Overview of Panamanian Immigration Law

OVERVIEW OF PANAMANIAN IMMIGRATION LAW

Panamanian immigration law classifies foreign nationals in four (4) general categories: Non-residents, Temporary residents, Permanent residents and, Foreigners under protection of the Republic of Panama.

We examine below in summary form, in turn, the three main categories of visas , highlighting innovations and modifications made to the legal regime of foreigners between 2008 and 2010. The scheme is contained in:
The General Law of Foreigners of 2008 (hereafter DL3) and the Executive Decree No. 26 of March 9, 2009 (hereafter DE26) amending the previous Decree No. 320 of August 8, 2008 (hereafter DE 320).

A) Non-Residents: Foreigners who enter Panama on an occasional basis and who are unwilling to take up residence in this country or to leave their residence in their country of origin and must count of own economic resources sufficient to ensure their stay in Panama and to leave at the expiration of the authorized period. (Art. 16 DL3).Tourists, transit passengers and sailors are included in this classification. The stay of Foreigners in any case cannot exceed 90 days. If the foreigner wishes to initiate a procedure for obtaining long-stay visa when he is in Panama, he may request an exceptional extension of 60 days but showing the migration authorities, with supporting documentation, seriousness of his claims. Among the tourists, there are two classifications:

- The nationals of countries having concluded an agreement or agreements with Panama on abolishing visas for tourism and
- The nationals of countries that have not entered into such agreement.

In the first category we find, for example, French and Swiss nationals who have a stay of 90 days. Most citizens of the Schengen area have agreements suppression of visas.

In the second category we find the Canadian nationals who will be approaching the Panamanian Consulate nearest of their home to obtain a visa, either purchase a tourist card for 30 days.

Foreigners may automatically be granted a tourist card 30 days if they hold a Schengen visa, U.S. visa, Canadian, Australian or British.

All travelers who wish to enter Panama must carry the equivalent of U.S. $ 500 or a credit card, and a return ticket or onward.

A very interesting aspect of the new law on foreigners in Panama is the introduction of short-stay visa [visa corta estancia]. This visa allows the foreigner who is willing to do a survey of business and investment in the country to obtain a visa to 9 months, so this visa will allow bank employees to receive upcoming seminars or courses to [DE320 Art. 46, 47, 54]. This visa can be obtained through the Panamanian Consulates abroad without the need for appointment of a legal counsel in Panama. For this type of visa the person will essentially require to prove he has sufficient revenues to stay in Panama during this period, and he is not prosecuted for crimes in Panama or crimes in his country of origin [DL3 s.28].Such visa will allow those who would not necessarily be established immediately to Panama to get to know the country and investment opportunities.

Finally, boaters must also have a residence permit to be equivalent in length to the navigation permit granted by the Maritime Authority of Panama. For foreign vessels, skippers and other crew members will have a maximum stay of three months. For foreign yachtsmen sailing under the Panamanian flag and stay shall not exceed one year. The foreign sailors must apply to the Panamanian immigration authorities to benefit from these terms of stay. [DE320 art. 62].

B) Temporary Residents: Foreigners who come to Panama for a long stay but a stay-time not to exceed six (6) years for work reasons, exploration, family, study or for religious reasons. [Art. DL 3, art.18]. Examples:

- Employees of multinational companies with a subsidiary in Panama as part of the policy of the seats of multinational companies.

- Entities or companies active in the technology "Ciudad del Saber"

- Or of employees working for companies contracted to the Canal Authority or public institutions [minimum wage of U.S. $1,000].

- Other events include employees of companies established in the Free Zone of Colon Free Zone or Panama-Pacific located in the former U.S. military base at Howard. [Minimum wage of U.S. $ 2,000].

Panamanian employees of companies in need of specialized technical personnel not more than 15% of total company personnel may also be candidates for a temporary visa. [With a minimum wage of U.S. $ 850].

In this category of temporary resident are included also students, church members and religious congregation. As spouses or family members not wishing to reside permanently can apply for a visa in this category. These visas are granted for one year and are extended for the same period to reach a maximum stay of 6 years.

Temporary residents must submit a sample of all criminal records, marriage certificates or birth if they are accompanied by their families. These documents obtained abroad must be legalized by Apostille is either by the Panamanian Consulate nearest you and they will be translated by certified translator in Panama. Some of these visas can be obtained from the consular officers.

C) Permanent residents: They are foreigners who come to Panama with the intention of staying there permanently [DL3 art. 20]. This category is one that has suffered the greatest number of changes. Most visas exist in the old law shall be maintained with the thresholds to increase with the exception of visa known as a small investor who is now deleted. This visa had brought happiness to many foreigners not having a significant initial capital. In the category of permanent residents, the Enforcement Decree establishes three subcategories, visas for economic reasons, visas for reasons of migration policies and special visas for family reunification. For economic reasons we find the stamp of their own income, the investor visa to big business, the visa investment in reforestation, among visas Special migration policies, we will notice the famous retiree or pensioner visas and visa annuitant; among the special visa policies we also remark visas investment in France Panama-Pacific region, investment in areas of re-export, or investment visa in the film industry. Generally these visas to the applicants first obtain a provisional license for two years and then they can apply for permanent residence. [DE320 art. 178]. These visas must present themselves with the help of a lawyer except for Panamanian visas for retirees and pensioners or annuitants who may be without a lawyer present before the consular authorities in Panama. As with the previous category, permanent residents must submit an extract from the criminal record, certificates of marriage or birth if they are accompanied by their families. These documents obtained abroad must be legalized by Apostille is either by the Panamanian Consulate nearest you and they will be translated by certified translator in Panama. [DL3 art. 28].

Here is a summary of the main visa conditions:

1) For economic reasons:

- Visa by own income [visa solvencia económica propia]: investment banking or real estate is now U.S. $ 300,000 (three hundred thousand dollars). If investment bank by opening a deposit account, the money will be blocked for three (3) years. Opportunity to combine real estate investment and investment banking. Also possibility to buy a property on behalf of a private foundation. The investment amount will be increased by U.S. $ 2,000 for each dependent. Tax clearance necessary to obtain permanent residence. SEE OUR TICKET UPDATE ON THE DETAILS OF THIS VISA.
- Visa investor in large company [visa inversionista macro empresa]. The investment is now U.S. $ 160,000 (one hundred sixty thousand dollars). The investment amount will be increased by U.S. $ 2,000 for each dependent. Establishment of a company in the country in economic areas not prohibited to foreigners. Recruitment of at least 5 employees.

- Visa on investor reforestation [visa inversionista forestal]: reforestation of at least 3 hectares of land, an investment of at least U.S. $ 80 000. (07/04/2009)

2) Under special policies:

- Visa Retired or pensioner [jubilado visa or Pensionado]: Decree 26 of March 9, 2009 clarifies the requirements for obtaining a visa for retiree requests made by both spouses receiving retirement . The retiree visa is a visa again wondered at one time without the necessary renewal and is given the maturity and indefinitely. Retirement or pension is U.S. $ 1000 monthly, but there is the possibility of receiving only U.S. $ 750 per month if the applicant bought a property in Panama for a minimum amount of U.S. $ 100,000 (one hundred thousand dollars). This visa can be obtained now from Panamanian Consulates abroad without the need for Panamanian lawyer.

- Annuitant Visa [Visa Rentistas retirado] file with the National Bank of Panama for 5 years giving a sum of monthly interest of at least U.S. $ 2000 per month. See here the rates charged by the state bank. This visa entitles a passport but is annulled if the candidate withdraws the funds from the bank.

- Visa for investors in the Free Zone Panama-Pacific or the Re-export free Zone [Visas Inversionistas Zona Panama-Pacifico y Zonas procesador de exportación].Investment of at least U.S. $ 250,000 (two hundred fifty thousand dollars).

- Visa investing film [Visa inversionista in industrialized Cinematográfica]: an investment of at least U.S. $ 150 000.

3) By virtue of family reunification.

- Visa for the spouse (s) married (e) with Panamanian (do) [Visa o Casada con Panameño Casado (a)]: This Visa is now particularly monitored because of marriages.The Act and the Decree of Application set out the principle that marriage does not by itself the right to reside in Panama. Spouses must attend an interview with immigration authorities who will ask questions to verify the authenticity of the marriage bond.Marriage may be celebrated in Panama or abroad, but in this case the marriage will automatically be admitted at the Civil Registry of Panama. Having children strengthens the idea that Panama is not a marriage. Now they obtained permanent residence after two years with a temporary permit of stay. Both spouses must work or have resources.

- Visa for dependents [Visa dependiente of resident]: This visa is usually asked at the same time as that would require the principal. Retain only the spouse (s) and children under 25 years can be considered as dependents. Adult children, it is required that they are students.

Temporary Foreigners or permanent residents may leave and return without prior authorization. Foreigners who have acquired permanent residence, will lose that status if they are absent more than two years in Panama, and if they do not require a special permit of absence (visa regreso multiple) valid for 5 years before their departure only they have an economic activity which requires their absence in Panama. - By the Decree 26 of 9 March 2009, the permit entry and exit called multiple entry visa is restored but only for aliens who are still in the process of obtaining the residence or temporary residence permit.

By law foreigners would now apply the principle: silence is consent. If the immigration authorities do not make a decision before 60 days, the matter will be considered approved. [Article 34 DL3]. In practice, visa applications can take between 6 months and 1 year.

[Note on the legalization of foreign documents] To set documents obtained abroad are valid in Panama you will legalize them in your home country. Panama is part of the Hague Convention of 1961, which simply means that your authorities have and are responsible for legalizing documents to be produced in Panama. Taking the example of France: For that documents are valid in Panama you will legalize them from the Appeal Court has territorial jurisdiction instead of exercising each of the officials who issued the various documents. The Prosecutor at the Court of Appeal is the French official responsible for certifying the validity of parts for foreign governments. Bulletin No. 3 of the record is issued by a magistrate based in Nantes, the competent Court of Appeal is that of Rennes. The application of the Hague Apostille is done via regular mail with your request by including the part in question and a stamped envelope.. Legalization of documents for Canadians will be wearing the first documents to "Ministry Government of Services" closest to certify the signing of Canadian government officials who issued the documents. Then the documents will be brought to the closest Consulate of Panama.