you will be denied a visa under the current rules and denied a visa under the new Friendly Nations rules because you won’t meet the criteria of getting a job or buying real estate worth $200k

  4. Warren Duffie says

    Hi Jackie and I hope you are feeling better. The “Citizenship for Zonians” caught my eye since I was an Army brat born at Fort Clayton in 1953 and baptized in a Catholic church in Panama City also in 1953. My mother was Panamanian. I actually ordered my birth certificate from US State Department in May 2020 and received it in November. What else is required for this option?

    • Jackie Lange says

      Warren, congratulations! You’re a Panamanian. Get with an immigration attorney on our list for information on what else you need to do. It’s super fast and easy!

  5. Lorenzo Savvy says

    Is an expat required to stay/live for a certain period time in Panama without jeopardizing their Pensionado Visa? I would like the option of living part time in Panama, but I like the idea of having a second passport, too.

    • Jackie Lange says

      When you have a visa, you are not required to live in Panama. But you do need to come back to Panama every two years for at least a day.

  6. Maria says

    I understood that one cannot become a Panamania Citizen with the Pensionado Visa. Only a permanent resident, no second passport.

    • Jackie Lange says

      Maria, After you’ve had your Permanent Pensionado Visa (and cedula) for five years, you can apply for Panama citizenship.

  7. Maria says

    Hi Jackie, we will qualify for the Pensionado Visa in Nov/Dec 2021. We do not want to buy property until we know the country well. We do want to invest, start a business in future and employ Panamanian citizens. Is there any way that we can open and run a business when we have the Pensionado Visa?

    • Jackie Lange says

      With a Pensionado Visa, you can own a business but you can never work in your business as a Pensiuonado. You’d need to get a different visa that allows you to get a work permit if you want to work in your own business

      • Ian says

        Hi Jackie
        I’m 57 and looking to move to panama after I do the personal tour I’m looking at El valle
        I could go for early retirement her in Canada but not sure how much money that would be a month I have property to sell which will be a good some of Money plus rrsps
        I know I need proof of monthly income but with the sale of my property would that go into consideration?
        Thank you Jackie

        • Jackie Lange says

          HI Ian, For the pensionado visa you would need proof of lifetime income of at least $1000 USD. The proceeds from the sale of your home could not be considered for a Pensionado visa.

          However, if you invest $200,000 in to a 3-year CD at a Panama bank, you can get the Friendly Nations Visa.

  8. Darrin Atkinson says

    For the Friendly Nations Visa, if we deposit $200,000 into a 3-year CD at Banco Nacional, does the Visa expire after the 3 years and the process needs to be repeated?

    Also, do you know if the CD can be purchased from funds from an IRA without penalty? (I’m under the age of 59.5) Or does it need to come from outside of retirement funds?

    Will be on the May 27, 2022 tour. Counting the days!

    • Jackie Lange says

      To get the Friendly Nations visa, one way to qualify is to deposit $200,000 into a 3-year CD then you’ll be issued a temporary visa that is good for 2 years. At two years, if the funds are still in the CD, you can apply for a permanent visa. The CD can be purchased with funds from an IRA “if” you have a self-directed IRA account. You can send a letter of direction to your IRA administrator to invest in the CD. There is no penalty for investments making investments for your IRA.

      • Darrin Atkinson says

        Thanks for the reply! So if the funds are still in the CD at the two year mark, and we wish to apply for a permanent visa, are there any additional requirements at that point?

        • Jackie Lange says

          Your attorney will need to apply for the permanent visa when you get to the two year mark. There may be attorney fees.

  9. Richard Boutall says

    Hi Jackie, If I move to Panama under the Pensionado visa I understand that I cannot work in Panama and that isn’t a problem for me as I would have plenty of income. However, can I still hold additional investments in a separate brokerage account and trade them without issue as a resident under this immigration scheme?

    • Jackie Lange says

      Yes, if you get the Pensionado visa, you can still hold investments in a brokerage account in or outside of Panama.

  10. Heather Desabrais says

    Hi Jackie. I haven’t come across this question anywhere and wondering if you can help. Would a marriage certificate between a same sex couple be recognized in Panama? In other words would it be considered valid for the ($1250) guaranteed income requirement for a couple?


    • Jackie Lange says

      HI Heather, Unfortunately Panama will not accept a marriage certificate between a same-sex couple.

  11. Marcy Ryan-Hooker says

    Hi Jackie – Trying to boil this down and simplify for myself. As a US citizen, unless I am of retirement age, have $200-$300k extra cash, or work – it’s a no-go for Panama? We really were considering moving at age 55 without working, but won’t be able to draw SSI or have an extra $300k laying around that we wouldn’t need to be using until we can tap 401k. Just want to confirm I am reading the requirements correctly. Thanks so much!

    • Jackie Lange says

      The other option is to set up a corporation that hires you as an employee. You’d need to pay yourself at least $1000 a month for 9 months. The cost of that process is bout $5,000

      • Sheryl says

        This seems very similar to the Friendly Nations Visa arrangement. Is Rainelda Mata-Kelly still the recommended attorney, as listed in The Passport Book of several years ago? Or from whom should I find out more?

        • Jackie Lange says

          Rainelda Mata-Kelly has never been on our recommended list. Her fees are 2-3 times more than the immigration lawyers we recommend.

  12. Darrell says

    How do you initiate the process of obtaining a pensionado visa?Do you have to hire a Panamanian attorney?Is the process started in your home country? Thanks!

    • Jackie Lange says

      Hello Darrell. To get a visa, you need to contact an immigration attorney in Panama. They will give you a list of documents you need to get in your country. The documents all need to be authenticated at the Panama Consulate in your country. Then you come to Panama to actually apply for the visa. We have a lot of information about relocating to Panama PLUS a list of affordable and very good immigration lawyers in the Complete Panama Relocation Guide https://panamarelocationtours.com/guide

  13. James Taggart says

    Thanks for providing this info.
    I am looking to establish residency in Panama. I have a 38 foot catamaran sailboat that I live on and would like to use to charter and use as an airbnb out of Shelter Bay Marina on the Caribbean side.
    I have zero desire to buy land and have no retirement pension.
    I am interested in providing a packaged 3 or 4 days or longer of Panama introduction as there is going to be a flood of US citizens hunting for a sane country.
    Do you see an option for me to open a business using my boat?
    Much appreciated,

  14. andre joray says

    hello Jackie,I have Italian nationality,I know that previously there were agreements between the two countries that facilitated to obtain the permanent visa in Panama for Italians,is it still in force this law today and if so what are the modalities,thank you very much

    • Jackie Lange says

      Italian Passport

      The visa for Italian citizens was created in Law 15 of 1966 – called the Friendship, Business, and Navigation treaty between the Republics of Panama and Italy – with the objective to encourage Italians to establish economic and professional activities in Panama.

      With this visa, you will still need to show proof of economic ties with Panama, in the form of a corporation, ownership of titled property, or a job offer. This visa does NOT require you to purchase real estate in Panama, you can simply set up a corporation to show economic ties. It costs about $1200 to set up a corporation.

      This is a great visa option because the applicant’s spouse and dependents do NOT have to be Italian citizens to be included in the application.

  15. Kurt T. says

    Pension Visa:

    I get both a pension from my military career and I understand this qualifies me. While it is is over the minimum requirements of 1000, it is close to the minimum once I add a few dependents because my ex wife gets 36% of the full amount of my pension for life. For example, 2000 pension minus 36% equals 1280 which is just over the wire of me and my new wife. Do they look at the full gross pension as seen in my military pay letter or the net after my ex gets 36%? Additionally, can I add/use my VA Disability letter to supplement my income requirements as it is for life too.

    Thank you,

    • Jackie Lange says

      HI Kurt, You can add your VA disability letter and income to qualify!

  16. P.Abraham says

    Hi Jackie
    Does one need to have received at least one distribution from social security to qualify for the pensionado visa, or is the annual statement from the Social Security Administration sufficient?
    We are not yet eligible to collect social security, and when we become eligible at 62, my spouse and I will meet the $1250 threshold however, we were planning on deferring withdrawals until we reach 70.

    • Jackie Lange says

      You need to have received at least 1 payment from Social Security to qualify for the Pensionado Visa.

  17. Jeanette Bland says

    Hi Jackie,
    My husband is not at retirement age and does not have a pension. I on the other hand is collecting lifetme social security and a pension. Must I wait until he reaches retirement before we can live in Panama

    • Jackie Lange says

      Hello Jeanette, if your pension is at least $1250 USD in lifetime income, you can both get a pensionado visa. He does not need to be retired for you both to apply for a visa.

      • Ted Jamieson says

        Hi Jackie, I recently have switch my interest of retiring to Panama. Having researched Portugal, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Costa Rico, Ecuador I’m finding Panama to be of greatest interest. The cooler high mountain areas is where I would be most comfortable. Other than Panama City I am not seeing a lot of signs of Gay individuals or couples. Has it been your experience that yes you do come across Gay retired individuals in some of the cooler High Mountain areas? Also, I’m not sure if I’m correct in putting thing together but its seem that the David District in David maybe the gayborhood of David. Are you familiar with this possibility? Thank You!

        • Jackie Lange says

          Hello Ted. Thanks for your interest in Panama. Gays are living throughout Panama.

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