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What Could Prevent You From Getting a Visa in Panama?

Tourists are allowed to stay in Panama for 180 days. But if you want to live in Panama, you are required to get a residency Visa. Since 2012, the two most popular visas have been the Pensionado Visa and the Friendly Nations Visa.

To qualify for the Pensionado Visa, you need to prove a lifetime income (from Social Security, military retirement, or pension from a job) of $1000 for one person plus $250 for each dependent. For the Pensionado Visa, Panama does not accept 401k, IRA, annuities, or rental income. To qualify, the income must be a lifetime income. The Pensionado Visa is the most affordable visa because the government fees are waived for retirees.

The Pensionado Visa is also what’s called a fast-track visa because you get a permanent Visa in usually less than 6 months.

Unfortunately, in August 2021, the qualifications to get a Friendly Nations Visa change. It won’t be so friendly anymore. To get this visa after August 2021, you’ll either need to get a job in Panama or purchase real estate worth at least $200,000. To make matters worse, initially, you are only issued a temporary visa that is good for two years. After two years, you can apply for your permanent visa.

There are many other visas but they are all require substantial financial investments in Panama.

The most important requirement for any visa application is your national criminal report, like an FBI report if you’re a US citizen or an RCMP report if you’re Canadian. Even if you have some dings on your criminal report, you can usually get a visa UNLESS there is a felony drug charge, domestic violence, rape or abuse charge, murder, arms trafficking, assault with a weapon, or convicted as a pedophile. If you have any of these charges on your criminal report, you will not be able to get a residency visa in Panama. Even if these charges were 20, 30, or 40+ years ago, Panama will not allow you to get a visa.

If you have multiple DUI’s or misdemeanor drug charges, immigration may require you to provide a blood test to determine if there are drugs or alcohol in your system. If the test is clean, you can get a visa.

If your national criminal report is not completely clean, your attorney will need to request permission from the Director of Immigration for you to apply for a Visa. This process is called a Buena Vista and can take 2-4 months for approval. There is an additional charge for a Buena Vista. Once the Director of Immigration gives the green light, your attorney can help you apply for a residency Visa. Just because you apply for a Buena Vista, there is no guarantee that it will be approved.

If you suspect that you will have dings on your national criminal report, we recommend that you get your national criminal report now then consult with a Panama immigration attorney about getting a visa before you make plans to move to Panama. Search for companies in your area that do electronic fingerprints so you can get the results in about 30 minutes.

Keep in mind, that without a permanent visa, you will not be able to take advantage of any of the Pensionado discounts.

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. Steven P says

    Jackie and all of You at Panama Relocation Tours…. Ive heard nothing but GREAT things about You and the tours…. To be honest, I really didn’t think I would even receive a reply to my question… Thank You for getting back to me with an answer AND doing so, so quickly…..



    • Jackie Lange says

      You’re very welcome.

  2. John R. Atephens says

    Hi Jackie,

    I have been following you on Facebook and You tube for quite awhile. My wife and I had talked about visiting Panama several years ago. My idea, and she loved travelling, so she was open to spending time in Panama, but not moving there permanently! My beautiful wife lost her battle with lung cancer two years ago. I’m just now at the point to carry on with our/my retirement goals and dreams. In any event, I’m ready to come to Panama and look it over. I let my passport expire last year and have filed for renewal. It’s in process and have been notified it would be ten to twelve weeks to receive my new one. I am going to purchase your online relocation guide in the next month or so. I’m retired, drawing social security, and have a small photography business. Nature, landscape and wildlife.

    To get more to the point, where do I get a FBI background check? I do have DUI’s from twenty five plus years ago, so I want to see what comes up before trying for a visa, as you recommend. I’m a layed back country boy living in Wyoming, who rides motorcycles, takes pictures and loves hiking the mountains. I feel like the Boquete area would be awesome, from what I’ve read and watched. Sorry for the long post and look forward to your reply.

    John R. Stephens

  3. Tony Henderson says

    Thanks for the update and information in regards to the FBI criminal background report, however, my question is does it matter if you were charged but not convicted on felony charges?

    • Jackie Lange says

      if it shows up on your FBI report that you were not convicted, then it will not matter. It’s best to ask a Panama immigration attorney.

  4. ramon says

    im much younger age 50 but i see that the next few decades here
    will be very difficult. im in miami , and watching your videos
    nightly and wondering about this as an alternative to living in the
    u.s. like to onow what is the social sceene like for american bachlers
    meeting other americans , and are younger americans beging to migrate
    to panama.thanks ramon

    • Jackie Lange says

      HI Ramon

      A lot of people, in all age groups, move to Panama. There are several different organizations that organize weekly get togethers to help ex-pats meet each other and to help you meet Panamanians too!

  5. Dana C. Moore says

    I was interested in the Pensionado Visa, but my guaranteed income prior to getting Social Security is from an Annuity with a guarantee provision. I do not want to wait until I am 65 to retire, I want to retire in 2 years at age 60. That said, should I go for the friendly nations visa instead?

  6. Damas J Alabre says

    I am thinking about retiring in Panama. But, I won’t be retiring until March 2022. Is there anything that I should now, even though I am not ready yet? Please, advise me.

    Thank you,

    • Jackie Lange says

      Even though you don’t plan to retire in Panama until 2022, you might start visiting Panama to determine WHERE you want to retire in Panama. A great way to get a good overview of Panama is during an all-inclusive Panama Relocation Tour.

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