Webinar Report Digital Nomads: Welcome to Panama!
Digital Nomads: Welcome to Panama!
Webinar on Panama as a Digital Nomad destination (15 July 2021)
This webinar is about the benefits of Panama (Central-America) as a country for digital nomads / remote workers. We’ll discuss how to work and stay in Panama (migration), taxes, pro's & cons, favorite spots, tips and answer questions from the attendees.
- Welcome by Remco de Bruijn, Director Holland House Panama (moderator)
- The New Digital Nomad Visa in Panama - Mario Perdomo (De Castro & Robles)
- Round table with Digital Nomads sharing their experiences about being a nomad in Panama
- Mario Perdomo (Lawyer, De Castro & Robles)
- Remco de Bruijn (moderator & Digital Nomad in Santa Catalina)
- Suzanne Schuringa (Global Digital Nomad)
- John Dijkgraaf (Digital Nomad in Panama-City)
- Ankie van Aalten (Digital Nomad in Bocas del Toro)
- Q&A with the speakers
Presentation on Remote Workers visa (Digital Nomad visa) and Friendly Nations visa by Mario Perdomo
The Digital Nomad visa (officially called the Remote Workers visa), is an incentive to stimulate tourism in Panama after the pandemic. This visa allows all nomads to work in Panama for 9 to 18 months. However, if Panama is the place for you and you would like to stay longer, another alternative would probably be better, which is called the Friendly Nations visa. Both permits are up for changes soon.
- Short welcome video of Samira Gozaine, General Director of the National Migration Service of Panama.
- Covid arrival info: PCR / Antigen test max. 48 hours before arrival. At the moment: Curfew from 10 pm to 4 am in Panama-City. Mandatory use of masks in public places.
There are 3 options when relocating to Panama:
- You can stay in Panama for up to 3 months as a tourist with a tourist visa.
- Digital Nomad permit
- Friendly nations permit
Basic requirements for all options:
Full copy of passport w/entry stamps, legalized police record, good health certificate, migration affidavit, passport photos. All documents you bring from abroad need to be legalized first and then translated in Panama by official translator.
Requirements for a Remote Worker Permit (Digital Nomad Visa)
For the Remote Worker permit you have to be employed by a transnational company or be self-employed / entrepreneur. Your earnings have to come from abroad and have to exceed 3000 dollars per month. The requirements are: a digital application form, passport photos, international coverage health insurance, proof of employment or self-sufficiency, affidavit renouncing any local work opportunities, proof of foreign earnings, US 250 in application rights.The estimated overall costs are between US 1,500 -2000 per applicant.
The visa requirements are subject to change because it is a fairly new permit (e.g. adding family members to the visa).
Requirements Friendly Countries visa (prolonged stay)
For the Friendly Nations visa to be eligible you need to be a citizen from a country on the Friendly Nations list, most countries in Europe (including the Netherlands), North & South America and Asia are on the list. Besides that, you need to be employed, be an entrepreneur, or invest in property in Panama. This process is fairly simple and attractive if you want to set up a business. It is the most popular way to obtain your residency. Important to mention is that if you consider setting up a business in Panama, any income that you generate abroad will not be taxed here in Panama. The only taxes you need to pay is a yearly fixed payment of 300 dollars.
The requirements are: bank statement evidencing > 5.000 USD in savings, proof of purpose of residency (work or investment), USD 250 in application rights, USD 800 in repatriation expenses and depending on the purpose of the residency, a work permit might be required.
IMPORTANT: There is a 17th August deadline (update: now 7 August deadline) to obtain permanent residency by setting up a corporation (an SA). After this date, setting up an SA is no longer reason to obtain permanent residency. Moreover, for the other reasons, you will first get a temporary residency for 2 years if you apply after mentioned date.
Taxes: most important taxes are corporate tax of 25% (for small companies 11k USD is tax free, 11-50k USD is 15% and amount above that 25%), dividend tax is 10% and annual franchise tax is 300 USD. Panama has a territorial tax system, so income from abroad is not taxed in Panama.
Roundtable with Digital Nomads
Introducing the digital nomads:
Suzanne Schuringa has been a digital nomad for 5 years and she travelled around in Asia, Africa and the US. She is a freelancer in marketing, food design, concept development and photography.
John Dijkgraaf lived for 3 years in the Bahamas and moved 1.5 years ago to Panama. He is a trader on the stock exchange.
Ankie van Aalten moved to Bocas del Toro, Panama 1.5 years ago, she is teaching Dutch online.
Remco de Bruijn (moderator) worked a couple of months remotely from Santa Catalina & now lives & works in Panama-City
During the roundtable several topics have been discussed: how to decide on a destination, the pros and cons of Panama as a digital nomad hub and some tips and tricks.
When deciding on a destination all digital nomads agreed upon the fact that good wifi is essential. Also, an affordable place and a place where you can network with other digital nomads is important. Suzanne also highlighted that for her a women-friendly place is important when deciding on a destination.
Digital Nomads John and Ankie both talked about the pros and cons of Panama as a digital nomad destination. “Panama has it all!”, mentioned by John. Panama has good internet, good weather, a well connected airport, no tax on foreign income and economic stability because of the canal. Ankie agrees on this and what she also likes about Panama is the easiness to connect with locals and the beautiful beaches and islands.
But of course, there are also some drawbacks of being a digital nomad in Panama, both Ankie and John agree that Panama is not the cheapest place to live. It's not expensive but compared to Asia or Colombia it's not cheap. Besides that, not everyone speaks English in Panama so you have to learn Spanish to be able to communicate with the locals.
The digital nomads also shared some tips and tricks and they all agree upon the fact that finding good co-working spaces and communities are key to connect with new people. In order to find these communities and to connect with people they use social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook (forums and groups like Young Expats in Panama for ex) , InterNations and LinkedIn.
To find out whether Panama is the place for you to work as a digital nomad, John recommends booking a vacation first to get a good picture of Panama and whether you would like to live in Panama
Finally the audience asked the following questions during the Q&A session.
Question 1: Is it safe in Panama?
Both John and Ankie mentioned that they feel very safe in Panama. They never had bad experiences but of course you should not walk alone at night in a bad neighbourhood. It's all about using common sense.
Question 2: what do most digital nomads do for work?
It's hard to answer this question but according to Ankie in Bocas a lot of people have their own business related to tourism and there are some personal trainers. But it depends a lot on the person and almost all is possible!
Question 3: What are the monthly costs of living in Panama?
Between 750-1000 per month is the estimation of the digital nomads. For 350-600 dollars you can find an apartment and the estimated cost of groceries are 250 per month according to the government. However, they might have gone up.
Remco: Groceries are quite expensive here, but the real estate prices / rent decreased a lot.
You can also share an apartment with other people.
Ankie: In Bocas, rent is around 450 dollars if you want to rent something small. But I think the costs are similar to Panama City.
Question 4: Are there specific forums, groups worldwide to find out about other nomad destinations?
Suzanne: That is a difficult question but Facebook groups might help. I would recommend working together with digital nomad instagram influencers.
Remco: On Linkedin you have a number of Digital Nomads groups. The one I just set up on personal account is Digital Nomads Panama, which is right now the only one on Panama on LI. (see more information on this below).
John: InterNation and facebook are the only ones I use.
Ankie: I look for groups in Facebook, you have one in Bocas del Toro for example
Question 5: Is there a minimum of days required to maintain your tax residency here in Panama?
Mario: 183 days a year for an individual.
Question 6: What is the covid situation in Panama?
John: Face masks are mandatory, there is a curfew at 10pm but besides that everything is open, except for the nightlife.
Mario: The situation is getting better, vaccination is increasing and Panama is promoting vaccination. People in their 20s and 30s are getting vaccinated. Even young children now in some places. I don't think we will go back to the strict measurements from before. You can also check on the official panama tourist website what the current measurements are.
If you are a Digital Nomads, you're welcome to join the recently created LinkedIn group: Digital Nomads Panama. In this group everyone can share information, tips, tricks, best spots and we will also post some updates. Feel free to join!