Panama Digital Nomad Visa: Requirements & Application Process

In recent years, Panama has emerged as a popular destination for digital nomads seeking not just the warmth of its tropical climate, but also the strong prospect of the country’s welcoming business environment.

With the launch of the Panama digital nomad visa in 2021 officially known as the Short Stay Visa for Remote Workers, the country saw the need to respond to the crippling aftermath of the COVID-19 epidemic by embracing the growing global trend of virtual and remote work.

This innovative visa is designed to cater specifically to the needs of remote workers and digital entrepreneurs, offering them an opportunity to live and work in Panama for up to 18 months, with the possibility of extension.

In this article, we delve deeper into the details of Panama’s Short Stay Visa for Remote Workers and what makes it the ultimate destination for digital nomads seeking adventure, flexibility, and a supportive business ecosystem.

sea shore fill with palm tree near the green clear water ocean

What Is the Panama Digital Nomad Visa?

The Panama Digital Nomad Visa, officially known as the Short Stay Visa for Remote Workers, is a groundbreaking initiative by the Panamanian government, designed to attract digital nomads and remote workers from across the globe.

This visa allows individuals who are employed or run their businesses outside of Panama to live and work in the country, leveraging its connectivity, lifestyle, and scenic beauty, without becoming a tax resident.

Here are the key features and details that make this visa an attractive option for digital nomads:

  • Duration and Renewability: The visa is valid for nine months, with the possibility of a one-time extension for an additional nine months, offering a total potential stay of 18 months.
  • Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must prove they work remotely, with their source of income coming from outside Panama. A minimum monthly income of $3,000 USD is required, or $4,000 USD if applying with family members, ensuring that nomads can sustain their lifestyle while in the country.
  • Application Process: The process involves submitting proof of employment or business ownership, proof of income, health insurance coverage for the duration of the stay, and a criminal background check. These requirements are designed to ensure that applicants are self-sufficient and pose no risk to the local community.
  • Benefits: Beyond the legal right to live and work in Panama, visa holders can open a local bank account and sign up for local services, enhancing their ability to integrate and enjoy what Panama has to offer. Importantly, income earned outside Panama is not subject to local taxation under this visa, making it financially advantageous for digital nomads.
  • Cultural and Lifestyle Advantages: Panama is celebrated for its diverse ecosystems, ranging from urban centers like Panama City, known for its vibrant nightlife and cultural scene, to tranquil beaches and lush rainforests. The country’s infrastructure, including high-speed internet and a robust healthcare system, adds to its appeal as a destination for digital nomads.

This visa signifies Panama’s recognition of the growing digital nomad trend and its commitment to creating an environment that supports remote work, cultural exchange, and economic development.

By offering a combination of practical benefits and the chance to experience its rich culture and natural beauty, Panama stands out as a premier destination for digital nomads seeking a blend of adventure, work, and lifestyle.

The Benefits of the Panama Digital Nomad Visa

Image text showing benefits of The Panama Digital Nomad Visa

The Short Stay Visa for Remote Workers offers a range of benefits and some intriguing aspects that make it particularly appealing to digital nomads.

  • Extended Stay: Unlike tourist visas that typically offer a shorter duration, the Panama digital nomad visa allows for an initial stay of nine months, with the possibility to extend for another nine months, totaling 18 months. This extended stay permits digital nomads to truly immerse themselves in the local culture and environment.
  • Tax Advantages: One of the most significant benefits is the tax advantage. Income earned from outside Panama is exempt from local taxes for visa holders, making it financially attractive for digital nomads and remote workers who earn their livelihood internationally.
  • Access to Services: Visa holders are allowed to open a local bank account and access other local services, facilitating a smoother transition and integration into Panamanian life. This accessibility helps in setting up a semi-permanent base in Panama with less bureaucratic hassle.
  • Healthcare Access: Applicants are required to have health insurance coverage for the duration of their stay, ensuring access to Panama’s healthcare services. Panama is known for its high-quality healthcare system, which is an essential consideration for digital nomads.
  • Diverse Lifestyle Options: Panama’s diverse geographical landscape offers something for every taste, from bustling city life in Panama City to serene beaches and islands, as well as cooler mountainous regions. This variety allows digital nomads to choose a living environment that best suits their lifestyle preferences.
  • Connectivity Hub: Panama serves as a regional hub for finance and trade, with one of the highest levels of internet connectivity in Latin America. This makes it an ideal location for digital nomads who need reliable internet for their work.
  • Cultural Melting Pot: Reflecting its historical role as a crossroads of trade, Panama boasts a rich cultural diversity that includes influences from Indigenous groups, Spanish colonialism, Afro-Caribbeans, and a significant expat community. This cultural melting pot creates a lively and inclusive atmosphere for newcomers.
  • Strategic Location: Situated at the junction of North and South America, Panama offers easy access to both continents, making it an excellent base for digital nomads looking to explore the Americas.
  • The Panama Canal: A marvel of engineering, the Panama Canal not only plays a crucial role in global trade but also symbolizes Panama’s historical significance and innovation. Living in Panama provides a unique opportunity to explore this iconic landmark.
  • Eco-Friendly and Adventure: With over 30% of its land protected as national parks and reserves, Panama is a haven for eco-tourists and adventure seekers. Digital nomads can enjoy weekends exploring rainforests, snorkeling in crystal-clear waters, or hiking in the mountains.
  • Unique Currency System: Given the significant American influence and investment in the canal and the country’s economy, Panama adopted the US Dollar as its de facto currency for larger transactions and as the main currency for banknotes. The US Dollar is used for all paper currency, while coins are issued in both Balboas and US Dollars, which are of equal value and interchangeable. The Balboa is pegged 1:1 to the USD, meaning one Balboa has the same value as one US Dollar.

Panama Digital Nomad Visa- Requirements, Application & Costs

Image text showing requirements for The Panama Digital Nomad Visa

Requirements

Here are the main and key requirements for applicants of the Panama Digital Nomad Visa (Short Stay Visa for Remote Workers);

  • Age Requirement: Applicants must be at least 18 years old at the time of application.
  • Employment Status: Must be employed by a foreign company or self-employed with a business outside of Panama.
  • Minimum Income: A minimum monthly income of $3,000 USD is required, or $4,000 USD if applying with dependents, to ensure financial sustainability during the stay.
  • Proof of Employment or Business Ownership: Provide documentation proving employment with a company outside of Panama or ownership of a foreign-based business.
  • Health Insurance: Applicants must have health insurance coverage for the entire duration of their stay in Panama.
  • Passport Validity: The applicant’s passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the planned date of entry into Panama.
  • Criminal Background Check: A clean criminal record, demonstrated through a criminal background check, is necessary.
  • Stay Duration: The visa grants an initial stay of nine months, with the option to extend for another nine months, totaling up to 18 months.
  • Application Fee: Payment of the application fee is required, the amount of which should be verified as it may vary.
  • Health Declaration Form: Due to health and safety regulations, a completed health declaration form might be required upon arrival.

These requirements are designed to ensure that digital nomads can support themselves financially during their stay, have a clean legal background, and are covered in terms of healthcare, aligning with Panama’s goal to attract responsible and self-sufficient remote workers.

Application Process

Step 1: Determine Eligibility

  • Ensure you meet all the criteria: 18 years or older, with a stable monthly income of at least $3,000 USD (or $4,000 USD for those applying with family members), working for a company outside of Panama or owning a business abroad.

Step 2: Gather Required Documentation

  • Compile necessary documents, including proof of employment or business ownership, proof of the required monthly income, valid health insurance covering international stays, a passport valid for at least six months beyond entry, a clean criminal background check, and a return ticket.

Step 3: Health Insurance Verification

  • Confirm that your health insurance is valid for the duration of your stay in Panama and covers international medical expenses.

Step 4: Criminal Background Check

  • Obtain a criminal background check from your current country of residence or from the last country where you have lived for the past two years.

Step 5: Application Submission

  • While the Panamanian government has been working on streamlining visa applications, including digital nomad visas, it’s advisable to check the current process on the official website of the National Immigration Service of Panama or consult with a legal representative in Panama.
  • The application could require physical submission at a Panamanian consulate or through an authorized lawyer in Panama.

Step 6: Pay the Visa Fee

  • The visa application fee is paid during the application process. This fee can vary, so it’s essential to verify the current cost either online or through direct contact with a Panamanian consulate or your legal representative. The fee is typically paid when submitting your application.

Step 7: Await Approval

  • The processing time for the visa can vary. Stay in contact with the consulate or your lawyer to keep informed about your application status.

Step 8: Visa Issuance

  • Once approved, you will receive your Digital Nomad Visa, which allows entry into Panama as a remote worker.

Step 9: Entry into Panama

  • Upon arrival in Panama, present your Digital Nomad Visa along with your passport and any other requested documentation to immigration officials.

Step 10: Setting up in Panama

  • Once in Panama, you can open a bank account, access local services, and start integrating into your new environment. Remember to comply with all local laws and regulations during your stay.

Engaging a lawyer in Panama who specializes in immigration law can streamline the application process, ensuring all paperwork is correctly filled out and submitted.

Costs

Specific costs associated with applying for Panama’s Short Stay Visa for Remote Workers (Digital Nomad Visa) can vary based on several factors, including legal fees, if you hire a lawyer to assist with the application, and fluctuating government fees.

Please note, that for the most up-to-date and precise figures, contacting a Panamanian consulate or an immigration lawyer in Panama would be necessary.

Basic Costs

  • Visa Application Fee: The government fee for the visa application was approximately $250 USD. This is a standard fee charged by the National Immigration Authority of Panama.
  • Visa Card: $50 USD
  • Repatriation Deposit: Applicants may be required to make a repatriation deposit to cover the potential cost of returning to their home country. This cost varies and could be around $800 to $1,000 USD.
  • Health Insurance: Applicants must have comprehensive health insurance for the duration of their stay. The cost of health insurance can vary widely based on coverage, provider, and individual health factors. Expect to budget several hundred dollars for this, at least.
  • Criminal Background Check: The cost for obtaining a criminal background check can vary by country but usually is not excessively expensive. It might range from $50 to $100 USD.

Incidentals

  • Legal Fees: If using a legal representative to facilitate the application, fees can range significantly, from around $1,000 to $3,000 USD or more, depending on the complexity of your case and the level of service provided.
  • Document Translation and Notarization: If your documents are not in Spanish, they will need to be officially translated and possibly notarized. Costs can vary, but budgeting $100 to $200 USD for translations is a prudent estimate.
  • Courier Fees: Sending documents to and from Panama may require courier services, especially if you’re applying from abroad. Expect to pay $50 to $100 USD, depending on the service and speed required.
wavy ocean near buildings

Cost of Living in Panama

Panama offers a range of living costs that can suit various budgets, making it an appealing destination for digital nomads. The cost of living can vary significantly depending on the lifestyle, location within the country, and individual needs.

Estimated Monthly Cost of Living in Panama

Housing:

  • City Center Apartment (1 bedroom): $600 – $1,200
  • Apartment Outside City Center (1 bedroom): $400 – $800

Utilities (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage):

  • For a standard apartment: $50 – $150

Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL):

  • $30 – $60

Groceries:

  • Monthly for 1 Person: $200 – $400

Dining Out:

  • Meal at an Inexpensive Restaurant: $7 – $15
  • Meal at a Mid-range Restaurant (3 courses) for 2 People: $30 – $60

Transportation:

  • Monthly Public Transport Pass: $15 – $30
  • Taxi Trip on a Business Day, Basic Tariff, 8 km (5 miles): $8 – $12

Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult:

  • $30 – $60: Monthly Fee for 1 Adult

Entertainment and Leisure:

  • Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat: $6 – $10
  • Leisure Activities (e.g., outings, tours): $50 – $150

Key Considerations for Digital Nomads:

  • Co-working Spaces: Access to co-working spaces varies by city, with costs approximately $100 – $250 per month, offering flexible work environments with high-speed internet.
  • Healthcare: Private health insurance is recommended for digital nomads, with costs varying widely depending on coverage. Basic coverage might start from $40 PAB ($40 USD) per month.
  • Location Variance: Costs can vary significantly between Panama City, known for being more expensive, and other areas such as Boquete or Bocas del Toro, which may offer lower living expenses but equally rich experiences.

These figures are approximate and can fluctuate based on lifestyle choices, economic changes, and personal needs. Digital nomads should consider their own work and life balance preferences when budgeting for living in Panama.

Resources to Stay Up to Date with Visa Changes

Panama Ministry of the Presidency

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Atlys.com

iVisa.com

World Visa Guide

island full of green trees near the ocean with boats nearby

Do I Need a Panama Digital Nomad Visa?

Deciding whether you need a Short Stay Visa for Remote Workers depends on your individual circumstances, including the duration of your stay, work situation, and lifestyle preferences.

Among the pros to consider are the visa allowing digital nomads to live and work in Panama for up to 18 months, offering a more extended period than typical tourist visas and income earned outside of Panama is exempt from local taxes.

With this visa, digital nomads can open a bank account, access other local services, and experience vast urban cityscapes, serene beaches, and lush highlands, catering to different lifestyles and work preferences.

Additionally, Panama’s economy is one of the most stable in Latin America, with a strong infrastructure, including high-speed internet, which is crucial for remote work.

However, there are several challenges to consider, such as the time-consuming application process, requiring various documents, including proof of income and health insurance. Plus there are application fees and potential legal fees if you hire an attorney to assist with the process.

The visa is limited only to individuals working for companies outside of Panama or running their own business abroad. Those looking for local employment opportunities won’t qualify.

Also, another layer of difficulty is adapting to a new environment with varied cultural differences, and language barriers, and understanding local laws and regulations.

Living and working in Panama as a digital nomad can be a rewarding experience, offering a blend of professional flexibility and personal adventure. The country’s use of the US dollar simplifies financial transactions, and its strategic location allows for easy travel to both North and South America.

The cost of living can be advantageous compared to many US cities, especially if you choose to live outside of Panama City.

However, it’s essential to factor in the costs associated with the visa application and the potential need for legal assistance.

Best Places to Live or Explore In Panama for Digital Nomads

Image text of the best places to live or explore in Panama

Panama City

citylights during night time - panama digital nomad visa

As the bustling capital, Panama City is the economic and cultural hub of the country, offering a cosmopolitan lifestyle with all the amenities a digital nomad could desire. The city’s skyline is dotted with high-rises, and its neighborhoods blend historic sites with modern conveniences.

For coworking spaces, Selina Casco Viejo provides a lively atmosphere in the heart of the historic district, while Café Unido offers great coffee and a cozy spot for work. The Amador Causeway, with its stunning views of the Panama Canal, is perfect for leisurely walks or bike rides after a day’s work.

Boquete

cars park outside a big house near the green hill and road - panama digital nomad visa

Nestled in the highlands, Boquete is known for its cooler climate, breathtaking mountain landscapes, and thriving expat community. This town is ideal for digital nomads seeking a quieter, nature-oriented lifestyle. Café Ruiz is not just a place for excellent coffee but also a comfortable work spot.

The Boquete Library offers a quiet place for study or work, with the added benefit of community integration. For outdoor enthusiasts, the numerous trails around Volcan Baru provide ample opportunity to disconnect and recharge.

Bocas del Toro

palm trees near the blue beach- panama digital nomad visa

This archipelago, known for its laid-back Caribbean vibe, clear turquoise waters, and lush rainforests, is perfect for nomads looking to work in a tropical paradise. Selina Bocas del Toro offers excellent coworking spaces right by the sea, blending work with island life.

El Ultimo Refugio (The Last Refuge) serves as a great spot for delicious meals and networking with fellow nomads and locals alike. For relaxation, Starfish Beach offers a serene escape with its crystal-clear waters and soft, sandy beaches.

Coronado

buildings and resorts near the beach - panama digital nomad visa

Located on the Pacific coast, Coronado is a beach town popular among expats and retirees. It boasts a well-developed infrastructure, with plenty of shops, restaurants, and leisure activities, making it a comfortable spot for digital nomads.

Coronado Beach is perfect for surfing or sunbathing breaks. Picasso Bar & Restaurant is a favorite among locals and expats for its lively atmosphere and events, ideal for networking. Meanwhile, the Coronado Social Association often hosts activities and workshops, providing opportunities to meet like-minded individuals.

Pedasí

wavy ocean with rocks- panama digital nomad visa

A small town on the Azuero Peninsula, Pedasí is known for its traditional Panamanian culture, beautiful beaches, and abundant marine life, including the famous Isla Iguana. Digital nomads here enjoy a peaceful, community-oriented lifestyle.

Café Limón offers a cozy spot for work with excellent coffee and snacks. Playa Venao, a short drive away, is an ideal spot for surfing, relaxation, and beachside cafes. For those interested in local culture, the Pedasí Museum provides insights into the area’s history and traditions.

Panama Digital Nomad Visa – Summary

In closing, the introduction of the Short Stay Visa for Remote Workers as the official Panama Digital Nomad Visa offers a compelling pathway for digital nomads. This visa not only simplifies the legal framework for living and working remotely in Panama but also highlights the country’s commitment to welcoming a global workforce.

With benefits such as an 18-month stay period, tax advantages on foreign income, and access to a diverse range of living environments, Panama makes for an attractive destination for digital nomads.

However, potential challenges such as navigating the complex application process, understanding the local healthcare system, and foreign language, and adjusting to the cost of living in certain areas should be considered.

As a digital nomad, considering Panama as your next destination involves weighing these benefits against the challenges. The country’s robust internet infrastructure, affordable living costs (compared to many Western countries), and rich cultural and natural environment present a compelling case. When combined with the legal recognition and support through the Digital Nomad Visa, Panama stands out as not just a viable option but a desirable location for digital nomads worldwide.

Ultimately, the decision to choose Panama as a base for remote work depends on personal and professional needs, lifestyle preferences, and the desire for adventure and cultural immersion.

For those who value diversity, connectivity, and the opportunity to blend work with exploration, Panama offers an enriching experience that is hard to match, making it indeed worth considering for digital nomads.

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Panama Digital Nomad Visa – FAQs

Does Panama offer a Digital Nomad Visa?

Yes, Panama offers a Digital Nomad Visa, officially known as the Short Stay Visa for Remote Workers. This visa caters specifically to the needs of digital nomads and remote workers, allowing them to live and work in Panama for up to 18 months.

The visa is aimed at individuals who are employed by companies outside of Panama or who run their own businesses abroad, providing them the opportunity to enjoy Panama’s diverse landscapes and cultures while continuing their work remotely.

Is Panama City good for Digital Nomads?

Panama City is an excellent destination for digital nomads, offering a lively mix of modern amenities, rich cultural experiences, and a robust infrastructure. The city boasts a variety of coworking spaces, high-speed internet, and a vast number of cafes and restaurants that cater to a remote working lifestyle.

Additionally, its position as a global business hub provides ample networking opportunities for professionals. The blend of urban convenience with nearby natural attractions also means that digital nomads can enjoy a balanced lifestyle.

Is it easy to get a Panama Visa?

Obtaining a Panama visa, including the Digital Nomad Visa, is relatively straightforward for those who meet the specific requirements. Applicants must demonstrate a stable monthly income, have valid health insurance, and pass a background check, among other criteria. The process involves submitting the necessary documentation and paying the application fee.

While the procedure is streamlined, consulting with a legal representative or contacting the nearest Panamanian consulate can help ensure a smooth application process.

Where is the Best Place for Digital Nomads in Panama?

Panama offers several attractive destinations for digital nomads, each with its unique charm.

  • Panama City is ideal for those seeking a dynamic urban environment with all the conveniences of a large city.
  • Boquete appeals to those looking for a cooler climate and a close-knit community amidst mountainous landscapes.
  • Bocas del Toro is perfect for beach lovers and individuals who prefer a laid-back island lifestyle.

Ultimately, the best place depends on personal preferences, lifestyle, and work requirements.

How does the Cost of Living for Digital Nomads in Panama Compare to other Countries?

The cost of living in Panama is relatively affordable compared to many Western countries, making it an appealing destination for digital nomads. Expenses such as housing, food, and transportation can be significantly lower, especially outside of Panama City.

However, like anywhere, living costs can vary widely depending on the location, lifestyle choices, and personal spending habits. Digital nomads can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle in Panama while potentially saving money, thanks to its reasonable living costs and the tax benefits associated with the Digital Nomad Visa.

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