Updated: October 30, 2016
The Friendly Nations visa is Panama’s best residency program.
The goal of this visa to make it easier for foreigners to live and work in Panama.
Once you get a friendly nations visa, you are then eligible to apply for a work permit. In fact they make it easy to do so.
It is all part of an effort by the Panama government to ease their shortage of skilled workers.
This permanent resident program is referred to as the friendly nations visa because of the language used in the executive order that created it:
“foreign nationals from specific countries that maintain friendly, professional, economic, and investment relationships with the Republic of Panama.”
The Friendly Nations visa’s legal name is Permanent Residence for Nationals of Specific Countries (NSC). Now you can understand why they came up with a nickname for it.
Since May 2012, when this visa was created, it has been both easier & faster for foreigners to get Panama permanent residency.
The 50 Friendly Nations
There are now 50 countries listed as friendly in the ever expanding list of countries Panama considers as qualifying for this visa. Here they are, in alphabetical order.
Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Marino, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United States of America, Uruguay, United Kingdom (Great Britain & Northern Ireland).
Friendly Nations Visa Requirements
- Be a citizen of one of the 50 “friendly” countries. See the list of countries above.
- Prove you aren’t destitute. The usual way is prove you have a bank account in Panama with a balance of at least US$5,000 (plus $2,000 for each dependent) deposited in a Panama bank account. The immigration office can use its own discretion about whether these funds prove you are solvent “enough”.
- Prove Professional or Economic Ties To Panama. You can do this by starting a new business, purchasing an existing business, or being hired to work for a Panama company. FYI, unless you are married to a Panamanian, foreigners are never permitted, even with this visa, to practice as medical & veterinary doctors, attorneys, architects, and engineers. (See 25 forbidden jobs)
- Provide other documents. Documents that are typically requested for all of Panama’s residence permits, such as: photographs, copy of identification document, proof of kinship, police record/criminal background verification, health certificate, and more.
Visa Covers Dependents
The permit covers your dependents, children under 18, relatives with disability, and parents who depend on them.
Dependents can include your spouse and children up to the age of 25, if they are full time university students. You must provide a written letter of responsibility regarding your dependents. In addition, every son or daughter dependent over the age of 18 must provide an authenticated “I’m not married” certificate from their respective country.
After you have filed your applications – with all the required documents – the immigration office will issue a one year temporary residency card (carnet). This temporary card will be replaced by a permanent residency card once the application is approved.
At that point, you can apply for a work permit. There is a Presidential Decree ordering Panama’s Ministry of Labor to fast track acceptance of work permits for friendly nations citizens.
Go here for information on getting a work permit in Panama – with and without this visa.
Compare to Pensionado Visa
Panama’s Pensionado visa is very popular.
There are 2 things to consider when comparing it to the Friendly Nation Visa
- You cannot get a work permit if you have a Pensionado visa. You are eligible for the visa because you are retired and getting a pension.
- All Panama residents of a certain age —60 for men, 55 for women— regardless of their visa type, can get most, if not all, of the same discounts on services as with a Pensionado visa. (Note: You must have a residence visa to take advantage of these discounts.)
You can learn more about the Pensionado Visa on my site.
If you qualify for a Friendly Nations visa, the process to get a residency permit is easy. So if you were going to marry that young Panamanian only so you could get your residency permit, you may want to reconsider.
You can also explore 3 other Panama resident visa options.