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Living in Panama
- Foreign & Commonwealth Office
- 6 October 2015
This guide sets out essential information for British nationals residing in Panama, including advice on health, education, benefits and more
If a person requires emergency medical assistance they can dial 911 and ask for an ambulance. Possible hospitals which can be recommended include:
Punta Pacifica, 507-204-8000
San Fernando, 507-305-6301/6350
Santa Fe, 507-227-4733
In case of an emergency situation, numbers to call include:
Emergency - 911
National Police - 104
SEMM (Mobile Emergency Medical Services) Private Ambulance Service - 507 307-9142
Red Cross - *455 (from mobiles only) / 507-315 1388
SINAPROC (Crisis/Natural Disasters) *335 (from mobiles only)
Transit Police 507-511-9281/511 9320
All educational matters in Panama are managed by the Ministry of Education. For assistance in having university degrees from the United Kingdom certified, it is recommended that customers contact the British Council. The nearest offices to Panama are located in Mexico City, Mexico and Bogota, Colombia.
Employment and Recognized Qualifications:
A work permit is needed to work in Panama. Information on obtaining a work permit can be found on the website of the National Immigration Service (information is only available in Spanish at this point).
Entry and residence requirements:
Requirements for residence include:
A. Three Passport Size Photos;
B. A written letter stating the types of professional or economic activities you will conduct in Panama. Here are the 2 activities Panama immigration is looking for:
Working for a company based in Panama in a professional capacity. While the decrees and Panama immigration have not come up with a list of acceptable professions, note that some are reserved only for Panamanian citizens. You will need to provide a copy of the employment contract, proof that the Panamanian Company is registered with the Panamanian Social Security Administration (CSS), and you have obtained a social security card.
Provide documents that you are either a Board of Directors member or a major shareholder in a Panama Corporation or you own a Panamanian company. If the Company or Corporation is new, submit proof that its corporate franchise tax has been paid along with a copy of its business (commercial) licence. If the company is over one year old, submit a copy of its tax return along with its business license. If the corporation is over one year old, submit a copy of its tax return or certificate of good standing. In addition, submit copies of bank statements from a local bank in the company or corporation’s name along with proof of any income producing real estate owned by the company or corporation and any other income producing activities in Panama.
C. Proving Solvency: You must submit proof that you are economically solvent by:
Proving that you deposited at least $5,000 USD into a Panamanian bank account plus $2,000 USD for every dependent.
Proof of income: Letter from your employer on company letterhead describing your salary. Include a copy of your Panamanian social security ID card.
D. Copy of Your ID: A copy of your driver’s licence, or your country’s government photo I.D. card. A copy of your passport is also required to prove citizenship in your country of origin. These copies must be apostilled or authenticated by the British Embassy in Panama.
E. Dependents: You must submit a Letter of Responsibility for your dependents.
Submit proof that your dependents are relatives with a copy of their birth certificates or for your spouse a copy of your marriage certificate. These copies must be apostilled or authenticated by the British Embassy in Panama.
Dependents (not your spouse) can apply up until the age of 25 if they are enrolled as full time students.
Dependents over 18 years of age must provide a notarized affidavit that they are single. These copies must be apostilled or authenticated by the British Embassy in Panama.
UK Benefits in Panama
If you receive a UK benefit and are going abroad, even for just a short time, you should notify the office that pays your benefit before you go. In fact any change in your circumstances, such as moving in with a partner, starting work, or even moving house, should be reported immediately to the relevant authority paying your benefit or pension.
Spending time out of the UK, whether for a holiday or to live, doesn’t necessarily mean your benefits will be affected. But failing to notify your local benefit office of time spent abroad is considered an offence and could lead to prosecution, imprisonment and even the confiscation of your home and possessions.
You may still be able to claim some benefits if you travel or move abroad, or are already living abroad, and what you’re entitled to depends on where you’re going and how long for.
For further information on what benefits you can and cannot claim if you live in Panama see the benefits if you are abroad page.
Non-exportable UK benefits
The following benefits are for people who are ordinarily resident in the UK and under no circumstances are they available in Panama:
- Pension credit
- Council tax benefit
- Income support
- Housing benefit
- Means-tested incapacity benefit/employment support allowance
Remember – if you are in receipt of benefits, it’s an offence not to tell the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) if your circumstances change, for example:
- You are going to live or are currently living in Panama
- You get married, or if you separate, divorce or are widowed
- You start work, increase your earnings or your savings
If you don’t tell the DWP it could mean prosecution, imprisonment and even the confiscation of your home and possessions.
For further details on what benefits you can and cannot claim if you live in Panama see the information about benefits if you are abroad.
Driving licenses in Panama are issued by SERTRACEN they can be contacted at: (507) 315-0000. Foreign nationals are only allowed to drive within Panama for 3 months, from the date of entry into the country. Replace or renew your UK license:
In order to exchange your British driver’s license for a Panamanian license, you must notify the Embassy so that we can provide you with the appropriate letter for the authorities. Please make an appointment to request this letter.
The Panamanian Transit Authority requests that foreign nationals present their digital driver’s license when requesting a Panamanian driver’s licence. Complications may arise if presenting a paper UK license. It is recommended that digital driver’s license be obtained before beginning this process.
The information requested to open a bank account may vary according to the bank you select.Please contact your bank for specific details.
A lot of the times the information might be as follows;
A photocopy of your Passport. This photocopy should include the photo and personal details page with clear signature and passport number and copies of most recent entry and exit stamps.
A photocopy of a second ID.
Two financial reference letters. These letters can be issued by any bank, credit union or brokerage firm that has dealt with you in the past. The letters should be on the company’s official letterhead, and be signed by an official of the firm, with clear contact details; they should be made out to the bank where you will apply. If you have another account in Panama, a letter from them will be requested.
Two professional or commercial reference letters, e.g.: accountants, financial consultants, lawyers. Again they should be on official letterheads with the relevant contact information.
A photocopy of the last 2 years income tax returns.
Letter from employer, or statement of your pension status.
Original signed account applications. No copies.
This information is provided as a general guide and is based upon information provided to the embassy by the relevant local authorities and may be subject to change at any time with little or no notice. The FCO and the British Embassy will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information. British nationals wishing to obtain any further information must contact the relevant local authority.
Published: 6 October 2015