You probably didn't believe we'd ever say this, but there finally came some good news out of the Martinelli administration. Last Monday a decree was published in the Gaceta Oficial, which opens Panama's doors to citizens from a list of countries who want to undertake some kind of business activity here. Such persons get residency easily now. See the decree, in Spanish, here.
The objective of the measure is to attract people who can contribute to national development, relations between countries, and cultural diversity, the decree says.
In practice it means that anyone who wants to set up shop in Panama and has enough income or assets already - and the bar is pretty low on that - to take care of himself, is welcome to do so. That doesn't mean you can do anything, as certain professions can only be exercised by Panamanians, and for example retail stores are a no-no for foreigners.
However, under the FTA with the US, North-Americans can offer services in Panama without much restrictions, and it was a bit strange that there was no residency component included in that. This decree fixes that, and not just for gringos but for citizens of a list of countries with which Panama maintains relations of friendship, as the decree puts it.
The list of countries includes: Germany, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, Spain, USA, Slovakia, France, Finland, the Netherlands, Ireland, Japan, Norway, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Singapore, Uruguay, Chile and Sweden.
We believe that there was already a similar deal with Italy, which is not on this list.