Since my first visit to Panama in the 1970s I’ve returned countless times and visited every part of the isthmus except one—the Darién Gap, a large swath of swamp, jungle and forest, 99 miles long and 31 miles wide, that separates Panama’s Darién Province from the Republic of Colombia.
It was here in 1513 that Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Spanish conquistador and explorer, crossed the isthmus of Panama and became the first European to “discover” the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean. And it’s difficult terrain.
The Panamanian side of the Darién is dominated by deep valleys, rivers and a 6,000-foot-high mountain peak. It’s also home to a huge swathe of verdant rainforest—among the most extensive in the country.
You won’t find much else here. Starbucks hasn’t made it, and there’s no Home Depot. This is frontier country. But you will find an open door to immediate residency in Panama, along with a chance for profitable investing.
Get Residency in Panama and Make a Profit
I’m talking about teak. There are two elements to this: Thanks to Panama Law #24, if you invest in this tropical hardwood in the Darién, you’ll get an immediate forestry visa and the right to live in Panama.
To avail yourself of the reforestation investor program (inversionista forestal), you must invest a minimum of $80,000. But—along with residency—there are profits to be made if you’re patient.
The forestry visa is ideal if you want to live in Panama but don’t qualify for a retiree visa, or if you want to avoid the lengthy process needed for an investor’s visa. There are no age limits on a reforestation residency visa, but applicants must be 18 years old. Dependents can be included as an applicant’s spouse and children under 18.
After five years of permanent resident status, you can apply to become a naturalized citizen and receive a passport. You don’t need to live in Panama while your visa application is pending, although periodic visits to the immigration office are required.
Under the forestry visa all wood harvested is exempt from all export, capital gains and real estate taxes for 25 years. And all direct and indirect investments in the project are 100% deductible from your Panama income tax.
Editor’s note: The investment and the visa are separate. You make the reforestation investment through one organization…then you hire an attorney to manage the visa application. At the recent Fast-Track Panama Conference, we had teak experts and visa experts on hand to discuss the pros and cons of Law #24. As usual, we recorded the conference—and you can listen to every Panama idea that was presented (not just teak and visas). Find out more about the recordings here.