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Panama Forum
Education | Travel | Jobs | Expats | Economy | News | Real Estate
Education | Travel | Jobs | Expats | Economy | News | Real Estate

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Great boulders in the distance, half wet, half dry…cobalt-blue waters scrubbing sands of downy gray…white seabirds soaring above, their cries for fish occasionally audible above the sounds of the surf. This is Coronado Beach, Panama’s most popular Pacific coast destination.

If you were to describe Coronado as a lady, she’d be more Elizabeth Bennet than Scarlett O’Hara. While Panama’s Caribbean beaches are garbed in bright turquoise with sparkling white-sand trim, Coronado has a quiet, unassuming beauty—the kind that grows on you, rather than hitting you over the head. It reminds me of East Coast beaches back in the States. The colors evoke, for me, the coast of Maine…or Nantucket Island.

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When the Panama Canal was first built a century ago, it unearthed scientific treasure—countless fossils and geological clues to Panama's past. But once the construction stopped, the jungle rushed back in, blanketing the land and concealing the geology. 

"You couldn't read the history anymore—you didn't know where to look for fossils," says Eldredge Bermingham, director of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, in Panama City. "As a result, our understanding of the history of Panama was sort of frozen in time in 1914."

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The number of foreign visitors to Panama grew between 7 and 8 percent between 2011 and 2012, according to Ernesto Orillac, sub-director for the gobernment tourism agency, known as the Autoridad de Turismo de Panamá, or ATP. “Panama will end 2012 with 2.2 million visitors,” he said, a staggering number considering Panama’s actual population is just 3.5 million.

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3 Ways to Gain Residence in Panama

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.

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:

Panama’s Pensionado Visa

This is 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…


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