Is Panama A Good Second Residency [v1]
Panama has always been the top destination for people who are looking to leave the US and Canada as a second home. And as a plan B for residency and much more for really several years. And I've been recommending it for a long time, but there have been recent changes in the visa process and in the availability.
And that's changing the landscape, especially for perpetual travelers. Anyone who's looking for a second residency. And anyone who doesn't have hundreds of thousands of dollars to tie up in the real estate market. So, if you're thinking about Panama, for any of the reasons that I just talked about, you're not going to want to miss this because you want to know, is Panama still a good option for second residencies, given all these new changes.
One of the biggest reasons that Panama was an awesome choice for a second residence and for a plan B option was a friendly nations visa and allowed almost anyone from Canada, the US and about 48 other countries with a few thousand dollars, the ability to get really fast, permanent residency somewhere. But a couple of months ago, they made it much more difficult to get the friendly nations visa.
It used to be that you could put about $5,000 in a bank account for a couple of days, start a corporation, and then spend a couple of thousand bucks in fees. And you were good to go. You had a permanent residency that was easy to hold onto. And to keep.
But now with the new changes, you can't get that instant, permanent residency. You can get a temporary visa for two years, and then you need to apply for a permanent one. You also need to either invest $200,000 in real estate in Panama or get a job in a Panamanian company.
The friendly nations visa was an option that many younger self-employed online workers were starting to use to move to Panama. And the younger set was really growing in population.
The retirement visa, the pensionado, still exists though. What I suspect is going to happen is we're going to see the landscape kind of shifting back to the older retired people.
Next is a change in tourist visas. Panama used to allow foreigners to stay on a tourist visa for up to six months. And at one time you were able to visit for six months, leave for a day or two, and then come back.
A little while back, they changed that. So, if you stayed longer than about four or five months or so you would have to leave for 30 days to actually get that reset again, but it was never really that consistently enforced. And if you flew out, you were usually able to do it in one or two days. It was enforced more at the land borders, but even there it was inconsistent.
However, as of October 20, 21, you can now only stay on a tourist visa for 90 days. And the rumor is, is after those 90 days, you have to leave for a full 30 days after that.
Fortunately, that law was quickly changed to allow US and Canadian citizens the same 6 months as they have always had.
This recent change by the Panamanian government, along with the friendly nations change a few months ago. And a few other rumors that have been talked about has a lot of the expats and people who are in the tourist business really scratching their heads, trying to think of strategies where they can still survive, but work within the new rules.
The Panamanian government obviously wants people here, especially Westerners. But they are in a difficult situation because these new rules are in line with other country's tourist rules. However, with Panama, the big draws in the past for Westerners, for people from Canada in the US especially were its proximity to North America and the easy visa process in the many years that I've been living here, almost every person without fail that I've met has been looking for a place to call.
Not necessarily as a full-time home, but as a part-time home or as a second residency and plan B option. It's not a destination like Hawaii or Mexico where people fly in for two weeks and stayed in all-inclusive. There are a few exceptions to that. For example, some people fly into Decameron resort for a couple of weeks of the all-inclusive thing. And there are people who fly in to do some surfing for a couple of weeks, But Panama has always had this more home or second home vibe.
And so many of the people who come here are looking for that, or they're looking for this plan B option in case things really go bad. And these new rules are definitely flipping that whole landscape on its head.
At this point, it can still be a plan B for retired people, Or new residents can still get that friendly nations visa, if they decide to they want to stay here permanently. And if they're prepared to anchor themselves here with real estate. But anchoring yourself with real estate isn't something that I recommend without you being 100% sure that you want to stay.
Buying real estate here is easy and foreigners have the same rules as locals. But selling can take years.
Panama is still awesome. I mean, I love Panama. I'm not going to lie. It's a beautiful place to call home. It's a great place to live either full or part-time.
And I personally have zero interest in living anyplace else.
And I still recommend it as a destination for a second home if it's someplace you want to be. But before you think of it as a permanent plan B or second home you should really look into the new digital nomad visa that they're introducing and spend several months here on the ground. Make sure that you're 100% sure and you're 100% satisfied before you buy anything.
Unfortunately with the new rules, Panama's really no longer a place I recommend for getting a “just in case” visa like we used to talk about a backup plan or insurance, There's too much of a commitment needed now.
So come here if you really want to call it home. Or work from here for a while as a digital nomad. But forget about that easy visa unless you're prepared to actually buy real estate so you can get that longer visa option.