Residency and Citizenship

Qualified Investor Visa vs. Friendly Nations: The Ultimate Showdown for Your expat Needs

4/20/2023 8:00:00 AM
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The country of the canal is home to lots of happy ex-pats that enjoy this unique environment. Besides its interesting nightlife and diverse beaches, Panama is famous for its immense business opportunities. Many portals, journals, and perpetual traveler publications talk about friendly nations, Panama as a business opportunity, real estate residency, and lots of other attractive features coming from this beautiful land.

Choose your program: Panama permanent resident

It's not surprising that many people want to live in Panama legally because it offers lots of convenient opportunities. For Latin America, Panama represents a higher step because it has a dollarized economy, free trading with the United States, and no inflation issues. For people in the US or Canada, Panama represents a much lower cost of living, a freer environment when it comes to taxation and less controlling policies.

If you want to become a Panama permanent resident, you probably understand where I'm coming from and are eager to learn about Panama immigration requirements. This is one of the countries with a higher range of visa options including alternatives that cover different needs and suit different types of people.

From the Pensionado to the Reforestation visa, the country brings lots of options to live in Panama legally. Today, we feature a comparison between two of the most sought-after programs: Friendly Nations vs Qualified Investor Visa.

Qualified investor: your investment visa in Panama

If you want to invest in Panama, there are two options. About the reforestation visa we have published other articles before, so please click here if you want to get more information about it. 

On the other hand, the Qualified Investor Visa is the ideal option if you want to become a Panama permanent resident immediately. Of course, you'll have to throw in at least $300k for a real estate residency, a number that is supposed to be increased by 2024. The government also offers the opportunity to invest in other local vehicles. Simply speaking, if you invest in Panama through this program, you immediately become a permanent resident. 

Friendly Nations, Panama opens its borders to its favorite countries

The Friendly Nations Visa is not to be achieved through an investment. This is an option that's open to citizens of certain nations. They are approximately 50 and are considered to be places with which Panama maintains friendly relationships. The Panama immigration requirements in this case are:

  • The applicant must have economic links to the country through their own company or through an official job contract.
  • The applicant must have financial solvency by depositing $5000 in a Panama-based bank account. After approval, the applicants can withdraw this money.
  • Like in any other residency, Panama immigration requirements ask for a clean criminal record and a health certificate.

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Friendly Nations vs Qualified Investor Visa

At Mundo, we are proud to say that Panama is the house’s special, particularly in programs that allow a person to live in Panama legally. Both the editorial team and the legal team of experts have plenty of knowledge and experience regarding this country. Many of us live here or have lived here at some point, hence, we can provide you with the best discernment regarding Friendly Nations vs Qualified Investor Visa. 

Permanent residency

If you want to become a Panama permanent resident, there's an essential difference between both programs. With the Qualified Investment Visa, Panama grants you immediate permanent residency. With a Friendly Nations Visa, it used to be thus, but now it grants you a two-year permit after which you can get your permanent residency card. 


The Panama immigration requirements stipulate that a person has to invest in Panama to obtain permanent residency. For now, the only threshold that grants permanent residency is $300k. On the other hand, the Friendly Nations doesn't require any kind of investment. The process here is different as you have to get either a work contract or create your own company. However, besides the $5000, which you will recover later, this program requires no investment besides legal fees, police records, apostilles, translations, government fees, etc. Of course, if you want to establish your own company, you might have to invest time as well. 


The Friendly Nations visa has a big downside: it's only available for those particular countries. If you're not among the lucky ones, investing in real estate residency is probably the best option. Don't forget that there are other visas if you can't afford the $300,000 investment, however, except for maybe the Pesnionado Visa, they don't make you a Panama permanent resident right away.

Disclaimer: this article offers a general view of the Panama programs. For more information about the requirements make sure to consult with an immigration lawyer that specializes in Panama.

Why live in Panama legally

First of all, we want to stress the word “legally”. Any place in the world where you want to move, you want to cover all the fronts and make sure you do it under the requirements that the law stipulates. Panama is not the exception.

If you try this in any other way, the results will probably be exactly the opposite of what you expected. These moves can derive in fines, deportation, or even jail. Luckily, Panama has an option for everybody, and, even if getting official residency is more difficult than doing nothing, it's always worth it in the end. 

The best of it all is that you'll find one residency for every case. If you're a professional and have the corresponding degree, and if you are not from the professions that only Panamanian citizens can cover, you can get a professional visa.

For retirees or people that have a lifetime pension, pensionado is the best choice. It may not grant you a work permit, but you won't need it as with $1000 (the monthly minimum for this visa) you can make a living just fine.

Investors have more options both in properties, land, and financial vehicles. Panama is proud to support sustainable projects by encouraging investments in teak land. The minimum stipulated for real estate, stocks, and deposits is higher, but it brings other types of benefits.

It's worth noting that the government sometimes launches an extraordinary visa option that helps foreigners put their migration affairs in order. A good example is the “crisol de razas” program. These words are difficult to translate but they refer to an integration of different ethnicities into one. This was an extraordinary residency program implemented in Panama so that foreigners could live and work legally. Implemented from 2010 to 2014 it granted a two-year residency with the option of extending it for 10 more years.

In 2015 and 2016, the residences were granted for two years which could be extended to six years. In 2021 there was a new version of the said program but it already involved a mandatory requirement to hire a lawyer.

Live in Panama legally tanks to Mundo 

As we stated above, the Mundo team has very tight connections with Panama, and this is why we can assist you better than anyone. Always remember to look for the best advice possible before making big migration decisions. Whatever you choose, your Mundo representative is here to help.

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