They say the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Feels a little bit like that in the world of Panama immigration and residency right now. On the same day last week they announced changes to make the Friendly Nations Visa more difficult, they also announced a brand new remote working visa.
Panama’s economy collapsed by almost 18% in 2020 as Covid-19 ravaged the country, and this initiative is part of the plan to reactivate the economy.
Pre-Covid, Panama’s tourism sector comprised some 4.5% of GDP (direct) and 14% (indirect). Tourism generated over 100,000 jobs before Panama closed its borders in March 2020.
Since then, tourism collapsed and unemployment shot from 7.1% in August 2019 to 18.5% in September 2020. Panama reopened to international tourism in October 2020.
The Visa de Corta Estancia como Trabajador Remoto program (Short Stay as a Remote Worker Visa) will cost an initial $550 to apply.
Once accepted, applicants can stay in Panama for nine months, with the option to extend for another nine months, allowing 18 months in total. They will need to show proof of income (from outside Panama) of at least $3,000 per month for an individual or $4,000 per month per family. It’s assumed that “family” means more than one person.
As well as proving their outside income, applicants must also have health insurance to cover their stay in Panama and sign an affidavit of non-acceptance of a job in Panama.
In a statement on Thursday, the government said the new visa “would invigorate the economy by stimulating tourism, restaurants, shopping, consumption, and services in general, resulting in a greater reactivation of jobs for Panamanians.“
Panama says it’ll create an online platform to process applications for the remote worker program. At first, though, according to international immigration attorneys Fragomen, applicants will need to arrive in Panama on a regular tourist visa and apply in-country. They will receive their approval within 30 days.
Panama is the first country in Central America to install a remote worker program. Costa Rica also has a similar program making its way through the legislature.