Panama Instant Passport and Residency Programs

Panama offers a multitude of programs enabling one to fairly easily obtain a Passport, Visa, Residency and Citizenship. Panama is an excellent place for a second passport (2nd passport). The plans are outlined below. Do feel free to ask questions. We do not advise attempting to deal with the immigration authorities without adequate legal representation by a competent attorney.

Warning: All of our passport programs require you to be physically present at the immigration department for fingerprinting and photographing. These are NOT the “Pay someone off in the dark” programs you see on the internet which do not require you to go to the country physically and come with a passport, identity card and driver’s license. There are numerous stories on the internet if you look for them of people getting arrested all over the world when they attempt to travel on these passports. What is often done is passport blanks that come back from the manufacturer slightly defective (bad printing, stitching etc.) are marked as not usable by the government and are then sold by unscrupulous immigration officials through third parties. The problem is when the country that issued those does an audit of their immigration department they pick these things up and then the passports are flagged as fraudulent or stolen and this is sitting in some unfortunate person’s wallet waiting to be used and can cause a police detention with likely arrest to follow. There was just a raid recently in Guyana and the corrupt immigration officials there were issuing hundreds of passports daily. Now along comes some guy who bought one of these “officially issued” passports and he goes through immigration in say the EU. Well he doesn’t appear to be a Guyana type so they query around a bit and he gets arrested. Months after the scandal we still see Guyana Passports being sold on the internet which makes one wonder.

We even see Diplomatic passports being sold on the internet for $50,000 and up. This is ridiculous. What the buyers are not aware of is in almost all countries travel using a Diplomatic passport requires a visa so the country you intend to visit will require you to physically submit the diplomatic passport to their embassy for a visa which will involve scrutiny. So when they contact the diplomatic passport issuing government to verify the purpose of your visit, duration, whether or not you will be attached to the embassy, etc. what do you think is going to happen? Do you think the issuing government is going to provide official documentation for all of your journeys? Do you think they will even know who you are? They will most likely remain non responsive and your passport will probably never be returned as a best case scenario but this would most likely be followed by a knock at the door shake you up or arrest you visit by some authorities depending on where you live, admittedly some countries will not care what you did but others that are terrorist sensitive will get really interested in you and your whole life and you should expect to be added into the watch/stop list making airport travel a nightmare for the next ten or twenty years. The government that issued this diplomatic passport may also contact you after they get contacted for a $10,000 bribe or they will make trouble for you and on it goes. Remember why do you see Nigerian Scam Emails – because they work. There are a lot of stupid people out there so don’t be one of them.

How can you tell if a second passport or residency/citizenship program is real?

Be careful when buying a second passport (2nd passport). First thing to look for is the statues in the law that contain the laws spelling out the program you are considering. If there are no statues run the other way. If you are told about a special program not for everyone, run.

Next make sure when buying a second passport (2nd passport) you will be going physically to the immigration department in the country for processing, photographs and fingerprints. This will greatly cut down the odds of a scam. Normally the country will want to know who you are, and like to see and copy a valid passport as a minimum. If the deal is you give them pictures and they send you the documents run away, this is probably a scam involving a counterfeit passport blank or a stolen one. I have even heard of them applying for passports in the name of a dead person using your picture. What if he was a dead criminal with warrants outstanding?

When buying a second passport (2nd passport) never agree to get a name change and a second passport all in one shot unless it involves court appearances for the name change. If not this probably involves a corrupt government official and will surely be trouble. If you do a name change in court in some jurisdiction make sure it is not public record or it is greatly diminished in value. Never carry two different passports with your picture in both that have different names unless you enjoy being detained at airports, border crossings etc. A lot of scams involve a story that goes like this; OK Mr. Gringo you want the passport to be able to travel and open bank accounts and not as a citizen of the USA, EU, Canada etc. OK well it is best to do so using a name that sounds like someone’s name in our country, here let me suggest this name: Enrique Haeverra. Hey that sounds great you say. Now what you don’t know is they got Enrique’s name off of a tombstone and they are going to identity theft the dead guy for you. This will probably blow up when a cross reference is made or something causes a record check like you trying to enter the country some day and then you are in for it. Remember you don’t talk, look, act or have a story like someone from their country should. Some jerk criminal buys such a passport and then gets caught doing something no regular person would do like money laundering 25 million dollars and then they pull his papers, scrutinize them, see the fraud and the pull all the fraud papers of the corrupt official who signed the bad guys papers and then start canceling all the passports this corrupt official processed illegally for fraud, theft, corruption or just to shake you down for money for playing games with their country and of course you better believe they are going to think you are a millionaire.

Another scam is selling second passports (2nd passport) from non-existent or non-recognized countries. This is done a lot usually for $1000-$2000. There are very few countries who will ever accept these passports and then usually only at border crossings. Usage is hit or miss, mostly misses. People buy these to open bank accounts with offshore. This sometimes works but usually in small countries with small banks. The problem comes when the bank examiner looks over their files and sees one of the fantasia passports as an identity document. He hits the roof and says I want to see real passports for all these people in here in 30 days or lock down these accounts. Now what do you do?

Below you can read about all the Panama Passport, Residency and Citizenship programs that are all in the Panama Laws.

Immediate Panama Passport

This program allows foreigners to obtain immediate Panamanian Passport (there is no citizenship that goes with this) under the condition that they make a 5 year certificate of deposit (CD), at the Banco Nacional de Panama (Panama’s Government Bank), which earns a minimum of US $750 per month in interest income which currently requires about $175,000 to be deposited. This is a relatively simple, direct program. A visit to Panama is required. One must already have a valid passport that enables them to come into Panama. Getting your Passport in 30 days from time of completion of all required documentation is possible but time frames vary according to workload, holidays etc. The visa and passport is renewable every five years, which requires the CD to be renewed.

The Tourist Pensioner Visa (Turista Pensionado)

This visa is designed for persons whose pension from a government entity or private corporation is $500 or more ($600 or more for a couple per month). You will have to prove this under scrutiny. Usually a pension statement from the government or private pension will suffice but backup bank deposit records could not hurt. The Pensionado Visa is granted indefinitely but it is necessary to prove to the Immigration Department on an annual basis that the income is still flowing from your pension. The benefits include one-time exemption of duties for the importation of household goods (up to $10,000) and an exemption every two years of duties for the importation of a car. There is also a basket of other benefits and discounts available to those holding this Visa. However, please note that under this visa you cannot qualify to acquire Panamanian citizenship or passport, but you do get a Cedulla (national identity card). This would greatly facilitate the opening of bank accounts, financing of real estate, cars, etc. Legal Details of the Pensionado Program follow:

The following are the benefits and privileges for all those classified as Jubilados & Pensionados (irregardless of age) and for all other residents of Panama be they Panamañian or foreign nationals residing in Panama in their 3rd and 4th Ages. It sets the age at 55 for women and 60 for men. Law No. 6 of 16 of June 1987, modified by subsequent changes in the law by Law 18 of 1989, Law 15 of 1992, Law 37 of 2001 and Law 14 of 2003. (As a matter of practicality most establishments will offer the Pensionado discounts to anyone who has the Pensionado id irrespective of their age. Some people are retired at an earlier age.)

SUMMARY IN ENGLISH OF BENEFITS AND DISCOUNTS:

Article I

To receive these benefits, it sets the age at 55 for women and 60 for men for all residents of Panama be they Panamañians or of different nationalities irregardless of age. And it states that all Jubilados and Pensionados (irregardless of age) are also entitled to these benefits:

1. Discount of 50% of price charged for entrance to recreation and entertainment activities, such as movies, theaters, sports and other public productions. This discount is not applicable for those events marked as benefits for the youth, homeless or those specifically authorized by the competent authorities.

2. Discounts for the following means of public transportation:

* Inter-Urban buses, 30%

* Trains, 30%

* Launches and boats, 30%

* 25% discount in air fares in public and private national and foreign Airlines.

3. A minimum discount of the regular prices of hotels, motels and pensions:

1. 50% from Monday to Thursday

2. 30% on Friday, Saturday and Sunday

3. 25% discount of food consumed by the individual in all restaurants except for the Fondas which do not require license to operate.

4. 15% discount in those rapid food establishments.

5. 15% discount in the total cost for services of hospitals and private clinics.

6. 10% discount in pharmacies for those medications obtained with a medical prescription.

1. Discounts in the following medical services:

1. 20% in consultation fees of general medicine doctors and medical and surgical specialists.

2. 15% for dental services.

3. 15% for optometry

2. Insurance companies that include in their policies health benefits for illness shall adjust their fees to include the necessary adjustment so that the benefits of these discounts are transferred in the payment of the premiums when the insured is 55 years old if female, and 60 years old if male and to the Pensionados & Jubilados.

3. 20% discount for technical and professional services.

4. 20% discount for all prosthetic devices as well as those items and accessories of personal assistance.

5. 50% discount in cost of passports.

6. 25% discount in monthly electrical consumption of private or public entity up to 600KW’s and the normal tariffs will be applied to anything above that amount.

7. Discuss discounts to properties owned by associations of jubilados and pensionados and the different discounts they are entitled.

8. 25% discount to the basic phone service charges when:

1. the phone service is in the name of the individual

2. is for a residential phone

3. is for one and only one phone. The normal tariffs will apply for anything more.

9. 25% discount in the water bill as long as:

1. the consumption does not exceed $30.00

2. by bill is in the individuals name

3. the bill is residential and is the prime residence. The normal tariffs will apply to all other residences.

Private Income Retiree Visa (Rentista Retirado)

This visa is for persons who don’t have a monthly pension, are no longer working, and have received a retirement lump sum. As a visa requirement, that money is to be deposited on a five-year certificate of deposit with the National Bank of Panama, to yield at least $750 a month (at current rates the face value of the CD would need to be approximately $175,000). The visa is renewable every five years, as long as the CD is renewed. The Private Income Retiree Visa includes such benefits as a traveling Panamanian passport (that however does NOT grant nationality), a one-time exemption of duties for the importation of household goods (up to $10,000), and an exemption every two years of duties for the importation of a car.

Person of Means Visa (Solvencia Económica Propia)

Designed for those who wish to live in Panama off their own means, without the need or desire to work or start a business. The person must have a one-year certificate of deposit in any local bank of at least $200,000. $80,000 of the $200,000 can be in the form of a home purchase. Upon applying for the first, provisional renewal of this visa, the certificate of deposit must also be renewed for one more year. After renewal, the visa is granted permanently with the right to a cedula (local identity card). Five years after obtaining the permanent visa, holders will be eligible to apply for Panamanian nationality.

Investor Visa (Inversionista)

Designed for those who wish to establish a business in Panama (note, though, that some retail businesses and some professions are reserved to Panamanians). There must be a minimum investment of $150,000 and minimum of three, permanent Panamanian employees hired. It is granted provisionally for one year and after renewal is granted permanently with the right to be issued a cedula. Five years after obtaining the permanent visa, holders will be eligible to apply for Panamanian nationality.

Small Business Investor Visa

(Inversionista de Pequeña Empresa)

Designed for those who wish to establish a small business in Panama (note that retail businesses and some professions are reserved to Panamanians). There must be a minimum investment of $40,000 and minimum of three permanent Panamanian employees hired. It is granted provisionally for one year, and needs to be renewed three more times before it is granted permanently with the right to a cedula. Five years after obtaining the permanent visa, holders will be eligible to obtain Panamanian nationality.

Self Economic Solvency Visa

Law Number 16, of June 30, 1960 created this program to offer international investors the opportunity to obtain legal residency, citizenship (and passport) in Panama through certain investments in the Republic of Panama.

The Self-Economic Solvency Visa offers three (3) different investment options to qualify for residency status in the Republic of Panama;

Agricultural Investor Visa

Law number 16 of 1960 created this program (“Visa en Calidad de Agricultor”) as a means to offer foreigners the opportunity to become permanent residents and citizens in Panama by investing in farms and agriculture in the Republic of Panama.

Small Business Investor Program

This program allows foreign business owners to obtain legal residency in Panama under the condition that they invest a minimum of US$40,000 in either a new business venture, or an established company in Panama. Part of the requirement is that the business must employ at least 3 Panamanian employees paying them at least minimum wage, with social security benefits.

Tax Free Processing Zone Investor Progam

This program allows foreign investors to obtain legal residency in Panama under the condition that they must rent a plot of land or an office or building (rented through a 10 to 20 year concession) within one of the new tax free processing zones in Panama, for the purpose of operating a business from Panama that exports its products or services.

City of Knowledge Work Visa Program

This program allows foreign investors to obtain up to 5 work visas (valid for an initial term of 2 years, and renewable for an additional 2 years) for their company in Panama under the condition that they must rent an office or building within the City of Knowledge of Panama (located within the former Fort Clayton military base), for the purpose of operating a business from Panama.

Temporary Immigrant Visa

Student Visa

This program allows foreign students to obtain legal residency in Panama under the condition that they will be living in Panama for educational purposes, such as attending a Panamanian university, school, etc.

For more information on Panama Passports, Panama Residency, Citizenship or Visas click here:

http://www.panamalaw.org