Panama is known for its strategic location, vibrant economy & warm climate. It has long been a sought-after destination for investors and retirees from around the globe. And the country’s Qualified Investor Visa offers an attractive opportunity for foreign investors looking to secure residency & enjoy the benefits of living in Panama!
In this full guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of Panama’s Qualified Investor Visa in 2023. We will focus on the often-overlooked “Executive Decree No. 109”. We will also have a close look at the visa’s requirements, investment options and application process.
When discussing the Panama Qualified Investor Visa, the investment amount for the program is of prime importance. As previously stated in the “Executive Decree No. 722” (Oct. 15th, 2020), it was set to increase from $300,000 to $500,000 on October 16th, 2022.
Yet, there is a crucial piece of information missing: “Executive Decree No. 109” (Oct 15th, 2022). This decree extends the deadline for the $300,000 investment threshold by another 2 years, to October 16th, 2024.
Join us on an in-depth investigation about Panama’s Qualified Investor Visa and learn how to use “Executive Decree 109” to your advantage before the deadline extension expires. Enjoy the read!
1. Purpose & Benefits Of The Qualified Investor Visa
Panama’s Qualified Investor Visa program aims to attract foreign capital and stimulate economic growth. It offers investors the chance to secure residency in Panama by investing into real estate, stocks or fixed-term deposits. Like many, this visa also comes with a number of amazing benefits, such as:
Legal residency in Panama. This provides you access to the country’s healthcare, education, & social services
Visa-free travel within the Central American Integration System (SICA) countries. They include Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Belize
The possibility of obtaining Panamanian citizenship after five years of continuous residency
A stable and business-friendly environment. Ideal for investors looking to diversify their portfolios and tap into emerging markets
2. Eligibility Requirements
To be eligible for the Qualified Investor Visa, applicants must meet the following criteria:
Be at least 18 years old
Have a valid passport from their country of origin
Provide a clean criminal background check (country of origin)
Invest a minimum of $300,000 in one of the approved investment options
Prove financial solvency and submit proof of income or financial resources
3. Types of Investment Options
The Qualified Investor Visa program offers three main investment options for applicants to choose from:
Real estate investment:Purchase of a property in Panama. It has to be valued at a minimum of $300,000 (until October 16th, 2024).
For pre-construction projects, the required investment amount is $500,000
Investment in the Panamanian Stock Market: A minimum investment of $500,000 at a licensed brokerage firm
Fixed-term bank deposit: A minimum deposit of $750,000 in a Panamanian bank. Deposited for at least five years
The Implications Of “Executive Decree No. 109”
1. Explanation Of Executive Decree No. 109
Executive Decree 109 was signed by the Panamanian government in October of 2022. It is a critical piece of legislation that directly affects the Qualified Investor Visa program. The decree extends the deadline for the lower investment threshold of $300,000 to October 16th, 2024, giving foreign investors additional time to take advantage of the lower investment amount – before it then increases to $500,000!
2. Effects On Investment Amount & Deadline
Executive Decree 109 gives real estate investors 2 more years of lowered investment amount. Yet, this does not affect the other investment classes! For stocks and fixed-term deposits, the investment amount stays the same.
3. Reasons Behind The Extension
The Panamanian government’s decision to extend this deadline is driven by several factors:
Encouraging foreign investment. By keeping the investment threshold lower for a longer period, Panama aims to attract more foreign investors & stimulate the country’s economic growth
Increasing competitiveness. The extension allows Panama to further boost its competitiveness among its Central American neighbors
Supporting the real estate market. Maintaining the lower threshold for an extended period can help grow Panama’s real estate market by attracting a larger number of investors or retirees
4. Impact On Investors
Executive Decree 109 offers a significant advantage to potential investors. The extension enables buyers to benefit from the numerous perks of the Qualified Investor Visa program while at the same time making a smaller initial financial commitment.
Exploring Different Investment Options
1. Real Estate Investment
It’s important to research different regions and neighborhoods in Panama first, and know what you’re looking for. Take into account factors like proximity to public infrastructure, social services & future development plans.
Consider the property’s potential for generating rental income and increasing its value. Also make sure to meet your personal preferences and lifestyle needs.
Conduct thorough due diligence. This includes verifying the property’s title and legal status, as well as checking for any existing taxes or liens.
Ensure all property transactions and contracts are in compliance with Panamanian law. Also be aware of any taxes & fees associated with property ownership – such as property transfer tax, annual property tax & capital gains tax!
At this point, it is advisable to work with a knowledgeable Panamanian attorney to guide you through the property acquisition process – and do the legal paperwork for you.
2. Exploring Fixed-Term Deposits
Benefits: A fixed-term deposit provides a secure, low-risk investment option, as well as the potential for higher interest rates compared to regular savings accounts.
Drawbacks: The capital remains locked in the account for a fixed amount of time. This can of course limit access to funds and the ability to withdraw early.
To find the best bank for fixed-term deposits, some research is needed. By comparing interest rates, fees & terms of the various Panamanian banks, you can most certainly find the right one for you.
It is also crucial to consider the bank’s reputation, financial stability as well as its customer service. Consult with a financial advisor or attorney to help select the most suitable bank and account type for your needs!
3. Investment In The Panamanian Stock Market
The Qualified Investor Visa program allows investors to invest a minimum of $500,000 in the Panamanian Stock Market. To qualify, foreigners must purchase securities through a qualified and licensed Panamanian brokerage firm.
Investing in the Panamanian Stock Market can provide you portfolio diversification as well as exposure to the country’s growing economy – alongside with the potential for capital appreciation and dividend income in the future.
However, investing in the stock market also involves inherent risks. They include market volatility, currency fluctuations & potential losses. So be sure to invest carefully!
First, choose a reputable Panamanian brokerage firm to work with. When comparing different brokerage firms in Panama, consider factors like their experience, reputation & included fees.
Also, verify the firm’s licensing status and ensure they are registered with the Superintendence of the Securities Market of Panama. You can also always consult with a financial advisor or attorney to help select the most suitable brokerage firm for your needs.
Ensure all investment transactions are conducted in compliance with Panamanian regulations & securities laws. Be aware of any tax implications and reporting requirements associated with investing in the Panamanian Stock Market, such as capital gains tax and dividend withholding tax.
It is also strongly advisable to keep accurate records of all investment activities and consult with a qualified attorney or financial advisor for guidance on any legal or tax matters!
Qualified Investor Visa Application Process
1. Necessary Documents & Forms
To apply for the Qualified Investor Visa, you must gather and submit the following documents:
A completed visa application form
A valid passport and photocopy of the passport’s main page
A clean criminal background check from your country of residence. It has to be authenticated by the respective Panamanian consulate or through the Apostille process.
Proof of investment in one of the approved options
Documents demonstrating financial solvency. For example: bank statements, income statements or other financial records
A health certificate issued by a licensed Panamanian physician
Any additional documents required based on the chosen investment option. For example: property title, bank deposit certificate or brokerage account statement
Note that all documents must be translated into Spanish by an authorized translator!
2. Steps For Completing The Application
Choose an investment option and gather the necessary documentation (proof of purchase, etc.)
Work with a Panamanian attorney or immigration consultant to guide you through the application process
Complete the visa application form and collect all required documents
Submit the application package to the National Immigration Service of Panama (SNM) – or through a Panamanian consulate in your country of residence
Pay the required application fees & any additional costs associated with the visa process
Await the SNM’s decision on your application. If approved, you will receive a temporary residency card valid for two years
After five years, you can apply for permanent residency in Panama. For that, you have to submit an updated set of documents and eventually fulfill additional requirements
3. Timeline For Approval
The application process for the Qualified Investor Visa typically takes about 3-6 months. It is essential to submit a complete and accurate application to avoid any unnecessary delays.
4. Associated Costs
The costs associated with the Qualified Investor Visa application process include:
Application fees paid to the Panamanian government
Legal fees for the services of a Panamanian attorney or immigration consultant
Translation fees for translating documents into Spanish
Authentication or Apostille fees for required documents
Other costs, such as medical exams, photographs or courier fees
Keep in mind that costs may vary depending on the complexity of your application and the professionals you engage.
Life In Panama As A Qualified Investor Visa Holder
1. Benefits Of Living In Panama
As a Qualified Investor Visa holder, you can enjoy the various benefits that come with living in Panama:
A high-quality & affordable healthcare system, with both public and private options available
A lower cost of living compared to most Western countries
Warm climate & natural beauty – including beaches, mountains and tropical forests
Diverse and friendly expat community & locals
Access to excellent international schools and higher education
US Dollar as the official currency
2. Understanding Tax Implications
When living in Panama, it’s important to understand the country’s tax system:
Panama operates on a territorial tax system. This means that taxes are paid only on income earned within the country itself
Income earned from other investments (e.g., rental income, bank interest or dividends) may be subject to Panamanian taxes.
Consult with a tax advisor or attorney to ensure you are in compliance with Panamanian tax regulations. Also beware of any possible tax obligations in your home country!
3. Opportunities For Business & Networking
Living in Panama also offers numerous opportunities for business and networking:
Join local business groups, chambers of commerce or expat organizations to expand your professional network
Attend industry conferences, seminars or trade shows to stay informed about the latest trends and opportunities in your sector
Leverage Panama’s strategic location and business-friendly environment to explore new investment or business ventures
The Panama Qualified Investor Visa In 2023
Panama’s Qualified Investor Visa is the perfect opportunity to secure a secondary residence. No matter your country of origin, having a Plan-B strategy for retirement or immigration is always useful. And Panama presents itself to be one of the best countries for that!
Enjoy the country’s business-friendly taxes & regulations, or immerse yourself in Panama’s diverse culture & landscapes. As a permanent resident, you have all the choices you want. And with the Executive Decree No.109 signed into law, you now have two more years of planning your move.
Want more articles like this one? Be sure to check out our blog section for the most up-to-date information about Panama! Also, for an in-depth discussion about everything you need to know about “Moving to Panama”, click this link right here.
Everything from business to real estate, we’re here to keep you informed.
Visa - FAQ
Is Panama A Good Place For Retirement?
Absolutely! Forbes Magazine even nominated Panama to be among the top retirement havens around the world. And not just once!
Panama's allure for business people and expat investors is easy to see. The country has a thriving expat community and is very open to foreigners!
Healthcare options are among the best in all Central America and you have a variety of social services at your fingertips.
For more on that topic, make sure to check out our in-depth articles about life & retirement in Panama!
Who Qualifies For The Investor Visa?
In principle, everyone over the age of 18 can apply for the Qualified Investor Visa or Golden Visa in Panama.
Nationality itself does not matter, as long as you can provide a clean criminal background check from your country of origin.
Please make sure to read all application requirements in the article above!
How Much Does The Qualified Investor Visa Cost?
To qualify for the Investor Visa, you have to invest at least $300,000 into local real estate (until October 16th, 2024). After that date, the investment amount will have to be $500,000.
Prepare yourself to also pay legal & government fees on top of the initial investment amount.
For pre-construction projects or investments into the Panamanian Stock Market, that number is $500,000.
For fixed-term deposits in one of Panama's banks, you have to invest $750,000.
Can I Bring Relatives With Me?
Yes. Children, spouses or dependable parents can be brought to Panama with your Qualified Investor Visa. They as well do enjoy permanent residency.
While the investment amount itself does not change in that case, the legal & government fees do.
Please consult with a professional law firm in Panama to make sure that everything goes as planned!
Do I Have To Invest Into Real Estate For This Visa?
No, there are two other investment options that are approved by the Panamanian government.
While for real estate investments, the threshold of $300,000 (until October 16th, 2024) is lower than for fixed-term deposits or stock investments, these two options are fine as well.
Feel free to ask us more about it.
I Am A Digital Nomad. Is Panama Good A Good Choice?
Definetely! Not only does Panama offer you high-speed internet but also very attractive tax incentives.
Panama has a territorial tax system, meaning that only profits that were made in the country itself have to be taxed.
If you earn your money online, there are no taxes to be paid in Panama.
How Long Does The Visa Application Process Take?
It usually takes about 3-6 months from application to finally being granted residency.
When Can I Apply For The Panamanian Citizenship?
If everything went well with your Investor Visa and you don't have a criminal record in Panama, you can usually apply for citizenship after 5 years of permanent residency.
Please make sure to keep your initial investment (real estate or else), as you need it to apply for citizenship.
Can I Sell My Investment After I've Got The Visa?
Yes, that is possible. However, if you'd like to apply for the Panamanian citizenship, you will need to keep the investment active.
How Long Can I Stay In Panama Without A Visa?
180 days in a row is the typical duration you are allowed to stay in Panama if you don't have a Visa yet.
Is Panama Safe Enough To Live There?
Yes! In recent years, Panama has become increasingly safe. This is especially true for Panama City and other regions in the country.
As Panama's goverment puts immense pressure and punishment on criminal organisations & gang members, the country has seen a drastic relief when it comes to overall crime rates.
In general, Panama is a safe place to stay. There are many Western cities that have far higher crime rates than Panama City.
The Panamanian government is doing their best in further protecting its citizens and visitors - and the results speak for themselves!
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