Friendly nations visa – Work permit in Panama

Panama: Friendly nations visa

Joan Villanueva has been helping clients get their friendly nations visa since this option became available in 2012. There are two options: friendly nations with a business or friendly nations with a work permit. It is also possible to set up your business and then get yourself a work permit for working in your business.

Most clients set up a corporation for this visa application, because they don’t have the job offer.  It is not possible to get this visa/work permit without a sponsoring corporation (employer).  And unfortunately, most companies want to see that you have your work permit before they will offer you employment.

You will need a personal bank account in a local bank (you must have at least five thousand dollars (US$. 5,000.00). if you are applying alone.
If you do not have the local bank account or you don’t want to open it, you can provide to the Immigration Office a bank statement (from your bank account in your home country).  In this case, you must have at least twenty thousand dollars (US$. 20,000.00) in that account. Other requirements are that the bank statement is only valid for one month and must be authenticated (see below for more information).


You will need to take care of getting two (or if you are married 4) principal documents:

  1. Opening a personal bank account, with a minimum balance of $5,000.00  (Joan or Laura in our office can assist with this process)
  2. Police record, which must indicate that it includes fingerprint checks
  3. Marriage certificate (if you are married and coming with your spouse)
  4. Police record for the spouse
  5. Birth certificate for each child
  6. Police records for any children over 14 years old

What if you have a step child? This gets more complicated: speak to Joan to fully understand the various documents you will need to prove the relationship and economic dependency of the child. It can be done, but you will need to come prepared with all the necessary paperwork.

How much money do you need?

As we indicated above, the personal bank account in Panama requires a minimum balance of $5,000.00.  If you use your bank account in your home country, then a minimum balance of $20,000.00. Additionally, you set up the corporation, pay the immigration department fees (quite high relative to some other visas, but much faster and permanent) and our fees.

For a spouse, you need an additional $2,000.00 and for each child you need a further $2,000.00. So, for a married couple with 3 children, the personal bank account would need to have a minimum balance of $13,000.00.

Your application

Once you have the documentation together, Joan Villanueva will apply for your friendly nations visa. She will make sure that you have the following documents to present:

  • Personal bank account reference letter (stating you have necessary balance)
  • Health certificate(s) for each family member
  • Corporate documents
  • Business license
  • Police record

Note:  All documents issued overseas (that were not issued in Panama) must be duly authenticated by the Panamanian Consulate or Embassy in the country where issue and by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Panama or duly Apostilled.

Joan will tell you the fees and costs of the friendly nations visa, once she knows how many family members are involved in the application.

When you need to be in Panama City:

You need to come to Panama City at least three times:

  1. The first time, open your personal bank account (if you open the account with Banistmo, they will require that you have the account open for a month before they issue the reference letter) and get registered at Immigration (or this can be done at stage 2)
  2. Present the application and get your multiple entry/exit permit (if you are planning on travelling out of the country while the application is approved)
  3. Pick up your permanent residence permit

A further trip will be necessary to get your cédula, as it is never ready the same day that you get your permanent residence.  Joan can provide you more details regarding the timing.

Benefits of this visa

Apart from being eligible for a work permit, most people who qualify for this visa prefer it over the other ones for the following reasons:

  1. You only have one application. If you look at the investor visas, you apply, get a one or two year approval, and then have to go back and apply for permanent residency. The biggest benefit of the friendly nations visa is that it bypasses this: in a single application you apply directly for permanent residency and once approved you can get your “cédula” and you are “permanent”. You don’t have to worry about going back in two years time for “round two”
  2. It is typically faster. The friendly nations visa is typically handled faster than other visa applications.
  3. It is a cost and tax-effective immigration solution for professionals

Which countries are considered “friendly nations”?

Costa Rica
Czech Republic
Great Britain
Hong Kong
New Zealand


Republic of Korea
San Marino
South Africa

Living and working in Panama

If you want more information regarding working and living in Panama, you might have a look at the following sites: