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Article By Abel Gomez-Tomiczek, Founding Partner, Gomez Tomiczek International

Dreaming of a life filled with sun-kissed beaches, vibrant culture, and endless opportunities? Opting for a plan B in uncertain times? Look no further than Panama—the jewel of Central America. 

In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the enticing world of Panama’s visa programs, including the Friendly Nations Visa, the Golden Investor Visa, and the Panama Marriage Visa, as well as the booming real estate market and practicalities like buying a vehicle that await savvy investors and residents seeking to make Panama their permanent (or second) home.

Unlocking the Door: Understanding the Friendly Nations Visa

Panama’s Friendly Nations Visa isn’t just any visa—it’s your golden ticket to a world of possibilities in one of Central America’s most enchanting countries. Established in 2012 to strengthen ties with select ”friendly” nations, this visa program offers citizens from eligible countries the chance to make Panama their permanent home. With a wealth of benefits and opportunities, it’s no wonder that the Friendly Nations Visa has become a sought-after pathway to residency in paradise or having a plan B in your pocket. Plus, as a permanent resident of Panama, you’ll have the option to apply for citizenship after just five years—solidifying your ties to this vibrant country for years to come.

Over the years, the program has undergone significant changes, with the latest updates in 2021. Under the revised program, applicants must follow a two-step procedure, starting with the submission of an application through a Panamanian lawyer. Successful applicants receive a temporary residence permit for six months, followed by a two-year residence permit. After two years, a separate application is required for permanent residency.

Cracking the Code: Who Qualifies for the Friendly Nations Visa?

Now that you’re intrigued, let’s talk eligibility. To qualify for the Friendly Nations Visa, you must be a citizen of one of the designated ”friendly nations” recognized by the Panamanian government. But that’s just the beginning. You’ll also need to demonstrate some form of economic or professional tie to Panama—a requirement that can be met in one of two ways.

Firstly, you can invest a minimum of $200,000 USD in Panamanian real estate—a tantalizing option for those looking to plant roots in this tropical paradise or maintain a source of passive income in the thriving Panamanian real estate market, no wonder Panama is now being called the “Dubai of Latin America”. If you do not want to go house hunting and opt for a more conservative option, you can deposit $200,000 USD into a fixed-term deposit at a Panamanian bank for a duration of three years. With current interest rates hovering around 4.45% up to 6%, this option not only secures your residency but also offers the added benefit of tax-free interest earnings under Panama’s fiscal code. And guess what? You can start a fixed term deposit account without having to travel. The opening procedure can be done remotely. This means investing in Panama is simple, even from a distance. In short, fixed term deposits are a smart choice for investors who want to make money safely, and at the same time your investment can guarantee you your personal plan B. 

Introducing the Golden Investor Visa: Elevating Your Status

But wait, there’s more! In addition to the Friendly Nations Visa, Panama also offers the Golden Investor Visa—a prestigious program designed to attract foreign investment and stimulate economic growth. With its VIP application process, accelerated processing within 30 days, and the option to apply through a lawyer without personal presence in Panama, the Golden Investor Visa offers an unparalleled pathway to a plan B and permanent residency in paradise. Contrary to the Friendly Nations Visa, the Golden Investor Visa is a one-time application, and can be done complete remotely, granting permanent residency once your file has been successfully processed plus the option to obtain a Panamanian Personal Identity card (called “cedula”). 

To qualify for the Golden Investor Visa, applicants must make a significant investment in Panama. There are three investment categories available, including real estate investment, investment through a securities house in Panama, and investment in a time deposit with a Panamanian bank. With minimum investment amounts ranging from currently $300,000 to $750,000 USD, the Golden Investor Visa offers flexibility and opportunity for investors of all stripes.

Exploring the Panama Marriage Visa: Love Knows No Borders

Love knows no borders, and neither does the Panama Marriage Visa. This visa option allows foreign nationals who are married to Panamanian citizens to apply for permanent residency in Panama. Whether you’ve found love in Panama or are planning to marry a Panamanian citizen, the Panama Marriage Visa offers a pathway to making Panama your permanent home.

To qualify for the Panama Marriage Visa, applicants must provide proof of their marriage to a Panamanian citizen, as well as meet certain eligibility requirements set forth by the Panamanian government. Couples must also pass a marriage interview. Once approved, applicants can enjoy all the benefits of residency in Panama, including access to the job market and apply for a work permit in Panama. Additionally you can apply for Panamanian citizenship after only three years of permanent residency. 

Navigating Practicalities: Buying a Vehicle in Panama

Now that you’ve secured your residency in paradise, it’s time to hit the road and explore all that Panama has to offer. Luckily, buying a vehicle in Panama is a relatively straightforward process. In fact you can even purchase a vehicle as a tourist, no residency needed. Whether you’re looking to buy a brand new car or a reliable used vehicle, you’ll find plenty of options to suit your needs and budget. Some of the most popular car brands are Toyota, Kia, Hyundai, Suzuki, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Chevrolet, and Honda. Spare parts for these brands are widely available across Panama, and you’ll easily find skilled mechanics capable of maintaining and repairing these vehicles.

When searching for second-hand cars, is the go-to classified website in Panama, offering a wide range of listings. Even if you plan to purchase through a car dealership, we recommend exploring different online offers to get an idea of current market prices and availability. Remember that it’s important to consider factors such as insurance and registration process as well. 

Panama’s Real Estate Market: A Haven for Investors

Panama’s real estate market is not just thriving—it’s booming. With a host of economic benefits, tax incentives, and a strong focus on encouraging foreign investment in US dollars, Panama has become a magnet for savvy investors looking to diversify their portfolios and secure their future in a stable and prosperous environment. In 2023 alone, there was a staggering 20% increase in home sales to foreign investors and buyers compared to 2020, totalling an impressive $386 million USD. These figures speak volumes about the appeal of Panama’s real estate market on the global stage.

Who’s Buying in Panama?

When it comes to foreign real estate investors in Panama, the numbers paint a fascinating picture. By nationality, the majority of foreign investors hail from Colombia, followed closely by Venezuela, the USA, Spain, China, Italy, and Germany. What draws these investors to Panama? It’s a combination of factors, including the country’s robust economic outlook, the ease of obtaining investment visas, and enticing retirement benefits.

Moreover, foreign investors are particularly interested in properties that offer immediate rental income—a trend that has fuelled the demand for new developments in Panama’s real estate market.

Modern Amenities and Features: The Cherry on Top

What sets Panama’s real estate market apart is the modern amenities and features that come with many properties. Beyond the traditional pool and gym, today’s developments offer a host of added bonuses, such as spas, cinemas, children’s playgrounds (both indoor and outdoor), and even co-working spaces.

These features not only enhance the overall living experience but also add significant value to the properties, making them even more attractive to investors. Furthermore, many projects come with a tourism license and property management on site, offering the possibility to rent out apartment units via platforms like Airbnb—an enticing prospect for investors seeking additional income streams without any hassle.


As you explore the possibilities of Panama’s visa programs, real estate market, and practicalities like buying a vehicle, take a moment to consider the opportunities awaiting you in this vibrant and dynamic country. Whether you’re drawn to the ease and flexibility of the Friendly Nations Visa, the prestige and potential of the Golden Investor Visa, or the enduring romance of the Panama Marriage Visa, one thing is clear: Panama offers a pathway to a brighter future filled with endless possibilities and boundless potential. So why wait? Dive into Panama today and discover the life you’ve always dreamed of.   EG

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