Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May 2016, 12:25 GMT

Panama: The requirements and procedures to reacquire permanent resident status by immigrants from countries requiring authorized travel visas, such as the People's Republic of China

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 21 October 2010
Citation / Document Symbol PAN103595.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Panama: The requirements and procedures to reacquire permanent resident status by immigrants from countries requiring authorized travel visas, such as the People's Republic of China, 21 October 2010, PAN103595.E, available at: [accessed 31 May 2016]
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In order to reacquire permanent resident status in Panama, an applicant must be living in Panama, and fulfill the same requirements and follow the same procedures as a person applying for a permanent resident visa for the first time with the National Immigration Service (Servicio Nacional de Migración, SNM) (Panama 30 Sept. 2010; Law partner 28 Sept. 2010). The applicant should also retain the services of a lawyer (Panama 30 Sept. 2010).

According to the visa application form for tourists, available on the Embassy of Panama in Canada website,

[o]nce in the national territory, if the person requesting the visa wishes to apply for a temporal, or a permanent, residence, he/she must include the following additional documents in the visa request:

- An original police record properly authenticated.

- Certifications proving the family relations, in cases of permissions for dependents, or for a family reunion.

- A promised letter of employment, indicating proposed position and salary, as well as, a copy of the company payroll (if applicable)

- A certification, from abroad, by a, private, or a government, company properly authenticated, if the applicant will be paid from abroad as a paid employee, as a retired person, or as person under a pension.

- A certification from the [applicant's] country of residence, properly authenticated, proving [their status as] single [while in that country], for those applying for visas as married to a national citizen, or as dependent of a resident spouse. (Panama n.d.a, 6)

Executive Decree No. 320 (Decreto Ejecutivo No. 320) regulates Panama's new immigration law, Law Decree No. 3 (Decreto Ley No. 3), which came into effect in 2008 and created the SNM (Panama 2008). The Executive Decree defines the time period an applicant must stay in the country to obtain permanent residency [translation by the Multilingual Translation Division of the Translation Bureau]:

Article 178. After a period of two (2) years, the applicant may opt for permanent residence, except in certain cases in which these regulations, special laws or conventions establish different periods (Panama 2008, Art. 178).

An official from the Embassy of Panama in Canada indicated in an interview with the Research Directorate that, if the applicant has children who were born in Panama, the SNM may be more lenient and faster in processing the application for permanent residency (Panama 30 Sept. 2010). In contrast, in 28 September 2010 correspondence with the Research Directorate, a lawyer who is a partner in the Panama City-based law firm Gray and Co., which specializes in immigration and naturalization in Panama, stated that having children born in Panama will "influence the application [for permanent residency], but will not guarantee approval if the person does not fulfil the criteria for the application. More than anything, it shortens the time frame for the resident to apply for naturalisation …" (Law Partner 28 Sept. 2010).

A government website provides a list of the 19 types of permanent residency visas available through the SNM (Panama n.d.b). The first is an agreement between Panama and Italy permitting Italian citizens to reside in Panama on a permanent basis to carry out economic or professional activities (ibid.). The other 18 types of permanent residency visas are as follows [translation]:

- under economic solvency for opening of a fixed instalment deposit

- as a forestry investor

- as an independently wealthy retiree

- personal economic solvency

- economic reasons

- investment in property assets

- personal economic solvency by mixed investments (fixed installment deposit and property assets)

- as a dependant of a permanent resident

- as a refugee

- married to a Panamanian

- investor in the Call Center for Exports

- investor in the film and audiovisual industry

- investor in macro-enterprise

- investor in the special Panama-Pacific Economic Area

- investor in the export processing zones

- as a retiree and pensioner

- permanent personnel contracted by the Panama Canal Authority

- permanent personnel contracted by the Developer, the Operator or the Panama-Pacific Area Agency within the (10%) of common workers (Panama n.d.b).

According to the Gray & Co. lawyer, when trying to acquire permanent residency, "the original nationality of the immigrant is an important factor, as are the police record of the applicant and [his or her] economic solvency/education" (28 Sept. 2010).

Stamped and authorized visas

The Official from the Embassy of Panama in Canada stated that persons travelling to Panama who have legal status in Canada or the United States can apply for a stamped visa (Panama 30 Sept. 2010), which is valid for 30 days but can be extended for 60 more days while in Panama (ibid. n.d.c). Visitors with a passport from countries such as the People's Republic of China require an authorized visa (ibid. 30 Sept. 2010). Applicants applying for an authorized visa are advised to request the visa at least 40 days in advance of their trip (ibid. n.d.d).

The procedure for obtaining an authorized visa is as follows:

1. Fill in the Application Form, depending on the purpose of your trip.

2. Present valid Original Passport. Copy of the first page with general information is required

3. Present an updated Bank/Financial Statement as proof of your financial situation

4. Show letter/affidavit of person who will sponsor/represent you while in Panama. This letter could be sent directly to the Immigration Department (Panama City) by the person or company responsible for you in Panama.

5. Original and copy of your itinerary.

6. Two (2) Photographs (Colored, passport size)

7. Copy of identification card from country of birth/residence.

8. A fee of $50.00 U.S. Dollars (Money order) issued to Embassy of Panama Consular Section … . Cash, Debit or Credit Cards are not accepted. (ibid.)

In Section A, numbers 21 through 24 of the authorized visa application form, applicants must indicate whether they will be applying for another non-resident visa, such as a permanent resident visa, specify the type, and provide details on how they will be supporting themselves financially (Panama n.d.a, 2-3). Number 26 asks applicants to identify whether they have previously been issued a Panamanian visa, if they have, they are required to describe the kind, and, submit copies with the application form (Panama n.d.a, 3 and 5).

An applicant for an authorized traveller's visa who has children who were born in Panama can request passports for his or her children at the Embassy of Panama in Canada by providing original birth certificates (Panama 30 Sept. 2010). According to the Embassy Official, it can take approximately a month and a half to get both the authorized visa and the children's passports (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Law partner, Gray & Co., Panama City, Panama. 28 September 2010. Correspondence.

Panama. 30 September 2010. Embassy of Panama in Canada, Ottawa. Telephone interview with the Commercial Attaché.

_____. 2008. Decreto Ejecutivo No. 320. "'Que reglamenta el Decreto Ley No. 3 de 22 de febrero de 2008, que crea el Servicio Nacional de Migración y dicta otras disposiciones.'" [Accessed 30 Sept. 2010]

_____. N.d.a. Embassy of Panama in Canada. "Solicitud de visas de turista / Requesting a Visa as a Tourist." [Accessed 30 Sept. 2010]

_____. N.d.b. Servicio Nacional de Migración. "62 Servicios / Trámites Disponibles agrupados por Dirección." [Accessed 29 Sept. 2010]

_____. N.d.c. Embassy of Panama in Canada. "Stamped Visa." [Accessed 30 Sept. 2010]

_____. N.d.d. Embassy of Panama in Canada. "Authorized Visa." [Accessed 30 Sept. 2010]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact representatives of Panama Offshore Legal Services and The Panama Club were unsuccessful within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sites, including: Panama-Ministerio de Gobierno y Justicia.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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