In Panama, it is still perfectly legal to live on a tourist visa but you must renew every six months. To renew your visa, you must exit the country and stay out for at least 3 days before you can come back in.
The most popular route for renewal is the Paso Canoas Border with Costa Rica. Both Costa Rica and Panama have entry and exit requirements that I will list below:
- Proof of $300 solvency. A printout of your bank statement, Paypal balance and cash have all proven to work.
- Airline Itinerary back to the United States or your home country. Onward travel to other countries no longer works.
- A $7 exit tax must be paid upon exiting. There is an office across the street of the Paso Canoas office. Ask the locals if you cannot find it.
- Proof of $500 solvency. A printout of your bank statement, Paypal balance or cash have all worked for me.
- Airline itinerary back to the United States. Panamanian Immigration is now very strict about checking tickets if they suspect that they are fake. It is now best to buy a real ticket from United Airlines or any airline that offers cancellation with a full refund. Some airlines will only offer refunds within 24 hours so be careful.
- Sometimes they will want photocopies of your passport. I found that this is seldom required but sometimes they ask for it. There is an Internet Cafe near the office that can make copies.
- Panama scans your full fingerprints of both hands. This is now being fully enforced. If this makes you uncomfortable then do not come to Panama.
Paso Canoas is a neutral zone that is also a full fledged city. You may freely walk within the area and shop at the supermarkets, malls, go to the bars, there are even a couple strip clubs and legal brothels within the border area. There are hotels that cost anywhere between $20-50 per night if you do not want to go to San Jose.
Panama Friendly Nations Visa
There is a list of 50 nations, which includes the United States, that are entitled to live in Panama if you are interested in starting a business. You can start your own business, acquire an existing Panamanian business or become hired by a Panamanian company.
You will need to show at least $5,000 in a local Panamanian bank account to show basic economic solvency. Banks are difficult to open up in Panama if you are an American Citizen. Banco Azteca is by far the easiest bank to open an account as a tourist, but you will not be able to receive international bank transfers nor make purchases with your debit card online.
It is required to get a lawyer to start the residency process so you will need to shop around. I have heard of rates anywhere between $1000 to $2500 being charged. You will also need to provide two forms of identification, apostilled birth certificate and an FBI background check. Your lawyer will go over any other papers that you will need.
Self Economic Solvency Visa
You may qualify if you have real estate investments that are worth at least $300,000. You may also qualify if you have $300,000 in your bank account or a combination of cash and real estate.
Business Investor Visa
You may qualify by investing in a Panama business with at least a $160,000 net worth. You may also qualify if you are a shareholder in a company’s stock that is worth over $160,000.
Panama Reforestation Investor Visa
You can obtain residency by purchasing $80,000 USD worth of property that is at least 5 hectares in size to plant new trees.
Retired or Pensioned Program
There is no age requirement for this program but you must have proof of a pension or monthly government entitlement of at least $1,000 USD. Social Security disability will work and you will not lose your benefits if you move overseas.
If you have property in panama that is worth over $100,000 then you only need $750 per month.
Marry a Panama Citizen
You need to have a real marriage that is not a sham. You will later on have to prove that you live together and have economic stability to live independently from your families. This is the residency route that I am personally going to take.
Go to the local Tribunal Electoral to arrange a marriage with your partner.
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