An Overview of Panama’s Residency Program
As part of my continuing five flags plan, I would like to acquire a Panamanian passport, making Panama my Country B (the country in which I am a citizen).
Panama, one of the friendliest nations to foreigners (and particularly Americans) has one of the easiest and most liberal residency programs. You almost don’t even need residency, since most visitors can stay in Panama legally up to six months with no special visa.
However, if you want citizenship beyond just residency (meaning an actual Panamanian passport), you need to get residency first.
After discussing this in great detail with several attorneys and bankers on my most recent visit to Panama City (one of my most favorite cities in the world now; what a fantastic place!), here’s an overview of how it works.
First, you have to go through a local Panamanian attorney who will file all the necessary letters and paperwork for you (and there is a lot of paperwork required for these things). You also need to either rent an apartment on a long-term lease, or start a Panamanian corporation, or purchase real estate in Panama. Good attorneys can help you with any of those three options.
The government of Panama will do various credit and criminal background checks. Assuming you’re not a bad guy, you are given residency (not citizenship) within six months, often within just two or three. The entire process costs several thousand dollars.
Residency means you are not a citizen, but you can legally stay in Panama for as long as you want with no time limit. It also means you use a special express line at the airport whenever entering the country.
After getting your residency, if you want citizenship, you need to wait five years. During this five year period, you need to,
- Visit Panama at least semi-regularly; the recommended minimum is one week every 20 months.
- Learn Spanish.
- Study up on Panama’s history and politics.
- Develop some ties in Panama (work, or charitable work, or social circles, and so on).
I plan on doing all of these things. I love Panama and I’ve always wanted to learn Spanish for other reasons, so I’m happy to do it.
After the five years are up, you can apply for citizenship. You have to take several tests, prove you know Panama well, prove you can speak Spanish, and prove you have ties there.
After that, it takes 2-5 years to get your citizenship approved. If approved (and it looks like you probably will be if you do all of the above and you aren’t a criminal), you are then a Panamanian citizen with a Panamanian passport.
If you do the math, the entire process takes a grand total of 7-10 years. As I’ve said many times, five flags is a long-term, slow-burn plan. (Unless you’re willing to spend $150,000+ by buying your passport from a Caribbean country.) If it takes me the outside max of 10 years to get Panamanian citizenship, I’ll only be 56 years old by then; perfectly fine with me. That’s why I’m starting all of these processes now.
As always, I play the long game.