Panama Investment Immigration Programs Overview

Panama makes it pretty easy to call it home. Its residency-by-investment program is among the most liberal in the Western Hemisphere, with avenues for everyone from retirees to high-wealth individuals to those from friendly nations.

For years, the Central American country has successfully attracted Americans and other Westerners. Its appeal includes its location, its friendly people, its stable government, its generous tax laws, its high standard of living, its reasonable living costs, its strong economy, its widespread use of English and the U.S. dollar.

The country opened its doors even wider in 2012 with an easy-to-obtain residency permit, partly to restore its reputation after scandals related to its offshore banking industry and partly to bulk up its ranks of skilled workers as its economy grows.

Panama is often called one of the best deals for second residency, with a potential path to citizenship after five years. The nation ranked second after Chile in the 2016-17 Global Competitiveness Report by the World Economic Forum.

Those interested can apply with only a short visit to the country, with one of the lowest costs among residency-by-investment programs and with one of the shortest processing times.

How To Apply

All residency permit applications must be made through a Panamanian lawyer and must be in Spanish.

Immigration officials issue temporary residency cards valid for six months to the applicant and, when the applicant is approved, issue a permanent residency card. In a few weeks thereafter, a second residency ID called “E-Cedula” can be obtained, which provides the applicant with a local ID number. He or she can apply for a work permit and, after five years, becomes eligible to apply for Panama citizenship and passport. This process can take from one to four years. The applicant is not required to live in the country to apply, but a test in general knowledge of the country and conversational Spanish is required.

Documents must be authenticated by a notary and either the Panamanian consulate nearest the applicant or by apostille, which is available through the State Department (in the United States) or the Foreign Office (in Britain).

All documents must be obtained no earlier than six months before the submission of an application. It is also recommended that passports have six months validity before expiration.

f the application includes a spouse, the applicant should submit a marriage certificate. If the application includes children under 18, the applicant must submit freshly issued birth certificates with the same validity as above (6 months).

Applicants also must obtain a health certificate in Panama.

The applicant need not live in Panama to qualify as a permanent resident. But two short trips to the country will be necessary to process the temporary and permanent residency permits.

Processing is typically completed within 3-4 months after receipt of all documents and fees.


Foreigners are eligible to apply for citizenship in Panama after five years from the date of receiving permanent residency. A Panamanian passport allows visa-free travel to 141 destinations.


Panama combines the beauty of a tropical paradise with the excitement of a vibrant capital city. It has beaches facing both the Pacific and Caribbean, with wildlife-filled rainforests in between. Its infrastructure, telecommunications and health care systems are updated, but its cost of living remains affordable. Spanish is the official language, but English is spoken by many Panamanians.

It is known for the Panama Canal, making it a logistics center for world cargo, and for its strength as an international banking capital. Partly as a result of its commercial strength, it enjoys economic, political and social stability.

The country has long been popular with expatriates, with quality restaurants and entertainment in its capital and largest city, Panama City, which has about 1.5 million people in its metropolitan area. The airport offers flights globally.

Other benefits of residency include no taxation on foreign-earned income, foreign-earned capital gains and Panama bank interest income.

Updated by Emilio Cornejo Vernaza and Marcos Kraemer

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Citizenship By Investment

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Residency By Investment

For citizens of 50 nations, obtaining residency in Panama is possible if one invests in property worth at least $200,000, or deposits the same amount in a bank, or gets employed by a Panamanian company.

Countries that qualify for a Friendly Nations Visa include the United States, Canada, Australia, most European countries, Israel, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, South Africa and several Latin American countries.

The main requirement is to show economic activity. But that doesn’t mean a huge investment of time or money. In fact, you don’t even have to live in Panama.

Besides the bank deposit, the residency program requires evidence that the applicant works for a Panama company in a professional capacity, or owns a Panama company (such as by filing incorporation papers), or owns real estate; an authenticated criminal history background report; a Panama doctor’s examination report; and nonrefundable fees of $1,050 per person. Applicants are also subject to ID issuance fees, notary and translation costs and legal fees.

Qualified family members include a spouse and children younger than 18, or 25 if they are full-time students and single, disabled relatives and parents the applicant supports.

If applicants aren’t from a country on the Friendly Nations list, they can apply under one of the following programs:

  • The Panama Reforestation Visa requires an investment of at least $100,000 in government-certified reforestation projects, which involve planting mahogany and teak trees in the rainforest to replace those harvested for lumber. A provisional residency permit for two years will be first granted, followed by a permanent one after two years.
  • The Self Economic Solvency Visa targets high-income individuals, requiring a $300,000 investment in a certificate of deposit, real estate or a mix of the two. The applicant will first obtain a two-year residency permit, followed by a permanent one after the second year.
  • The Business Investor Visa requires a $160,000 minimum investment in a new Panamanian corporation that hires at least five local employees. The foreigner can be a shareholder and/or an officer and will gain permanent residency after two years. Note that certain fields of employment are closed to foreigners, including professional firms – doctors, lawyers and accountants – and retail businesses.
  • The Panama Pensionado Visa is for foreigners who wish to retire in Panama on a set pension, annuity or retirement fund. You don’t have to be retirement age, though. Just being older than 18 with a lifetime monthly income related to a retirement or disability pension of at least $1,000 or equivalent in another currency is enough to qualify. For each dependent added to an application, the minimum monthly income threshold increases by $250. Spouses can combine their income to meet the requirement. Dependent children’s residency is only valid until they turn 25 years old. Pensionados enjoy discounts on restaurant meals, cultural events, hotel stays, airfare, medical services, prescription medications and public utilities. Pension must be from government or international organizations. If from private sources, pension must be granted by a regulated, licensed entity, such as: mutual funds, banks, insurance, trusts or pension management plans. Passive personal income is not accepted.
  • The Private Annuity Retiree Visa is for foreigners who wish to obtain an expedite special Travel’s Passport from Panama, which is granted by the Passport National Authority office for five years renewably, as long as a bank deposit of $380,000 is maintained for five years, as per current APR, as the law demands a monthly interest income of $850/month. Besides the special passport, residency is also granted under this program since 1987.
  • Qualified Investor Immigration Program requires foreigners to invest for five years either in real estate worth $300,000 (this will increase to $500,000 from October 2022), or $500,000 in securities, or make a bank deposit of $750,000. 

These residency programs require an additional investment ranging from $500 to $2,000 for family members. Legal costs and government fees tack on an additional $3,500-$5,000, depending on how complex the case is and how much the law firm handling it charges.

Updated by Emilio Cornejo Vernaza and Marcos Kraemer

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