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Panama Citizenship by Investment

Panama Citizenship by Investment

The Friendly Nations Visa is part of a special immigration to Panama program for those interested in acquiring Panama citizenship by investment. Although significant changes have been brought to this process in 2021, it is possible for foreign nationals who are able to make a significant investment to gain the right to remain in the country for long-term purposes and, ultimately, to apply for citizenship.

Citizens of more than 50 nations are able to apply for this type of visa. Read below to find out more about how you can open a company in Panama and benefit and what are the steps you need to follow.

In addition to this option, foreign nationals can also make an investment through the Reforestation Visa Program, which will also allow them to remain in the country permanently and ultimately apply for citizenship in Panama.

Our immigration lawyers in Panama will answer any questions concerning these programs.

 Quick Facts  
  Nationalities accepted (EU/Non-EU)

EU and non-EU 

Business investment option (YES/NO)

Yes. Fixed-term deposit investment

Real estate investment option (YES/NO)

 Yes
Other investment options
(if available) 
Forest investor/reforestation program
Living requirement in Panama Minimum visiting periods can apply
Residence or direct citizenship option

Direct permanent residence

Direct immigration with family members (YES/NO)

Yes, in some cases

Family members allowed to join the program Yes, under certain conditions
Residence visa/citizenship processing time (approx.)   1 month
Additional financial requirements for family members (YES/NO)  No
Timeframe for obtaining citizenship/residency by investment  Immediate permanent residence
Citizenship by naturalization after
3 to 5 years
Dual citizenship permitted (YES/NO) No
Reasons to choose Panama Low living costs
Climate
Growing economy and business opportunities
Affordable healthcare
Personal income tax rate Progressive rates of 0%, 15%, 25% depending on the taxable income value
Visa free travel to other countries (approx. number of countries)  > 80
Minimum duration for the naturalisation procedure   2 years, estimated

Maximum duration for the naturalisation procedure 

 5 years, estimated

Minimum investment amount for the residence permit for investors 

 $150,000 for the investor visa; different minimum amounts apply for other types of visas

What entrepreneurs can invest in   Business creation, property purchase, the reforestation program.
Investment deposit conditions 

Proof of investment (in the form of business creation, bank deposit in some cases, reforestation projects, etc. 

 Special conditions for the investment

The investments in reforestation projects are subject to specific conditions according to the level of investment. 

Legitimacy of the capital investment 

 Proof of funds is provided.

Personnel criteria related to the investment 

For the business visa, the creation of a company must also secure employment for a minimum number of individuals. 

 Document requirements

 Apart from the visa-specific documents, applicants will provide police records, copies of their resident card, proof of good heath and economic solvency, etc. 

Document conditions  Investment-visa specific documents are required and these depend on the chosen investment route. 
 Other criteria for the approval of the investment

On a case-by-case basis 

 Other ways to acquire citizenship

Through the regular renewal of a residence permit issued for non-investment purposes, followed by a citizenship application. 

 Your rights as a citizen

Obtaining a Panamanian passport, the right to vote, and other civil rights. 

Why work with us 

 Our team has extensive experience in handling citizenship applications, as well as other immigration issues.

 When to contact us  As soon as you become eligible to apply for citizenship based on investment.

Can you get citizenship through investment in Panama?

If you are looking to relocate to Panama, applying for the Panamanian Friendly Nations Visa is an option that can be suitable, particularly if you were considering doing so by opening an offshore business or an onshore company.

The Government has recently changed the conditions to the Friendly Nations Visa that allows foreign nationals from selected countries the option to apply for a visa that will grant them temporary and then permanent residency. The initial period for which the company founder is awarded residency is two years, which can be renewed (subject to conditions). In time, the holder of this type of visa can apply for Panama citizenship by investment, having had effectively opened a company or invested in real estate in the first place.

Some of the main conditions of the Friendly Nations Visa are outlined below:

  1. Temporary residence initially, the investor is awarded temporary residence for 2 years and then permanent residency;
  2. Investment purpose: the application purpose can be for work reasons or for investment in real estate of at least US$200,000;
  3. Eligible foreign nationals: the list of eligible countries includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, European and Asian countries except Taiwan; our team can give you the complete list of countries, with more than 53 jurisdictions, if you are interested in acquiring Panama citizenship by investment;
  4. Others: the applicant will need a Panama bank account and will need to provide proper proof of his economic ties in Panama.

Another option for becoming a citizen is through the Panama Reforestation Visa Program:

  • – a special investment program where the minimum investment value is $40,000 or $80,000;
  • – the investment is made in forestry projects generally focusing on teak wood;
  • – in some cases, the applicant can also receive the title to the land for approximately 2 hectares;
  • – the holder obtains a visa for himself as well as for the spouse and dependent children;
  • – the visa is valid for 1 year and it can be renewed annually up until the 5 year period when the holder can apply for citizenship; in case of the $80,000 investment, the holder of the visa is granted permanent residency after 1 year;
  • – an important advantage is that the Reforestation Visa Program is more affordable compared to other options;
  • – in addition to the minimum investment amount, the applicant will also pay a processing fee of $1,250 for the holder and $250 for each dependent, if applicable.

The processing time for the reforestation visa is approximately 30 to 45 days after all the documents have been submitted.

You can reach out to our team if you are interested in immigration to Panama in this manner.

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How do I become a citizen of Panama?

You can obtain Panama citizenship by investment if you have been living in the country initially on a temporary basis and then on a permanent basis as per the visa for investment conditions outline above.

Panamanian citizenship is effectively granted after five years of having lawfully lived in the country. Applicants should know that several condonations apply that also take other factors into account, other than the minimum time spent in the country. Those who, during their stay, are married to a Panamanian national can shorten this minimum time in the country. Our team can give you more information about the process and the requirements. 

How can you help me apply for Panama citizenship by investment?

Our team can help you apply either for the Friendly Nations Visa (if you are a citizen of the target countries) or for the Panama Reforestation Visa Program. Each of these two investment routes will allow you to remain in the country for a period that will suffice (when your permit is properly renewed) to grant you citizenship after five years in the country.

Working with one of our agents before and after making the submission can help streamline the process. The agent assigned to your case will help you prepare the documents, submit the files to the authorities and communicate with the Panamanian authorities in your name when you are unable to be in the country, as applicable.

Are you interested in offshore company formation in Panama, in buying real estate or accessing the reforestation visa program?

If you wish to know more about immigration to Panama, or if you have questions about other types of temporary residence permits, our team can help answer your questions. We can guide you through the application process if you are interested in retiring to Panama, as opposed to making a substantial investment. We also answer questions about permits issues for family reunification. 

If residency, followed by citizenship by investment is not available to you, our team will give you more details about the other available residence permits, depending on your particular case. The country encourages foreign investments and thus offers the aforementioned investment programmes, however, retired foreign nationals or foreign employees can also apply for residency.

We invite you to watch a short video on this topic:

Panama company formation – a short guide

Acquiring citizenship by investment in Panama is dependent on having opened an offshore or onshore company. Investors can stay in the country as an initial step under a visa that allows them to remain for a tempoarry purpose to run their business. This is the initial step for those who wish to gain citizenship in time, and it is followed by renewing the temporary residence permit for as long as needed to allow the holder to meet the minimum residence requirements that allow him or her to apply for Panama citizenship through investment.

Panama is known for its favorable incorporation rules, and ease of doing business, however, foreign investors are still required to comply with a set of mandatory steps.

Firstly, investors should note the important distinction in terms of taxation on corporate income: there are no taxes on the income of offshore companies that only do business outside of Panama. This means that a company incorporated in Panama that only offers services outside of the jurisdiction is not subject to tax. However, a Panamanian company that engages in business activities in Panama is subject to a flat corporate income tax rate.

While many entrepreneuts will choose to relocate to the country as the first step for gaining Panama citizenship through investment, foreign investors who cannot be present in Panama for the entire duration of their company’s registration can conclude a power of attorney for general or specific purposes, essentially entrusting a third party, one of our agents specializing in company formation, to handle the submission of the documents, as well as other essential steps, as necessary.

Our team highlights the key steps for company formation in Panama:

  1. Prepare the company’s constitutive documents: these are the notarized articles of incorporation, prepared with the assistance of one of our company registration agents;
  2. Register the new company: this is done with the Public Registry and it is a mandatory step to ensure the company’s lawful functioning;
  3. Post-registration steps: registering with the General Directorate of Income to provide details on the company’s primary activity that will take place outside of Panama (and thus be able to benefit from the tax exemption); bank account creation is also an essential step;
  4. Licensing: the company will need to obtain additional licenses, such as the commercial license (applicable to onshore companies that will engage in business activities in Panama).

With the changes brought to the Friendly Nations Visa, a foreign investor can no longer open a company and a bank account, deposit a minimum amount in that account and gain permanent residency. However, the company incorporation process remains accessible and entrepreneurs can explore their options for setting up a Panamanian company and conducting their business activities, while remaining in the country for a visa that suits their type of work/activities.

For those who are unable to open a business, or this is not their target approach, remaining in Panama for employment purposes is also a route to gaining permanent residency, followed by citizenship. Such as foreign employee will need to be mindful that some professions and activities are reserved to Panamanians or naturalized individuals (examples include architecture, accounting, chemistry, law, medicine, and others).

Gaining Panamanian nationality

The goal of many foreign nationals who choose to remain permanently in Panama may be to ultimately acquire citizenship. This is possible when the foreign national had been living in the country as a permanent resident for five years or for three years when married to a Panamanian national or when having children with a Panamanian citizen.

Foreigners born in certain Latin American countries or Spain can benefit from shorter periods of naturalization. The naturalization process can be a lengthy one, with a minimum duration of one year. We recommend that interested foreign nationals reach out to our local team of immigration specialists for complete information on the application requirements. Individuals who are ready to take this step should also know that Panama does not recognize dual citizenship.

If you wish to know more about immigration, our team can give you details about residency in Panama, the residence permit in Panama, and citizenship in Panama.

Contact us for more information about acquiring Panama citizenship by investment.