Have you ever heard of the Friendly Nations Visa in Panama?
Well, think of a place with the following advantages:
- Year long sunshine
- Sublime beaches
- Beautiful national parks
- A friendly, youthful and growing population
- A regional leader in terms of the Ease of Doing Business rankings by the World Bank
- An easy to learn official language
- A well connected airport
- A low cost of living
- Good private medical facilities
- Great international schools
- A government that is generally not too involved in people’s lives
- A low tax, territorial tax system
Sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? Panama boasts all of these advantages and moving there is EASY.
I was glad to spend some time there as the Coronavirus crisis went into overdrive in Europe.
A few years ago, the government instituted the so-called “Friendly Nations Visa,” which gave preferential treatment to citizens of 50 countries seeking residence in Panama. In addition to North America, many European and Asian nations, and even South Africa. Other nationalities have different options, more on that below.
All citizens of these 50 countries need to do is to create a local Panama corporation, open a corporate bank account, and deposit between $5,000 – 10,000 USD. They can keep that money in the bank, or buy real estate with it, or invest that money in something like forestry.
Next thing you know, you are a permanent resident of beautiful Panama. This means that whatever happens back home, be it an economic crisis, political turmoil, war, or wealth confiscating taxes, you can move to Panama and enjoy the same rights as Panamanians with the exception of voting.
It’s the perfect plan B. Sovereign Man has a good write-up on it.
What documents do you need for the Friendly Nations Visa in Panama
Obtaining the Friendly Nations Visa can be quite bureaucratic. You need a good lawyer to take you through the process. While many online lawyers offer to help you with this, they may not be sufficiently proactive in pre-preparing the required documents before your arrival so that you don’t have to spend weeks in the country dealing with the process.
– Two IDs from your country (passport & ID, or driver’s license if you don’t have an ID)
– A marriage certificate if you are married
– Birth certificates if you have children
– Proof of incorporation of the Panama corporation
– Proof of deposit of the money in the corporation’s bank account
– A police clearance certificate. If it is not empty, assuming what you did wasn’t too bad, it is still possible to get the visa, but your lawyer will have to go through some additional hoops.
– Proof of address
– A health certificate from a local doctor
Importantly, the documents need to be apostilled or certified at your local Panama embassy or consulate.
If your lawyer does a good job, he or she will take care of everything as far as translation and couriering of the documents. You then need to go to Panama for about two weeks to complete some additional paperwork. After about six months you should come back for a few days to officially receive your Permanent Residence card. Done. Finally, all you need to do is return once every two years to renew the card and your are in good standing
So next time your government starts messing with you, you just need to unregister from your country, spend half the year in Panama and you officially become a tax resident of Panama. No more oppression; just you, freedom, sunshine & your money.
This is the “cheapest” way to obtain the visa, but you can also buy real estate. It would qualify as an “economic tie” to the country. In many ways, this makes the most sense as a plan B. You have real estate, permanent residency, and invariably a bank account to cover the real estate related bills.
What other residency options are there in Panama?
If you are not lucky enough to be on the Friendly Nations Visa list, then there are other ways to get in. A common path is to invest $300,000 in either real estate, or a term deposit, or a mixture of both. This gives you a residence visa. After three years you can apply for permanent residency. Once you are a permanent resident you can sell the property or get you money back from the term deposit.
You can also qualify by demonstrating a pension of at least $1000 per month, in which case you get a Pensionado Visa (retirement visa).
By researching the topic on Google, you’ll find many people attempting to sell you the Reforestation Investor Visa (minimum $80,000) and the Agricultural Investor Visa (minimum $60,000) due to their low entry points. Such investments can also qualify you for the Friendly Nations Visa. You much be very careful in terms of the operator when choosing such investments. There have been many instances of fly-by-night operators that run away with investors’ money.
ECI Development is a big real estate developer that has been active in Central America for over 26 years, and has projects in Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Belize. This developer offers some teak wood plantation investments, and has a solid track record. You can find information on the teak wood market here, and on some of their prices here.
Again, it is important to have a reputable and reliable lawyer to help you navigate the process and not waste your time and money on bureaucracy. I can’t emphasize this enough – Panama has a lot of sharks.
Don’t wait too long
Finally, as Sovereign Man pointed out, the Friendly Nations Visa in Panama is in jeopardy as the government could decide to revoke it at any time, and my lawyer confirmed that there is political pressure to do so. Hence, if you were thinking of obtaining it, act now rather than later.
This book is a useful resource if you want more details:
If you are ready to go ahead or want to speak to a lawyer, you can speak to my immigration lawyer in Panama. Just get in touch with me. She’s great!
If you want to discuss your internationalization and diversification plans, book a consulting session* or send me an email.
*a consulting session is a discussion about your portfolio and objectives. It does not constitute legal, financial, tax or investment advice.