3 Ways to Gain Residence in Panama
By Rainelda Mata-Kelly

There are thousands of expats living in Panama: Americans, Canadians, Europeans, and many more from around the globe, who come here for the beautiful weather, the tropical beaches, low cost of living, and because Panama makes it easy to start a business.


Add to that a stable banking sector, the fact that Panama has the fastest growing economy in the Americas, and it makes even more sense.


And Panama is an exciting place to be. Jobs are being created faster than Panamanians can fill them and the government has been dreaming up incentives for entrepreneurs, multinationals and expats.


On top of already attractive visa options, the government has added new ones. Today, it’s easier than ever for foreigners to obtain residence. Here are just three of your visa options:


Pensionado Visa

Panama’s best-known residence program. If you have a lifetime pension of at least $1,000 a month and you’re over 18 years of age, you can qualify for permanent residence in just one application (normally within just six months of applying).


If you are legally residing here and if you are of retirement age—60 for men, 55 for women—then you can enjoy most of these discounts no matter which residence program you choose.


Permanent Residence for Nationals of Specific Countries

The title isn’t catchy, but Panama’s newest residence option (let’s just call it the NSC) opens the doors for professionals and entrepreneurs from the U.S. and 46 other countries that "maintain friendly, professional, economic, and investment relationships" with Panama.


The NSC’s straightforward requirements include establishing a local bank account with a minimum balance of $5,000. You must also do one of the following: purchase real estate; open a business; or obtain a job in Panama.

This visa awards permanent residence straight away.


Professional Residence Permit

This option is similar to the above, but it is open to foreigners who don’t qualify for the NSC and who would like to work in Panama. Traditionally, would-be residents have had to either invest or have a job with a company with enough Panamanian employees. The new Professional Residence Permit makes it easy to qualify for residence (with no major investment or pensioner status).


The programs are subject to change, so contact your Panama attorney (well before traveling to Panama). You can get an updated list of requirements and, more importantly, ensure there’s time to gather the necessary documentation...


Reinalda Mata-Kelly is the owner of Mata-Kelly law firm here in Panama.  Google them if you need any info on imigration or real-estate legal matters here in Panama ;)  They are on my list of trusted law firms.

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Well, it's February 4th today.  That means Carnival in Panama starts in 3 days.  Wow!!!!  The year has gone so fast, Carnival 2012 seems like just yesterday.  I'm sure it will be the same great experience as last year, except one thing, this year I am selling real estate.


Everyone in Panama celebrates at Carnival time.   Well, except the poor workers at the grocery stores and some resaurants and gas stations.  But between the dates of Feb 7 and Feb 12, if you are looking for a lawyer, real estate agent, or homeowner to show you their property, you just won't find it.  


I will probably be available to answer the odd email, but for the most part, I will be soaking wet drinking cold cerveza's in the streets of Las Tablas, listening to local music, watching the parades, fireworks, and cheering on this years new Queen.  The country just abslolutely shuts down, and party mode begins.


There are several celebrations throughout the year, and as I have said before, it has been difficult to get used to the fact that one cannot expect a business transaction to proceed with the same efficincy and stealth as it might in North America.  It's a fact that buyers and sellers here absolutely must embrace, thus they be driven to the brink of insanity.  To change the care free attitude of the Panamanian people is to change a stone into gold, or to stuff a pool ball into a wine bottle.  It just doesn't happen.  


So, I am shutting down for 5 days and going to work with the Panamanian system.  It will drive my clients crazy, but will give me some much needed rest.


Happy Carnival 2013!!

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