Panama as an Expat Destination

19 Mar
Panama city

Panama city at night

Panama has a long history of being very professional and courteous with international investors and bankers. The investment and banking culture in the country is very favorable for anyone seeking to either hold accounts or investments offshore as part of an overall asset protection strategy and for anyone seeking an expat retirement. But there are a few new developments making Panama even more enticing for anyone looking to work or live abroad.

Although enticing for expats, Panama has a limited workforce with the education, language skills and training it needs. The country has been attracting foreign businesses and investors for a while now and the number is growing every year. This is causing the job markets to become more and more competitive, with salaries and compensation growing with the demand. In order to meet that demand, the Panamanian government has passed some legislation beneficial to attracting an outside work force with the necessary skills while educating and growing a native work force capable of meeting the future demands of the foreign entrepreneurs and businesses.

Panama now has a ‘Specific Countries’ visa available to the passport holders of 47 nations. Under the residency legislation, anyone having a passport from one of these 47 countries, their spouses, parents, children under the age of 18, children aged 18-25 enrolling in higher education, and disabled children can all claim permanent, immediate residency. And you can get a work permit.

In addition to the Specific Countries visa, the government also created another permanent residency category for professionals. In order to qualify for the permanent professional residency, you must be practicing a profession that isn’t specifically restricted to native Panamanians and you have to have a documented bachelor’s degree diploma from an accredited university. Outside of the professional business needs, Panama also needs employees in the non-professional, service-related industries – people with housekeeping skills, waiting skills, cooks, and general laborers. And while there have been a series of amnesty programs aimed at legalizing the significant population of illegals working under the table in Panama (and enlarging the taxable work force), there are still considerable benefits for anyone seeking expatriate employment in the country.

Since Panama relies on global commerce for the majority of its income, they have tied the Panamanian Balboa currency with the U.S. Dollar, giving expats the ability to spend freely without worrying too much about conversion. With a climate near the equator, Panama has a year-round growing season, which means there is plenty of fresh, abundant produce – great for eating and even better if you want to expand into agriculture. The highlands areas of the country offer a very temperate living environment with temperatures usually between 60-85 degrees year round. A stable government, a fresh clean water supply, healthy discounts and tax benefits for retirees, a robust communications infrastructure, pro-immigration government, low cost of living, English as a widely spoken and understood language – what more is there that an expat could want?

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