Panama’s facing problems that many others countries wish they had: high growth, low unemployment and increasing foreign business interest. So what was their solution?
In the spring of 2012, Panamanian government created a Friendly Nations Visa (FNV) for residents of 22 countries that it deemed had maintained friendly diplomatic, investment and economic ties with Panama. The list of friendly nations has expanded since through three amendments to include forty eight countries and it continues to grow.
The primary objective of the visa is to attract professionals and highly skilled workers to fill the shortage of qualified workers domestically. The visa requirements promote business creation, employment and real estate investing with very few hurdles to overcome. In exchange, Panamanian government will grant visa holders permanent residency and in five years, residents will be eligible to become citizens. A secondary objective of the FNV is to hopefully reduce the number of permanent “tourist” visitors who desire to live in Panama, but who must exit the country every six months to renew their tourist visas. Here’s an up-to-date list of the eligible friendly nations:
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; Korea; Latvia; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Malta; Monaco; Montenegro; Netherlands; New Zealand; Norway; Poland; Portugal; San Marino; Serbia; Singapore; Slovak Republic; South Africa; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Taiwan: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; United States of America and Uruguay
This visa, as with others, requires hiring a lawyer to file the paperwork. This is a legal requirement so unfortunately you cannot proceed without hiring a lawyer. However, many lawyers, including our partners, will process this application for just over $1,000. If you don’t have an offer of employment then to incorporate a business will be an additional $1,500 or so. Therefore, on the low end, you’re looking at spending $2,500 and on the high end $6,000+ depending on the law services retained. Here’s an idea of what’s required to apply for the FNV:
- passport photographs;
- proof of at least $5,000 in a Panamanian bank;
- second passport of identification i.e. driver’s license;
- criminal background check;
- medical certificate;
- own property in Panama, or
- own a corporation or foundation, or
- have an employment contract authenticated by the Ministry of Labor
In terms of popular relocation visas for foreigners, there really was only one option before the FNV was introduced. Panama offers a very appealing pensioners program lined with tax benefits and discount privileges. However, this visa was meant to attract the 50+ crowd looking to retire in a foreign country. Marriage, student and immigration visas are available as well, but none of these are as “friendly” and opportunistic as the Friendly Nations Visa.