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What is Panama’s Qualified Investor ‘Red Carpet’ Visa? 

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If you imagine Panama is full of dirt roads, rural squalor and economic disadvantage, think again.

For one, Panama City, like an emerging Miami with tall skyscrapers and sparkling ocean, has all the attractions of a modern, well-heeled, sophisticated hub – like you would find in Europe or North America. There are good restaurants, excellent wine, and plenty of culture on offer.  

Panama’s high-quality, low-cost medical care, modern transport infrastructure, low crime rate and consistently high temperatures appeal to the estimated 30,000 Americans who live there. 

Life outside the capital in Panama’s rustic interior is lived at a more sedate, relaxed pace. In Spanish-speaking Panama, the idea that things will be done mañana – tomorrow or sometime in the undefined future – is very much the rule of thumb. 

While it offers cheap living, affordable property, a pleasant climate and abundant natural charms, don’t expect anything to happen on time – doing so will simply lead to disappointment. 

That said, if you want a slow pace of life and like being surrounded by beaches, rainforests and mountains, Panama and the Panama City area may well be the place for you.

You will need to manage the challenges of rampant bureaucracy there, but you can’t have everything, right? With hundreds of beautiful, unspoiled beaches that span both its Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans coasts, you might not even care. 

So, What Is Panama’s ‘Red Carpet’ Visa?

When it comes to obtaining residency, Panama’s policy of actively encouraging expats to live, work and invest there has produced an array of options promoting economic and social development. From its Friendly Nations Visa, short-stay digital nomad and Pensionado visa, to its Panama Reforestation Investor Visa (among others) there are a variety of routes to access the country known for its melting pot of culture and influences. 

So, What Is Panama’s ‘Red Carpet’ Visa

The leading option for those who want to obtain permanent residence quickly by investing and then bringing their dependants is Panama’s Qualified Investor or ‘Red Carpet’ Visa. It also offers the luxury of applying without the necessity of being physically present. 

As with other residence schemes around the world, the government’s objective is to stimulate economic activity by attracting high-net-worth investors. As the name suggests, the highest-level offering gives permanent residency to those who make a minimum investment in Panama.

The ‘Red Carpet’ Visa, introduced in 2020, is quick and easy and provides all the benefits of residency. Best of all, the entire process can take as little as 30 days.

How to Qualify for the ‘Red Carpet’ Visa

There are three options for investing in Panama and receiving permanent residency through this scheme. These are real estate investments, securities or a fixed-term deposit. 

In all cases, the investment has to come through foreign sources, be made in Panama and be in place for at least five years. 

  • The investment can be in real estate or pre-sale real estate projects not currently under construction 
  • Securities listed on the Panama Stock Exchange through approved and validly licenced firms
  • Fixed bank deposit of at least US$750,000 held for five years in any licensed Panama bank.

While the rules officially state that you must invest at least US$500,000, the authorities made an exception during the first two years from when the legislation was introduced (October 2024), and the real estate investment amount can be US$300,000 instead of US$500,000. 

Permanent residence is granted subject to annual proof of the five-year investment. Once the investor has been a permanent resident for five years, they can apply for citizenship through the Panama naturalisation process. 

Applying for Panama’s ‘Red Carpet’ Visa

This visa can be requested in advance, prior to the applicant entering the country. The waiting period for approval is 30 days from the time the application is submitted to the Immigration Office.

You’ll need the following documents:

  • Complete passport copy legalised by the nearest Panama consulate
  • National criminal background check
  • Five passport-sized photographs
  • A certificate of good health
  • Declaration of personal background
  • Bank certification of funds
  • Legalised bank statements to verify the investment transaction.

The total costs involved are US$16,000 and include:

  • US$2,000 filing fee for the application for residence 
  • US$3,000 for filling out the visa application 
  • US$5,000 to the National Immigration Service 
  • US$5,000 to the National Treasury 
  • US$1,000 for general costs.

If the application includes dependants, you will need documentation to prove the relationship, that you live together and, if over 18, they are not married. There is an additional fee of US$2000 split between the national treasury and the immigration service for each dependant. 

For an in-depth view of the application process, read our How-to Guide

Applying-for-Panamas-‘Red-Carpet-Visa

Do note that the ‘Red Carpet’ Visa is a permanent residency permit, not citizenship. However, after five years as a Panamanian resident, you and your family may apply for citizenship. If that’s a route you intend to follow, then bear in mind that you probably won’t get it very easily and certainly not quickly.

Why Invest in Panama?

Panama’s strategic location, access to North and South America, proximity to the Panama Canal and status as a global trade and transport hub are all enticing prospects for investors. 

Its free trade zones developed financial services, and tourism and logistics sectors have underpinned the country’s sustained economic growth.

Positioned at the confluence of North America, the Caribbean region and South America, the renowned Panama Canal waterway is one of the world’s foremost commercial trading routes. Panama’s incorporation laws offer a straightforward and fast route to establish a company there. 

On the tax front, Panama’s territorial tax system allows entities that operate outside of its national borders to pay no taxes on foreign-source income. Meanwhile, micro or small entities that do business inside Panama can pay a mere 7.5% in corporate tax if they qualify.  

In terms of personal tax, those who trigger tax residence by living there 183 days a year and have a permanent home there do not pay tax on their foreign income. 

Income made there is taxed but the first US$11,000 is tax-exempt and there is no inheritance, wealth or capital gains tax. 

Once you have become a tax resident of Panama, your affairs can be structured so you’re left with very little or even no tax to pay – but it takes planning. 

Your perfect Plan B: Second Residence OR Second Citizenship?

Panama’s Qualified Investor ‘Red Carpet’ Visa: FAQs

Do I have to live in Panama to apply for a ‘Red Carpet’ visa? 

No. If you’re applying through this visa program, there are no residency requirements. However, you may need to visit the country a few times during the application process. 

Is Panama’s ‘Red Carpet’ the same as the Friendly Nations Visa?

No. Panama’s Friendly Nations Visa allows citizens of certain nations who maintain a healthy relationship of reciprocity with Panama to qualify for citizenship after five years of residency. Panama’s ‘Red Carpet’ visa is an investor program.

How long does Panama’s ‘Red Carpet’ visa last? 

After approval, the visa is granted and subject to review after five years. If you fail to give the immigration office proof of your investment at this time, your visa will likely be cancelled. 

How does Panama’s ‘Red Carpet’ visa compare to other similar programs?

Panama’s ‘Red Carpet’ visa ranks quite highly in our assessment thanks to its quick processing and fairly straightforward application process. Another perk is that you do not need to maintain a residence in the country to qualify, making it a good choice for those seeking flexibility. 

Does Panama’s ‘Red Carpet’ visa grant citizenship?

No. It grants the investor permanent residence. However, you are able to apply for citizenship after five years.

Where in Panama do most expats live?

Most live in Panama City, the largest urban centre in the country and the capital of Panama. Panama City is a modern centre of global trade that offers modern conveniences and amenities. The famous Panama Canal is just a 15-minute drive from downtown Panama City. 

Having A Plan-B Second Residency

With no physical presence requirement to maintain the permit, the Panama Red Carpet Visa is an ideal backup option for those seeking residency in Latin America. 

For high-net-worth entrepreneurs and investors, having a Plan B is an essential way to prepare for all of life’s eventualities. 

Having diversification internationally is just as important as it is in a financial sense because having an offshore Plan-B removes the risk of being tied to one place if things, as they usually do, change. 

Being prepared by having a second residence is more than a tax consideration; it’s about going where you are treated best in terms of investment, lifestyle and travel possibilities. 

Having A Plan B Second Residency

The Nomad Capitalist lifestyle is all about ‘going where you’re treated best’ and planting flags in different countries that serve you better than any other. 

However, you’ll need to plan this carefully, and that’s where Nomad Capitalist comes in. 

We help seven- and eight-figure entrepreneurs and investors create a personalised strategy using our uniquely successful methods. That will allow you to keep more of your own money, create new wealth faster and be protected from whatever happens in just three steps. 

At Nomad Capitalist, we have a network of lawyers, estate agents, accountants, and tax and company formation specialists all around the world. All that expertise and real-world experience come together when we advise your holistic, bespoke action plan. Discover how we do things here.

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