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 put a stop to letting criminals get a visa in Panama.
If there are no dings on your criminal background report, then you should have no problems getting a visa quickly. It takes about 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 or a Friendly Nations Visa, or other Visas.
However, if you have any dings on your criminal background report, you can expect delays in getting your permanent residency visa. If you have had any arrests or DWI (driving while intoxicated) or other offenses, then your visa has to go to either the Supervisor of Immigration or the Director of Immigration for approval.
It takes several weeks for an attorney to get an appointment with the Director of Immigration, so it is better to go through Immigration’s Supervisor for approval. And it can take 2-3 months for the Director of Immigration to review your case.
The Supervisor would have the power to OK your visa even if you had infractions on your criminal report. They will usually only approve your visa if the offense happened more than 5 years ago and did not involve using a gun in a crime or any felony drug charges.
So, what happens if your criminal report reveals offenses that Immigration would not approve?
Before you gather all the documents necessary to get a Visa, it is best to discuss your personal 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. Each Visa has different requirements. The Pensionado visa requires that you prove a lifetime income of $1000 per month for one person or $1250 for a couple. A Friendly Nations Visa requires that you either set up a corporation with the intent to do business in Panama, or you have a labor contract, or you have purchased a residential property worth at least $100,000, and it is titled in your name. The Friendly Nations visa also requires a Panama bank account with at least $5,000 deposited. Always discuss with your attorney what the current requirements are because things change in Panama!