How Long Can I Stay in Panama Without a Visa?

by Alice

Panama, a tropical paradise known for its stunning landscapes, rich culture, and strategic location, has become a popular destination for tourists and expatriates alike. Its appeal is enhanced by favorable visa policies that make it relatively easy for many to visit without the need for extensive paperwork. Understanding how long you can stay in Panama without a visa is crucial for planning your visit or extended stay. This article delves into the specifics of Panama’s visa policies, the intricacies of extending your stay, and what to consider if you decide to make Panama your longer-term home.

Visa-Free Entry for Tourists

For many nationalities, Panama offers a generous visa-free entry policy. Citizens from the United States, Canada, the European Union, and numerous other countries can enter Panama without a visa for tourism purposes. Upon arrival, these travelers are typically granted a stay of up to 90 days. This period is generally sufficient for short vacations or exploratory visits to determine if Panama might be a suitable place for more extended stays or retirement.


Understanding the 90-Day Rule

The 90-day rule in Panama is straightforward but critical to follow. When you enter Panama as a tourist, the immigration officer will stamp your passport, indicating the date of entry. From this date, you have exactly 90 days to stay in the country without requiring a visa. It is essential to be aware of this time frame, as overstaying can lead to fines, deportation, or difficulties when re-entering Panama in the future.


Extensions and Overstays

If you find that 90 days is not enough for your stay in Panama, you might wonder about extending your visit. Currently, Panama does not offer easy tourist visa extensions. The most common practice for those wishing to stay longer is to leave the country briefly and then re-enter to reset the 90-day period. This is often referred to as a “border run.” Popular destinations for such trips include Costa Rica or Colombia, given their proximity and ease of travel. However, frequent border runs are not officially encouraged and can sometimes lead to scrutiny by immigration officers.


Overstaying your 90-day tourist allowance can have serious

consequences. Panama’s immigration authorities impose fines that can increase with the length of the overstay. Moreover, your ability to enter Panama in the future may be compromised, as repeat offenders can be flagged and denied entry. Therefore, it is crucial to respect the 90-day limit or pursue alternative visa options if you plan to stay longer.

Alternative Visa Options

For those interested in staying in Panama beyond the typical tourist period, several visa options are available. These visas cater to different needs, whether you are retiring, working, or investing in Panama. Here are some of the most popular ones:

Pensionado Visa: This visa is ideal for retirees who receive a pension. Applicants must demonstrate a minimum monthly pension income of $1,000. The Pensionado Visa offers numerous benefits, including discounts on various services and goods within Panama.

Friendly Nations Visa: This visa is available to citizens of specific countries deemed “friendly” by Panama, including the United States, Canada, and most European countries. It is aimed at those wishing to invest in Panama or set up a business. Applicants must make a minimum financial investment in Panama, such as purchasing property or establishing a company.

Professional Employment Visa: For those offered a job in Panama, the Professional Employment Visa allows you to reside and work in the country. The employer must sponsor this visa, and the job must fall within specific professional categories recognized by Panamanian authorities.

Self-Economic Solvency Visa: This visa requires applicants to make a substantial financial investment in Panama, either through real estate, a time deposit in a Panamanian bank, or a combination of the two. The minimum investment threshold is typically around $300,000.

Applying for a Visa

The process of applying for a visa in Panama involves several steps and can take some time. Here are the general steps you should expect:

Prepare Documentation: Depending on the visa type, you will need to gather various documents, such as proof of income, investment records, police clearance certificates, and health insurance documentation.

Legal Representation: Hiring a Panamanian immigration lawyer is highly recommended. They can help navigate the complex application process and ensure that all requirements are met.

Submit Application: Applications are submitted to the Servicio Nacional de Migración (National Immigration Service) in Panama. Ensure all documents are in order and meet the specified requirements.

Approval Process: Once submitted, the application will undergo a review process. This can take several months, during which you might be required to provide additional information or documentation.

Receive Visa: If your application is approved, you will receive your visa, allowing you to stay in Panama under the conditions specified by the visa type.

Living in Panama

Panama offers a high quality of life at a relatively low cost compared to many Western countries. Whether you are staying short-term or considering a more permanent move, it’s important to understand the cultural and logistical aspects of living in Panama.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Panama varies depending on location and lifestyle. Cities like Panama City are more expensive, with higher costs for housing, dining, and entertainment. However, many expatriates find that smaller towns and rural areas offer affordable living conditions. Healthcare in Panama is also relatively inexpensive and of high quality, particularly in major cities.

Cultural Adaptation

Panama has a rich cultural heritage influenced by its indigenous populations, Spanish colonization, and a diverse immigrant community. Learning some basic Spanish can greatly enhance your experience and help you navigate daily interactions. Panamanians are generally friendly and welcoming, making it easier for expatriates to integrate into local communities.

Real Estate

Buying property in Panama is a popular option for many expatriates. The real estate market is diverse, with opportunities ranging from city apartments to beachfront properties and rural estates. It is advisable to work with a reputable real estate agent and legal advisor to ensure all transactions are conducted smoothly and legally.


Healthcare in Panama is both accessible and affordable. The country has a mix of public and private healthcare facilities, with many doctors and specialists trained internationally. Major cities, particularly Panama City, boast state-of-the-art hospitals and clinics. For those on the Pensionado Visa, health insurance is mandatory, but it is often significantly cheaper than in North America or Europe.


For families moving to Panama, education is a key consideration. Panama offers a range of educational options, including public schools, private schools, and international schools. Many expatriates opt for private or international schools where English is the primary language of instruction, ensuring a smoother transition for children.


Panama is generally considered a safe country for expatriates and tourists. Like any country, it has areas where caution is advised, but violent crime rates are relatively low. Petty crime, such as pickpocketing, can occur, particularly in crowded areas, so it is wise to take standard precautions.


Getting around Panama is relatively easy, with a range of transportation options available. In Panama City, public transportation includes buses and a modern metro system. Taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber are widely available and affordable. For those living in more rural areas, owning a car might be necessary.


Panama offers an inviting and relatively easy entry for tourists, allowing many nationalities to stay for up to 90 days without a visa. This generous policy makes Panama an attractive destination for short visits, exploratory trips, or initial stays while deciding on a longer-term commitment. For those interested in extending their stay beyond the tourist period, Panama provides various visa options tailored to retirees, investors, and professionals.

Understanding Panama’s visa regulations, the process of applying for longer-term visas, and the practical aspects of living in Panama are crucial for a smooth and enjoyable experience. Whether you are drawn to Panama for its natural beauty, vibrant culture, or economic opportunities, respecting the country’s immigration laws and integrating into the local lifestyle will ensure a positive and rewarding stay.



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