Panama’s qualified investment residency program was launched in 2020 and allows obtaining permanent residency through investment in only 30 days without having to travel to Panama for visa processing.
The idea behind this program is to encourage high net worth foreign investment in order to boost different sectors of the economy such as real estate, construction and finance. It also represents an opportunity for citizens of countries that are not part of the selected ”friendly nations” (as the respective visa category is called) to be able to apply for permanent residence in Panama. The qualified investor visa or so-called ”Golden Visa” is similar to the ones offered by other countries and unlike other migration categories already existing in Panama, the ”Golden Visa” has four important advantages:
1. VIP counter for the reception and analysis of the “Golden Visa”.
2. Processing of the application in a maximum period of 30 working days.
3. Option to submit the application without personal presence in Panama.
4. Single application with the right to permanent residence and E-card the so-called “cedula” (Panamanian personal identity card).
HOW IS THE GOLDEN VISA DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHER EXISTING INVESTOR VISAS?
The ”Friendly Nations” Visa is the most popular residence permit based on investment in Panama and allows selected citizens from more than fifty (50) countries to obtain a permanent residence permit in Panama. Although the required investment amount is lower (minimum $200,000), with the new regulations and requirements, you will only receive a temporary residence for two (2) years, and at the end of this period during the renewal procedure you can apply for permanent residence in Panama. Apart from the fact that the procedure must be presented in person. In addition to this, citizens of the countries that are not included in the 50 friendly nations do not have the opportunity to obtain their residency in Panama and for this reason the ”Golden Visa” was created.
Something very interesting about the ”Golden Visa” is that before, in order to apply for a residency in Panama, it was mandatory in all the existing categories to appear before the immigration offices in person with your lawyer. In this way, through a somewhat lengthy process, it was possible to obtain the residency. However, with the ”Golden Visa”, the legislator for the first time created a special counter to receive these applications, like a VIP counter, and additionally the government is obliged to resolve your application in a period of no more than 30 working days.
Therefore, all “Golden Visa” applications may be submitted through an attorney before the applicant and his/her dependents travel to Panama. Only when your residency is granted and in order to issue your permanent migration ID card, you must comply with the passport registration process and appear in person at the migration facilities in Panama.
Unlike other existing investor categories, the ”Golden Visa” offers the opportunity to obtain a permanent residence permit in Panama through a single application, conditioned to the investment being maintained for a minimum period of five years (which will be verified on an annual basis by the government). If the investment ceases to exist before the fulfilment of this term, it will result in the cancellation of the permanent residence granted.
There are three investment categories for the Golden Visa
1. Investment in real estate
2. Investments made through a Panamanian brokerage house.
3. Investment in fixed-term deposits (CD) in the Panamanian banking sector.
The minimum investment amount required for the “Golden Visa” is half a million US dollars and up to $750,000 if it is a fixed-term deposit. In addition, the investment must be maintained for a minimum term of five (5) years or your residency will be cancelled. However, the legislator offered a discount for investments made in properties, making this option a very interesting alternative. When the Qualified Investor Law was created in 2020 the Panamanian government granted the opportunity that during the first two years of the Law the minimum real estate investment could be $300,000 instead of $500,000. The deadline for this discount was until mid-October 2022. According to statistics published by the National Immigration Service of Panama, in the year 2022, 93 qualified investors have applied for the ”Golden Visa”, of which all but one received permanent residency. These figures confirm that the ”Golden Visa” has become the second most popular investment-based immigration category (after the ”Friendly Nations Visa”).
It is for this reason that the government of Panama decided to extend the discount offered on real estate investments for two (2) more years. This means that investing $300,000 in real estate in Panama gives you the opportunity to apply for permanent residency, from the comfort of your home without having to travel to Panama and in only thirty (30) days. It is worth mentioning that for other residency permits in Panama the approval time takes approximately four months or longer (depending on the immigration category).
Once your permanent residency is approved, you are entitled to apply for your Panamanian personal identity card (E-card), the so-called “cedula”. The E-Card is reserved for foreigners with permanent residence status in Panama and offers you the following advantages:
1. Registration of fiscal domicile in Panama and application for personal tax number in Panama.
2. Personal identity card in Panama, facilitating many administrative, legal and/or commercial procedures, as well as bank account opening.
3. Possibility of acquiring Panamanian citizenship and passport after five (5) years.
The application for your residency permit as a qualified investor must be submitted through a Panamanian attorney in the name and on behalf of the client. Once the permanent residency is approved and in order to obtain the physical document (migration ID card) in your possession, the applicant must travel to Panama within two (2) years after your residency was approved. The procedure to obtain the migration ID card only takes half a day. After the migration process is finished you can proceed to apply for the Panamanian “cedula” and you must remember that you must visit Panama at least two (2) times in a period of five (5) years in order to keep your residency.
THE GOLDEN VISA ENTITLES YOU TO LIVE, WORK AND STUDY IN PANAMA
In the application for the residence permit as a qualified investor, all family members of the first line of consanguinity can be included in the same file without any increase in the requested amount of investment. This means that the main applicant (investor) can include in his/her visa application his/her spouse, minor children under 18 years of age, adult children (up to 25 years of age) as long as they are unmarried and studying full time in Panama, children of any age with physical or mental disabilities and even the parents of any age of the investor (principal applicant). All family members (dependents) included in the application will be granted the same rights as the principal applicant and will also obtain their permanent residency in Panama.
It is of utmost importance to know that the real estate investment has to be in Panama and the funds for the purchase of that property must be deposited into the seller’s account at a Panamanian bank. This way the officer who analyses the application file will be able to corroborate the investment and confirm with the local bank that the funds were destined to purchase the property. It is possible to invest in more than one property in Panama in order to reach the necessary amount of $300,00 and the law does not establish any special usage of the property. This means you can either invest in a house, apartment, farm land, wasteland or a commercial property The investment can be made in your personal name or through a legal entity (corporation or foundation) as long as it can be proven that the main applicant is the owner and final beneficiary of the property. Apart from the common requirements requested for all immigration categories in Panama such as police record, health certificate, payment of governmental application fees, etc., it must be also proven that the investment was made with funds coming from abroad.
REAL ESTATE IN PANAMA
The crisis brings great opportunities and more in the real estate sector. There are people who are selling at incredibly low prices and in fact there are places in Panama where there are no longer many properties for sale because most of them have already been bought. Panama offers an attractive market and a cosmopolitan lifestyle. It is for this reason that Panama is becoming more and more the focus of foreign investors and has earned the nickname of the ”Dubai of Latin America”, with the difference that an apartment can cost you three times less and using the US dollar as the official currency. EG