The procedure for applying for a Panama visa is the same whether you are applying for your Pensionado visa or your Friendly Nations visa. (As the former applicant, however, you must also provide proof of having these requirements for a Panama Pensionado Visa.)
I have done my best to effectively translate and simplify these requirements, removing or explaining jargon whenever possible.
If you find anything to be confusing, I encourage you to drop your comments into the discussion at the bottom of the page. I welcome any opportunity to clarify things when I can, or point you towards an accredited and trusted expert when I cannot.
1. Register passport at Panama Immigration
To do this, you must go to the Panama immigration office with 2 passport photos, your completed immigration registration form, your original passport, and one photocopy of your passport.
2. Present application + all required documents (listed below) to Panama immigration.
Tip: Bring extra cash with you to the office. Often, you’ll encounter little surprise fees- usually just $5 or $10 here and there. Having cash makes the process go a lot more smoothly.
3. Be issued a “Provisional Processing Card” and Multiple Entry-Exit Visa
You’ll get these at Panama immigration. These will remain valid for 3 months to 1 year while you’re waiting for the paperwork to go through.
4. Wait for your visa
After the paperwork goes though, the Panama immigration department will issue you a Permanent Residency Permit. If you’re applying to the Pensionado Program, you will also receive a Panama Pensionado Resident Card
Required Documents (for Panama Immigration processing):
1. Photocopies of all pages of your valid passport (and any dependents.)
Note: This should be provided after the Passport Registration is registered at the Panama immigration Office. The passport must be valid for a remaining minimum of 6 months from the date of the immigration application.
2. Six passport sized photographs of yourself
Tip: Get these done ahead a time, not at the immigration office. In Panama, Farmacias Arrocha is the best place to go for this (it’s much like a Walgreens or CVS.)
3. Certificate of Good Health
Must be issued by a licensed Panamanian hospital or clinic and signed by a registered, licensed physician. The certification must indicate that the applicant (and dependents, if applicable) has no contagious diseases and is in good mental and physical condition.
That about sums it up (unless of course you’re also applying for your retirement visa, in which case be sure to check out the required documents for Panama’s Pensionado Visa.)
As I described in The Complete Guide to Retiring in Panama Easily, Legally, and Happily, the process for acquiring your visa is no walk in the park, but it’s more akin to being stuck in traffic than getting your teeth pulled.
My biggest piece of advice is to be patient, organized, and try to maintain a good sense of humor about the whole process. There will be paperwork, lost files, and incompetent people to deal with along the way- just as with any government.
Hold out and keep your eye on the prize- thousands of expats and retirees before you thought it was worth it and you will, too.
Disclaimer: At the time that I write this (Oct. 2013) – These is the most up-to-date criteria available, as provided by the Panamanian government. However, laws in Panama are known for changing quickly, as the government is constantly evolving and improving upon its procedures.