The Forestry Visa
This program grants Permanent Residency, by promoting foreign investment into privately owned forestry projects in the Republic of Panama, which maintain a forestry registry approved by the government. It is regulated by the Executive Decree 320 of August 8th 2008, Article 180 to 184.
All applicants must visit the country in person, at least 3 times: at the start of the process, at the approval of the provisional ID, and at completion of the residency application, and the basic documents every family member must provide are:
- Original passport with validity of at least 6 months
- Certified check to the National Treasury of Panama, for $250 USD per applicant.
- Certified check to the National Migration Service, for $800 USD per applicant.
- Five photos passport size
- Sign the sworn declaration and power of attorney prepared by a local attorney
- Nationwide background check (for adults only)
- Birth certificate (for children only)
- Marriage certificate (for couples only)
- All mentioned documents must be recently issued (no more than 6 months) and properly Apostilled.
For this residency, are eligible citizens of any country who can prove an investment made into a government approved forestry project, as follows:
- $80,000 US for the main applicant, plus $2,000 US for each dependent family member.
- 5 Hectares of minimum land size of a forestry approved project.
The process is divided in 6 steps, as follows:
a. Registration - which is done in person by all applicants at the National Immigration Service in Panama, and it is done at day one.
b. Application - where the complete file is submitted for review, and it is done at day two.
c. Temporal ID - it is obtained at day two, once the application is submitted. This residency card is valid for 6 months.
d. Multiple-entry visa - it is obtained within 2 business days, and it is required prior to leaving the country, subject to a $2,000 US penalty if not processed.
e. Provisional ID - it is obtained at any time within 6 months from the application, and it is valid for a term of 2 years.
f. Temporal ID - once the 2 years are completed, the permanent residency is requested, whereas another 6 month ID is issued so the government office can review the file again.
g. Final ID - it is obtained within 6 months from the new application, granting permanent residency. This new ID is indefinite, that is, it does not have an expiration date.
f. E-Cedula - even though optional, this is an important residency ID issued by the TE office, which assigns a local ID number for the residents, and can be done at any time after the residency approval.
Things to consider
The residency is for life, but it can be revoked by the government if the resident is convicted or does public political manifests. Also, absence of the country for more than 2 consecutive years can lead to the suspension of the residency.
Either with the temporal residency or the permanent residency, the foreigner is eligible to obtain a local driver’s license, which is required as the foreign license is only valid while a tourist in the country.
This residency by investment does not grant an immediate option to apply for a work permit. The general labor rule is that Investors can supervise their business, but cannot work or obtain an employment.
Once a resident, the applicant is subject to income taxes on locally sourced proceeds. Income from foreign sources are not taxed in Panama.
After 5 years of permanent residency, regardless of the physical presence in the country, the foreign resident is eligible to apply for citizenship, for which a basic general knowledge exam and proficiency in Spanish will be required.
By reciprocity, the timeframe for eligibility can be less if the country of citizenship of the applicant provides a similar option to Panamanians seeking citizenship.
For example: Citizens of Colombia and El Salvador can apply for citizenship after 1 year of holding permanent residency in Panama. Citizens of Argentina, Ecuador, Spain, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru, are eligible after 2 years.