Residency in Panama

Panama has been continuously voted as Latin America’s Premier retirement destination by numerous international Magazines and NGOs. This is not surprising because Panama offers all the comforts and attractions of a major European City but without the immense social, criminal and financial problems that Europe is now facing.

What Panama has is affordable international health care (with many doctors trained in the US and US hospitals established here), private schools on a level equal to or in many cases exceeding United states and Europe, incredibly affordable world class Real Estate and a lifestyle that encompasses some of the best beach and mountain destinations on earth.

Not only is world class diving and fishing on your doorstep (with hundreds of islands, beaches, mountain retreats and jungle forests) but you have the advantage of an amazing international city (Panama City) with nightlife, restaurants, cultural activities and some say the world’s best luxury shopping on your doorstep.

But Panama is more famous for what it doesn’t have than what it has, which is why the rest of the world is so jealous and so desperate to stop their citizens escaping to Panama. Panama is one of the few livable countries not to tax its resident’s internationally sourced income. That means if you make money from foreign sources (income, rent, dividends, shares, business) you pay absolutely no income tax of any kind to Panama. The same is true of any Panamanian company you own or control, i.e. it does not pay tax on foreign sourced income. This is what attracts the world’s wealthy and numerous international entrepreneurs to Panama. It can be described as The Monaco of Central America but without the high cost of obtaining Monaco residency and real estate (yet).

This is also why Panama has one of the best Banking sectors in Latin America and indeed the world. Most of the world’s major banks are represented here because they do not pay tax on their international non-Panamanian sourced income. Holding your funds in Panama is much safer than Europe and many other countries because Panama has extremely strict secrecy and privacy laws. Freezing of funds is very rare and only for serious offenses.

Residency

Like Singapore, 35 years ago Panama is booming and requires a large number of skilled migrants and entrepreneurs to fill its growing demand for skilled personnel.

The comparison with Singapore immigration and growth policy is not coincidental as Panama has largely modelled its economic, fiscal and immigration strategy on Singapore with numerous residency programmes designed to attract the right kind of person to Panama. 18% of Singapore’s population now have over USD 1 million in disposable cash reserves. In Panama, the situation will soon be the same.

Panama offers programmes for those who are retired, for entrepreneurs wishing to establish a business, for skilled migrants and recipients of the pensions (pensionados). Below we discuss some of the programmes offered by Panama Government with which NTL Immigration can assist.

Advantages of the Residency Programme in Panama:

There is no Spanish language requirement and indeed no language requirement whatsoever (unlike Canada, United States, New Zealand, Australia)
Provided that you are generally in good health and have no seriously contagious diseases there is no onerous medical testing or procedures and in most cases even if you have illnesses (such as heart disease, etc.) exemptions and waivers can be easily obtained
The initial residency permit is granted within three weeks with a final permit generally after three months making the procedure a lot faster than others
There is no age barrier
The cost of residency in terms of government and professional fees is far below most other countries

The Panamanian Residency Options:

[Law Decree No. 3, February 22, 2008, and Executive Decree 320 of August 8, 2008, and other amendment]

If you invest in Panama Real Estate or make a deposit in a Panama Bank for a sum of 300,000 USD then you are eligible for permanent residence. Your family, namely spouse and children, can qualify for permanent residence as well, upon an additional
investment of USD 2,000 per each dependent. This program offers three investment options.

Option 1. The easiest form of investment is real estate which returns around 6-8% ROI. At present, you can buy inner city apartments from USD 2000-3000 per sq. m. Thus the typical investment would be three 50 sq. m. apartments returning around USD 1000 each. A USD 300,000 investment would, therefore, return roughly up to USD 3000 a month yielding around 7-8% after expenses. Since Real Estate in Panama grows at a rate of 7-10% per year and is anticipated to keep growing over the next twenty years, investing is not only a perfect residency solution but a financial solution as well.

Option 2. An investment of USD 300,000 or more is made in a fixed deposit account with one of the Panama Banks. The minimum deposit time is three years and investor needs to open an additional savings account in Panama for the collection of interest. The income from the deposit is not taxed in Panama.

Option 3. The investor may choose to combine the two above-mentioned options by making an investment in both Panama real estate and a Panama bank deposit where the equity and cash amount total at least USD 300,000.

For example, an investment of USD 200,000 in real estate property plus a deposit of USD 100,000 with one of the reputable Panama banks will be sufficient for an applicant to qualify for a residency visa. For every dependent to be included with the visa, an additional USD 2,000 must be invested.

For any of these 3 options, once the investment is made a residency card for 2 years is issued within about 4 months, after which permanent residency is achieved. Residents of Panama are eligible to apply for Panamanian citizenship after 5 years of permanent residency in Panama.

[Law Decree No. 3, February 22, 2008 and Executive Decree 320 of August 8, 2008 and other amendment]

An investment of minimum USD 250,000 is made in a fixed deposit bank account with one of the Panama government banks. The amount of deposit will depend on the interest rates offered at the time of making the deposit, but it must generate a monthly interest of at least USD 850.

Within 4 months a travel passport is issued by the Government of Panama for travel for the holder and his immediate family members. This is not a Panamanian citizenship, but a hybrid temporary passport.

The deposit is supposed to be for 5 years term (the same as the validity of a normal Panama travel passport) with an option to renew the deposit and passport for another 5 years, if necessary. As long as the deposit is held the investor and his family are entitled to reside in Panama, the deposit can be withdrawn any time but once with- drawn the residency is lost.

[Law Decree No. 3, February 22, 2008 and Executive Decree 320 of August 8, 2008 and other amendment]

This is the world premier pension and retirement visa having been voted as the best and easiest retirement programme in the world today.

The programme is open to any age or nationality but you must be able to demonstrate that you have a fixed income from a pension or retirement fund equivalent to USD 1,000 per month for the applicant or for the applicant with a spouse.

Another USD 250 per month must be generated by pension for each dependent.
If an applicant has purchased a property in Panama with a value of at least USD 100,000, the monthly pension requirement can be reduced to USD 750.

The retirement visa grants residency as well as discounts of up to 50% on restaurants, travel, entertainments and even government medical services.

Panama has been voted as on of the world’s top retirement havens because of its advanced medical facilities and infrastructure. There are numerous retirement communities in Panama where real estate is very affordable.

[Law Decree No. 3, February 22, 2008 and Executive Decree 320 of August 8, 2008 and other amendment]

The applicant must invest at least USD 160,000 in a new or existing business which employs at least five Panamanian residents/citizens.

Currently there are numerous business opportunities in Panama that also have immense tax incentives. For example the Panamanian government is able to give tax exemptions for tourism business. Due to the fact that Panama is growing at a rapid rate business in Panama is also benefitting from growth. Panama has an influx of immigrants, many with high wealth and spending power and small medium and large business is set to benefit form this huge growth.

Currently opportunities exist in tourism, hotels, fishing, manufacturing, wholesale and retail, medical centres, restaurants as well as agriculture. Indeed if you have good business experience and are able to give good service you will thrive in Panama.

[Law Decree No. 3, February 22, 2008 and Executive Decree 320 of August 8, 2008 and other amendment]

The Panamanian Government has implemented a country wide reforestation programme so that it can benefit form Timber industry development. In order to encourage investment in this sector the government offers residency for a minimum investment of USD 80,000 for a purchase of minimum 5 hectares in an approved forestry project.

The advantages are that this investment entitles 2 adults (married couple) and their children to gain residency, followed by the right to apply for a Panama citizenship, and eventually earn a projected income on investment of 2% yearly.

If you are a professional whose skills are needed by Panama you will be able to obtain residency without any capital requirements and without even having to have an existing job offer from an employer.

Due to Panama’s rapid expansion the list of skilled and qualified personnel is always expanding and it would be fair to say that Panama needs almost all highly skilled persons from Boat Captains to engineers to computer programmers. Indeed Panama has presently the lowest unemployment rates in Latin America which means that there is a desperate shortage of skilled people here.

At present there is no requirement to be able to speak Spanish, no requirement to prove job history and no requirement to have a job offer making this one of the easiest skilled migrant programmes on earth. All you require is your university degree and clean medical record.
However please note there is a small list of restricted professions which only Panamanians can perform. These professions are: lawyer, doctor, psychologist, sociologist, economist, all kind of engineering, nursing, social workers, accountant, real estate agent.

Panama’s National Service of Immigration has a registration of businesses dedicated to specialist’s activities. The immigration department issues rules and regulations defining what type of job titles or functions qualify as being “special”.

In order to encourage immigration from countries considered most favourable, Panama has created a low cost immigration incentive which allows you to obtain residency in a matter of three months with only the requirement to open a company in Panama and to “intend” to do business.

This category has 50,000 applicants per year and it is likely that it will soon be oversubscribed so you only have a window of a year at most in our opinion to apply.
The countries which are eligible for the Friendly Nations Visa are:

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Brazil
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • Greece
  • Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Mexico
  • Montenegro
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Principality of Andorra
  • Principality of Liechtenstein
  • Principality of Monaco
  • Republic of Malta
  • Republic of San Marino
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • Slovak Republic
  • Spain
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United States
  • Uruguay

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