Few countries can boast so romantic a history, so pleasant a climate, so friendly a people, and so dynamic and modern an economy as Panama.
Panama City is the largest offshore and regional banking center south of Miami, serving all of Central and South America. The country has more than 80 well-regulated banks, 50 of which are multinationals, that collectively hold an estimated $100 billion in assets, with liquidity impressively high at an average 30%—far better than in the U.S.
And Panama is a country whose economy is on the rise, year-on-year, making it a smart option for businesses and investors. Investment incentives are available equally to Panamanian and foreign investors.
There are also special tax breaks for investing in tourist facilities. Tourist numbers exceeded two million in 2011.
If you’re considering retirement, owning a second home, an offshore bank account or any number of legal, asset protection structures, Panama is still the ideal location. And last year it opened its doors even wider for those looking for financial independence, personal liberty and unique investment opportunities, adding another option for residence to would-be expats and those interested in second citizenship.
Immediate Permanent Resident
On May 16, 2012, President Martinelli signed an order that created a new category of “Immediate Permanent Resident” aimed at attracting foreign nationals to Panama.
Executive Order 343 created a new category for foreigners from selected countries “that maintain friendly, professional, economic, and investment relationships with the Republic of Panama” making them eligible for immediate residence and eventual citizenship.
Under this new immigration category, qualified applicants will be able to engage in professional and economic activities, establish businesses and have the right to work in Panama—permissions that, in the past, have been difficult to obtain. After five years they will be eligible to apply for full citizenship.
This grants immediate residence and a “cédula,” the national identification card issued to all Panamanians, not only to the qualified foreign individuals, but also to dependent spouses, children under 18, family members with disabilities and dependent parents. Children ages 18 to 25 can be included if they are students.
Visa applications are made to the National Immigration Service (NIS), but subsequent work permits are governed by commercial and labor laws administered by the Ministry of Labor, with foreigners barred from some professions.
Professional Residence Permit
In addition to the fast-track residence program for foreigners looking to work in Panama, there is also a new “Professional Residence Permit” that makes it easy to qualify for residence without making a major financial investment or proving pensioner status.
Apart from the usual good conduct domestic police report, applicants for this visa need to have a bachelor, masters or doctorate degree, provided his or her intended profession in Panama is not one of those protected by legal restrictions for Panamanians only. Because of these limitations, this visa is mainly available to those in teaching or research positions.
The “investor visa” (inversionista) is issued to those who invest at least $160,000 in a permitted business and hire a minimum of five permanent Panamanian employees. It is granted provisionally for two years. Upon renewal an identification card (cédula) is issued. After five years, the holder is eligible to apply for citizenship. A similar visa is available for those who invest in agricultural projects.
An “immigrant visa” for those who want to become citizens of Panama is provisionally granted for one year, after which a petition for permanent residence must be filed. If approved, a permanent residence permit and a Panamanian identification card (cédula) are issued. After five years, the holder is eligible to apply for and receive full citizenship.
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