To get a residency visa in Panama, you need to provide a criminal background report from your country of origin. For US citizens, that means an FBI report. Several years ago, you only needed a local police report, but the laws changed in 2012 to require a nationwide criminal report. It’s a good thing because someone could commit murder in one state but have no police record in another state so that they could get a Visa in Panama. The national criminal report allows Panama to see if you have a criminal record anywhere in the country you are from.
If there are no dings on your criminal background report, you should have no problems getting a visa quickly.
For a Pensionado Visa, it takes about 5-7 business days to get a temporary visa, which is good for six months. Then about 2-3 months later, you get your permanent residency visa. This applies to a Pensionado Visa only. Most other visas may require you to have a temporary visa for two years before you can apply for a permanent visa.
However, if you have any dings on your criminal background report, you can expect delays in getting a visa.
If you have had any arrests or DWI (driving while intoxicated) or other misdemeanor offenses, then your visa has to go to either the Supervisor of Immigration or the Director of Immigration for approval. This process is called a “Buena Vista.”
There is an extra fee for this process – usually about $1000.
It could take several months to get approval from the Director of Immigration. Depending on your criminal record, they may also do an Interpol investigation. Be sure to tell your attorney if you have had any arrests anywhere in the world because immigration will find out.
Until your attorney has the Buena Vista approved, they cannot apply for your residency Visa.
The Supervisor would have the power to OK your visa even if you had infractions on your criminal report. They usually only approve your visa if the offense did not involve using a gun in a crime, a felony, or an assault charge.
So, what happens if your criminal report reveals offenses that Immigration will not approve?
If you had a felony, even many years ago, you will not be able to get a residency visa in Panama. If you have assault charges, you will not be able to get a visa.
If your national criminal report reveals offenses that the Immigration Director will not approve, then you will not be able to get a Visa to live in Panama.
Before you gather all the documents necessary to get a Visa, it is best to discuss your situation with a Panama attorney, especially if you have offenses on your criminal report. The attorney can advise you on the best way to proceed.