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Time to move to Panama as visa requirements may change soon!

Would you like to relocate to a comfortable country? Panama located in the Caribbean basin offers perfect conditions and acquiring legal residency there is not hard at all! However, the requirements may become tougher soon so if you are thinking of moving to Panama, you had better think fast!

permanent residence in Panama

Panama during the pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on every country on the planet. All national economies suffer and Panama is not an exception. As we as other Caribbean states, Panama depends very much on the tourist industry, the service industry, and foreign investments. Obviously, these spheres of economy have experienced a serious slowdown. However, the first signs of revival are already visible in Panama: the quarantine measures are becoming less strict and commercial planes are starting to fly.

If you have ever thought about buying a second passport or relocating to another country, you certainly have assessed the costs of doing that. Ironically, the pandemic made the costs of relocating abroad more affordable in some instances. For example, Dominica, Saint Lucia, and Nevis have lowered their prices in an attempt to attract more foreign investors during the crisis times. Acquiring full citizenship of these countries costs a bit more than US$ 100,000 these days.

At the same time, the prices of ‘golden visas’ in Europe remain the same. Moreover, some immigration programs are cancelled in this part of the world as has happened in Cyprus, for example. Well, every national government chooses their own measures to withstand the global pandemic. 

It must be noted that Panama does not have a citizenship-by-investment program that would be similar to the programs that its Caribbean neighbors are running. However, the country offers nearly twenty visa programs that allow acquiring legal residency there. The most popular of such programs is the ‘Friendly Nations’ visa but chances are that it may be cancelled or transformed in the near future.

The information that we present below cannot be regarded as official information but the rumor has it that the cost of acquiring legal residence in Panama via the Friendly Nations program may become higher. Panamanian lawyers and immigration agents are actively discussing this issue at the current moment.

What is going to change about Friendly Nations visa?

According to our information, some Government officials in Panama suggest closing the Friendly Nations program while others insist that it should be preserved but transformed at the same time. The authorities are discussing the possible options.

If the Friendly Nations program is going to transform, the main change will be the cancellation of accelerated acquisition of permanent residence in Panama. 

This means that when the changes go into effect, the program applicants will be unable to acquire a permanent residence permit immediately. They will have to obtain a temporary residence permit first and wait for two years before they can apply for a permanent residence permit. In other words, the Friendly Nations program is going to offer the same permanent residence conditions as all other visa programs in Panama do.

The requirements to establishing economic ties with Panama within the frameworks of the program are also going to change:

  1. While previously the applicant for the Friendly Nation visa could register a dummy company in Panama and that would suffice, very soon he or she will have to invest minimum US$ 150,000 into a new company or an existing one.
  2. The minimum required amount of investment into real estate in Panama is also going to become higher. The investment will have to amount to US$ 200,000 soon.

The requirements to the minimum banks deposit will remain the same though: having US$ 5,000 in the bank will be sufficient. 

Friendly Nations visa: a fast way of acquiring legal residence in Panama

If you would like to become a legal resident of Panama, you have to act fast. Until the new regulations are passed, the current rules are in force and if you apply for Panamanian residency soon, you will have to invest much less into relocation. Below please find the main characteristics of the Friendly Nations visa program that are currently in place. 

The program is aimed at attracting wealthy individuals and highly qualified professionals from fifty national states. These are the states with which Panama has especially close economic, political, and cultural ties. The states include the following ones:

  • Germany, Andorra, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Belgium, Chile, France, Brazil, South Korea, Croatia, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Denmark, Spain, the USA, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Hong Kong, Malta, Ireland, Japan, Israel, Singapore, Canada, Latvia, Poland, Serbia, Lithuania, Costa Rica, Monaco, Mexico, the Netherlands, San Marino, Montenegro, Paraguay, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Liechtenstein, Uruguay, South Africa, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Taiwan, Great Britain, and Greece.

If you do not find your home country in the list above, think if a member of your family has the passport of any of the countries. If he or she does, s/he can act as the main applicant for Panamanian residency and include the family members with the ‘wrong’ citizenship in the application. There is such an opportunity with a family application.

What is advantageous about the Friendly Nations visa?

The main advantage of the Friendly Nations visa program (as things stand for now) is the possibility to obtain a permanent resident status instantly, without having to wait for two years. All other Panamanian visa programs require that the applicant maintain a temporary resident status for two years before he or she can apply for permanent residency in the country. 

In addition to that, the application processing takes less time in comparison to processing applications for other visa types as a special ‘accelerated processing’ principle is applied.

One more characteristic of the Friendly Nations visa program will be interesting to those who would like to have legal residency in Panama but they are not planning to spend very much time in the country. The Government of Panama does not impose strict requirements on personal presence in the country for the holders of Friendly Nations visas. You can retain your permanent resident status if you visit Panama once every two years and stay there for a week or so.

Friendly Nations visa program requirements

There are three ways to establish economic ties with Panama, which is the principle Friendly Nations program requirement:

  1. Register a business company in Panama;
  2. Purchase real property there;
  3. Find a job in the private or government sector.

All these options have an additional requirement: the applicant for the Friendly Nations visa shall put US$ 5,000 in a Panamanian bank. If it is a family application, each dependent family member shall have US$ 2,000 in the bank.

Registering a company in Panama

You can establish economic ties with Panama by registering a business company there. Your name has to be among the names of the company directors. You can establish a brand new company in Panama or buy an existing one. We recommend setting up a new company because when purchasing an existing one you will have to check its history very well. Otherwise, you will be running unnecessary risks.

You do not have to be engaged in business locally. If you register a company in Panama and use it to do business elsewhere, it is perfectly fine with the country’s authorities. 

Please note: when a foreign national acquires Panamanian residency via establishing a business company in the country, nominee shareholders/ directors cannot be used. The company shall be registered in the name of the private individual who is applying for legal residency in Panama.

Buying real property in Panama

Another way to establish economic ties with Panama in order to apply for a Friendly Nations visa is to purchase some real estate in the country.

It can be residential or commercial property. The minimum cost of real property in Panama shall be US$ 100,000 if the applicant is to qualify for a Friendly Nations visa. 

Please note: the real property in Panama shall be in the applicant’s personal possession. If a business corporation is the property owner, the property does not qualify for the Friendly Nations program.  

Panama City is a modern megalopolis that offers a wide choice of both residential and commercial property to buy. If you are interested in this option, we will be happy to help you choose the property in Panama. We have a back office in the country and our agents have the first-hand information about pieces of real estate for sale.

Finding employment in Panama

You can also demonstrate economic ties with Panama thus qualifying for a Friendly Nations visa by finding a job in the country. If you sign an employment agreement with a Panamanian employer, you are welcome to apply for the visa.

Acquiring full citizenship of Panama

Citizenship of Panama can be acquired in standard ways: via marrying a Panamanian citizen or via naturalization. To become a naturalized Panamanian you have to live in the country permanently for five years. No donations are required to become a citizen of Panama.  

It must be noted, however, that the Panamanian legislation does not guarantee citizenship acquisition to anyone who has lived in the country for five years. After five years, you are entitled to apply for citizenship but this does not mean that it will be necessarily granted to you.

Practice shows that acquiring full citizenship of Panama is not so easy. First applications are rarely approved by the country’s authorities. However, if the application for citizenship has been rejected, you are entitled to file it again next year.

Economic ties with Panama will play an important role in acquiring citizenship of the country via naturalization. If you can show that you have residential accommodations in the country, and/ or a permanent job and if you really spend the best part of the year in Panama, your chances will greatly improve. However, you will have to take a test in Spanish and history and culture of Panama if you are to become a naturalized Panamanian. 

Why move to Panama?

The main advantage of Panama is the economic and political stability that it has been demonstrating over the last twenty years. The country has a wonderful transportation and business infrastructure, and a world-class healthcare system. The island states in the Caribbean that offer citizenship-by-investment opportunities cannot boast these features.

Panama is under the USA umbrella and this makes it attractive for foreign investors. The Panamanian authorities have built an inviting business environment in the country. The property rights and personal privacy are very well protected in the country.

One more attractive factor is the taxation system applied in Panama. Banks interests are not taxed in the country and neither is the income obtained abroad. Your income will be taxed only if it is earned on the territory of Panama.

The banking sector in Panama is also very strong. The country is often referred to as the business center of Central America. Over 60 international banks have branches there. Panamanian banks boast high levels of capitalization and liquidity and they are regarded as highly reliable banks by the international business community.

Panama is a country where you can live in comfort with your family. Unlike its Caribbean neighbor states, Panama is located on the continent between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans.

The climate in Panama is rather wet but deadly tornadoes, hurricanes, and tsunamis hardly ever occur in the country. The Panamanian nature is so beautiful and so diverse that it can take hundreds of pages to describe. You had better go there and see everything with your own eyes.

Panama is really worth considering if you are thinking about a ‘plan B’. If a disaster happens in your home country one day, having an opportunity to flee to a country with high living standards is going to be precious indeed.

Far from every national state is friendly to immigrants. Panama is so far but its immigration programs are not going to stay available forever. They do not have the statuses of national laws but only of Government decrees so it is easy to dismantle them. This means that you should use the good chance while it is up for grabs. 

Please write to us at the address specified at the top of the page before things change for the worse in Panama. Acquiring legal residency in the country is a chance not to be missed.

What is the Panamanian Friendly Nations visa about?

The Friendly Nations visa program was launched in Panama in 2012 in order to attract well-to-do individuals and highly qualified specialists to the country. This program allows acquiring legal residency in Panama by citizens of 50 national states plus Italy. Unlike other immigration programs in Panama, the Friendly Nations visa program has more relaxed requirements to the applicants.

What are the advantages of the Friendly Nations visa over other visa types?

The main advantages of the Friendly Nations visa program are as follows. First, a permanent residence permit is issued to the applicant at the moment when the application is approved. Other Panamanian visa programs require holding a temporary residence permit for two years before the foreign national can apply for permanent residency. Second, the financial obligations that the Friendly Nations visa entail are much laxer in comparison to other visa programs. Third, it is sufficient to visit Panama once every two years to retain the permanent residence permit.

What family members can be included in a family application for a Friendly Nations visa?

The main applicant for the Friendly Nations visa can include the following relatives in the application:
The spouse; Underage children; Children between 18 and 25 years of age if they are full-time university students; Parents of the main applicant and the spouse; Disabled relatives.

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