Residency and Citizenship

Invest in Panama Real Estate in 2021 and Apply for a Qualified Investor Visa

2/9/2021 8:00:00 AM
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The Qualified investor visa was released in October 2020 and it allows for the possibility of acquiring permanent residency in only 30 days, applying remotely. This represents a unique opportunity for citizens of those countries that are not included in the friendly nations list. Similar to a golden investor visa from Portugal or Spain, Panama offers a direct path to permanent residency by investing in real estate and other vehicles. 

The Friendly Nations Visa is a type of visa that also grants permanent residency, but it is only available to citizens of the countries that are considered to have friendly relations with Panama. These countries include Argentina, Uruguay, the US, and the European Union nations, among others. Until September 2020, this meant that applicants from other territories would have to apply to a temporary residency first (through any of the available visas) and only after 2 years, depending on the case, they would be allowed to apply for a permanent resident status.

In the life of a businessperson or investor 2 years can be a long time. Moreover, the main options for businesspeople used to be the Reforestation Visa and the Business Inventor Visa. The former involves a good investment (in teak land) but offering returns in a very long term, and the latter requires a large amount of paperwork and long application processes.

Thanks to this Panamanian version of the golden investor visa, i.e., the Qualified Investor Program, citizens of Russia, China, and the Middle East have a brand-new opportunity. They can acquire permanent residency in only a few months by making an investment through any of the following options: real estate, financial vehicles in the Panamanian stock market, and deposit in a local bank. Today, the real estate alternative is the cheapest one with a minimum investment requirement of 300,000 USD, while financial vehicles and bank deposits require 500,000 USD and 700,000 USD, respectively. 

Every cloud has a silver lining and Panama is the perfect example. Due to the restrictions on movement, travelling requires a much greater deal of preparation and many countries ask for COVID-19 negative tests in order to leave or enter. But the Panama government was smart enough to allow remote application for the Qualified Investor Visa´s prospective candidates. The foreign citizen that wants to acquire a Qualified Investor Visa can apply and go through the processes from abroad and even get a Panamanian ID card in the nearest consulate upon approval. 

In this article we describe the investment options and the application requirements for the Qualified Investor Visa in detail, especially stressing what we consider to be the best available option: real estate investment in Panama. 

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Real estate in Panama in 2021

The 2020 crisis has affected the whole world like no other, but in Mundo we see opportunities where others see defeat and hopelessness. That is why we analyzed the real estate market with the help of our experts and strongly believe that this is still one of the best places for an investor to put his or her money. Despite the world crisis, we have noticed very good signs in the Panama real estate market.

With every crisis, there is an opportunity, and the real estate market is a perfect example of this. Some have been selling at incredibly low prices and when the restrictions started to lighten up, we saw a huge number of buyers rushing out to properties for sale. This is very likely to happen again in 2021 since buyers tend to react when they realize they may lose the possibility of a good deal. 

When a crisis strikes, the stock market generally loses value and people put their money in what they consider to be more secure investments with higher returns like real estate. In this regard, Panama is an attractive market because it offers low prices along with a cosmopolitan lifestyle. In lifestyle, Panama can be compared to Miami or the Gold Coast, but an apartment here costs three times less. Maybe this is why we can find world-class developers in Panama City working in projects that offer the highest comfort, the most luxurious amenities and an exclusive design. 

For those who are interested in investing in Panama real estate, we encourage them to do it as soon as possible. There has been a noticeable difference in performance between bad and good quality property and with the crisis this difference is expected to grow. In order to find the right property, with capital gain or rental income possibilities and at the right price, it is important to move fast and it helps to consult with experts in real estate developments.

Moreover, now the possibility of acquiring permanent residency requires a minimum investment of 300,000USD, but this will increase to 500,000 USD in 2 years from now. The good news is that this program allows for the acquisition of a development in progress. Thus, you can acquire a property currently in construction.

The government requires that you deposit the 300,000 USD into a trust in order to get residency, but you can arrange with the developer about the payments and terms. As long as the funds are deposited and you have a purchase agreement you are eligible to residency and can pay the developer according to your agreement´s terms. 

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If you want to know more about the available investment programs, please check this interview with our realtor. 

The qualified investor program

The qualified investor program was released last year in October under decree number 722.This program offers a fast-track process towards permanent residency with the possibility of acquiring citizenship after five years of permanently living in Panama (with a permanent resident status). What is particularly interesting about this program is that it allows for the possibility of applying from abroad through a POA (Power of Attorney). This document can be apostilled or authenticated in the foreign Panama consulate where it was signed. 

The applicants who started their residency applications during 2020 through the Self Economic Solvency visa, have the option to transfer this application to a Qualified Investor Visa. Naturally, the fees would be updated as well, but the applicant will have the chance to acquire permanent residency much sooner.

Investor qualifications

This is the first time that Panama offers immediate permanent residency to investors (the Friendly nations visa does not require an investment and the business investor visa and reforestation visa do not grant permanent residency). There are three possible investment options that allow for residency application.

One of the conditions is that the investment must be made in the name of the main applicant or under the investor’s Panama company or foundation. However, if he/she shall apply through one of these entities, he/she must be the sole beneficial owner. The funds used for the investment must come from a bank outside of Panama.

This program is available to investors with three different options:

Investment option 1 - Real estate

This is probably Mundo´s favorite option as it opens a wide range of possibilities. A property is an investment in itself, and in this case, it also brings the advantage of permanent residency. As we pointed out in different articles before, a property in the country can be one of the proofs that show the meaningful ties of the investor towards Panama. This can be very useful when the person needs a tax resident certificate. 

The minimum investment to acquire this visa is 300,000USD free of any liens. If the property price should be higher than 300,000USD, then it is possible to put down the first 300,000 as a deposit and finance the rest of the property´s price. As long as the minimum required of 300,000 is deposited, the investor will be eligible for the qualified investor program.

Once residency is granted the applicant must maintain the property for a minimum of five years, after which he/she is free to sell it if he/she chooses to do so. Another important advantage is the possibility to sell the property and buy a new one, thus taking the benefit from a special deal. As long as the resident keeps a property under his/her name, it can be any property. 

Mundo considers this to be a unique opportunity because 1) the real estate market in Panama is now growing and 2) the minimum amount required for residency will increase. In 2 years from now (22 October 2022), the minimum required investment amount will rise to 500,000USD. 

While golden visa investment in countries such as Portugal starts from 280,000 euros which allow for the purchase of only refurbished properties in the interior of Portugal (not Lisbon), in Panama you can acquire residency for 300,000 USD investing in high luxury properties in the very heart of Panama City.

Investment option 2 – securities in the Panama stock exchange 

Real estate is Mundo´s favorite option but we understand that not everyone likes this market. If you are not interested in real estate or don’t have the time to look for the right properties and development projects, you may find this to be an appealing option. If you invest 500,000USD in Panama securities through any licensed Panamanian brokerage, you will be eligible for the Qualified Investor Visa. The investment must also be held for 5 years.

Investment option 3 – Fixed deposit in a Panama bank

This option requires a higher investment which must also be held for five years. By investing 700,000USD in a time deposit in a Panamanian bank, an individual is eligible for the Qualified Investor Visa. The banking institution must hold a general license. This option provides a return in interests which are free of tax and no obligation to fill a tax return. 

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Qualified investors visa - Costs

Next, we list the government fees for the Qualified Investors Visa: 

  1. 5,000USD to the Panama National Treasury for immigration fee.
  2. 5,000USD to the Panama Immigration Service for repatriation deposit. 
  3. If the investor applies with dependents, there is a 1,000-dollar fee added to each of the above-mentioned fees per dependent. 

For example:

Applicant alone

Immigration fee: 5,000 USD

Repatriation deposit: 5,000 USD

Applicant + spouse

Immigration fee: 6,000 USD

Repatriation deposit: 6,000 USD

Applicant + spouse + 1 child

Immigration fee: 7,000 USD

Repatriation deposit: 7,000 USD

Applicant + spouse + 2 children

Immigration fee: 8,000 USD

Repatriation deposit: 8,000 USD

Legal fees: for detailed information on our legal fees please contact us. 

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Qualified investor visa – documents

In order to apply for a qualified investor visa, the applicant will have to submit:

1-A copy of the passport including the main page that shows the person´s data and picture and every page showing entry/exit stamps from the visited countries. The same goes for the dependents, if any.

2-Original police record from the country of residency authenticated by a Panamanian consul or with a Hague apostille. The same document is required for the spouse and dependents older than 18. 

3-Original marriage certificate (if applying with spouse). The document must be authorized by a Panamanian consul abroad or have a Hague apostille. 

4-If the investor is applying with children, a birth certificate is required for each of them. The certificate should be authorized or apostilled like all the other documents. 

5-Three passport-sized pictures for each applicant (main applicant and dependents, if any). 

6-Certificate issued by a Panamanian medical doctor stating that the applicant has no contagious deceases and is in perfectly good health. The same certificate is required for dependents. If the document was issued abroad, it needs to be authenticated or apostilled.

To sum up, the Panama Qualified Investor visa is a perfectly good choice as it offers the possibility of a high-yield investment plus permanent residency similar to a golden visa investment. If you are interested in real estate, please check our developer’s projects and choose the one that best suits you. 

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Post scriptum:

The applicant can apply remotely and obtain residency approval from abroad. However, the applicant is required to travel to Panama within two years after approval to obtain the permanent resident card. The process can be completed in one day along with the biometric data collection. During the five years, the investor will have to visit Panama twice. Once after two years from the approval date, and once within the next two years. 

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