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Digital nomads planning or considering Panama as a long-term location to obtain residency are about to encounter a more complicated process.
The Friendly Nations Visa Program was widely regarded in the nomad world as a relatively easy and desirable path for the citizens of 54 “friendly” countries to obtain permanent residency in Panama.
Currently, a citizen of one of these 54 nations (including the U.S.) only needs to meet a few requirements to obtain permanent residency. One needs to register or purchase a local company in Panama with proof of paying taxes and then get a Panamanian bank account with a balance of at least $5,000 (plus $2,000 per dependent) to be eligible for residency.
But Panama is changing what this process looks like.
Through Executive Decree 197, the Panamanian Government has changed these requirements to be closer in line with other nations.
As of August 20th, 2021, 90 days after the decree, the rules will be far more strict.
First and foremost, the decree removes Taiwanese citizens from the list of eligible nations.
The current path will now only allow you to obtain a two-year residency.
Within that two years and up to 30 days before the end of the visa, you must then apply for an extension of residency while showing proof of either of the two requirements.
Either you can prove employment via a work permit in Panama or have invested more than $200,000 USD into real estate in Panama, financed by a local bank.
While these are still not a high bar for residency for many expats, this could make Panama a less desirable long-term destination for some in the digital nomad community.
Learn more about the changes to the Panama permanent residency visa here.