Panama rolls out new residency options in 2021

If the idea of packing up and leaving has crossed your mind lately, you certainly aren’t alone.

With so many people across the globe staring at a new wave of COVID lockdowns, higher taxes, more chaos in their cities, etc., heading out for greener pastures is a really attractive proposition, especially now that so many people are able to work from home.

Even if you’re not ready to make a move just yet, you might be concerned about the direction of your home country. And in that case, you certainly want to at least start considering your options.

If you ever did have to leave, where would you go? That’s a question you want to answer way in advance, and not wait until you’re packing your bags. So if you ever do feel the need to make an abrupt exit, all the groundwork will already have been laid.

That’s why legal residency in a foreign country is such an important part of a Plan B; it means that no matter what happens in your home country, you’ll always have another place to go. And in Covid times, that makes even more sense.

This year we saw governments all over the world lock down their borders, shutting themselves off to foreigners.

But if you had legal residency (or citizenship) in that country, in most cases you were still allowed in.

For example, here in Chile, the government closed down its borders to all foreigners early in the pandemic. But anyone with Chilean citizenship, or legal residency, was still allowed to come and go.

Citizenship is still the ultimate insurance policy. In many respects, legal residency still provides a ton of similar benefits, but it can be easier and cheaper to obtain.

And just like you can have multiple citizenships, you can also have a portfolio of residencies which gives you the option to live, work and travel in a multitude of countries.

There’s nothing stopping you, for example, from having legal residency in four different countries at the same time.

We’ve talked about Panama a LOT over the years; it’s already one of the easiest places in the world to obtain legal residency.

For most people, Panama’s “Friendly Nations visa” is the best approach. And since 2012, this visa has allowed citizens from 50 countries to easily obtain residency.

There are a number of ways to do it, but probably the easiest option is to demonstrate economic activity by registering a corporation in Panama, opening a bank account, and depositing about $10,000 into it.

Friendly Nations include countries such as the USA, Canada, Brazil, Japan, Australia, and many European countries. You can find the full list of Friendly Nation countries here.

But if you aren’t a citizen of one of those countries, Panama has introduced a few new options to obtain residency by making an investment in the country.

[I expect these options are aimed towards Russian and Chinese citizens, but they’re open to anyone.]

One option is to invest a minimum of $300,000 in Panamanian real estate; this approach is similar to, say, Portugal’s ‘golden visa’ program.

$300,000 is the minimum, but you can spend more obviously. You can even finance the property with a local bank, as long your down payment is at least $300,000.

The real estate investment must be held for at least five years, after which you can sell it and pocket any gains.

(Note that after October 16, 2022, the investment requirement increases to $500,000.)

Panama will also issue permanent residency to foreigners who deposit $750,000 in a Panamanian bank in a fixed deposit (like a CD) for five years.

Personally I would be against that option; Panamanian banks have serious reputational issues and in my mind it’s not worth the risk of parking significant cash there.

Another option for permanent residency in Panama is to invest $500,000 in Panamanian stocks via a licensed brokerage firm, again, for a minimum of five years.

Each of these options also requires another $10,000 in fees for the main applicant, plus $2,000 per dependent.

Of course, each of these options is much more expensive and requires much more capital than the Friendly Nations Visa.

But if you’re looking for a way in to Panama and don’t qualify under the Friendly Nations Visa, you could consider these investment options. There are definitely some interesting opportunities in Panamanian real estate, so that may be the most reasonable option to consider.

Each of these options can be completed within as little as 30 days of submitting the proof that you have complied with the requirements.

(If you want to learn more, we go into even more depth about the newest Panama investment visa options here.)

The overall trend around the world certainly seems to be countries opening up to foreigners who want residency and citizenship.

We have highlighted a number of countries actively trying to attract foreign remote workers by offering easy temporary residency, like Estonia, Georgia, Barbados, and Bermuda.

And then there are economic citizenship programs that have become even cheaper, like St. Kitts and St. Lucia.

And now these new options to obtain residency in Panama.

A lot of governments have finally realized that they need to roll out the red carpet to foreign investors and highly mobile workers, so this is a positive sign.

Just remember that these programs can and do change. And on occasion they’re even cancelled—which recently happened with Cyprus’s Citizenship by Investment program.

So I’d encourage you to not procrastinate. You will want to consider taking action before anything changes, and before your Plan B becomes your Plan A.

Insurance is only worthwhile if you have it before disaster strikes.

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