In the wake of the pandemic, the world has witnessed a significant shift towards remote work and the pursuit of locations outside high-tax jurisdictions. Within this changing landscape, Panama has emerged as a rising star. With its favorable climate, reasonable cost of living, and relatively low taxes, Panama offers a compelling proposition for a diverse range of individuals, from investors and retirees to digital nomads. Additionally, its convenient time zone aligns with the US Eastern Seaboard, further enhancing its appeal.
Rise in Independent Means Visas
In the past year, Panama granted a remarkable 1,414 independent means visas, also known as “Jubilados y Pensionados.” This figure marked the highest number of such visas issued in over a decade, signifying the country’s growing allure. Notably, data from Migración Panamá for the first two months of 2023 indicate a continuation of this upward trend. By the end of February, Panama had already approved 281 independent means visas, with only four rejections—an indicator that this year might witness an all-time high in this category.
Investment-Based Visas and Trends
Panama offers a diverse array of investment-based visas, with more than a dozen categories catering to different investor profiles. While it remains early in the year to definitively discern trends, the issuance of 388 investor visas in 2023 suggests that the total approvals for the year might fall short of the 2,881 visas granted the previous year.
The decline in demand for Friendly Nations Visas (FNV), responsible for 90% of investor visa approvals, is a significant factor contributing to this trend. In 2021, Panama raised the minimum investment requirement for FNV from a nominal amount to US$200,000—a move that tempered demand. As expected, this announcement prompted a surge in applications during the latter half of 2021, straining the resources of Migración Panamá as they managed the influx. Consequently, approval volumes in the FNV category are projected to decrease throughout 2023.
However, when the outlier of FNV is removed from the data, a more positive investor visa trend emerges in Panama. Thus far this year, 61 primary applicants have been granted residence permits through investor visas, suggesting that by the end of the year, the total could reach 366—slightly surpassing the previous year's figure of 337.
Resurgence of Specific Investor Visa Categories
Remarkably, certain investor visa categories in Panama have experienced a resurgence in 2023. Both the Inversionista Forestal (Forestry Investor) and Inversionista Macroempresa (Large-Company Investor) categories have shown notable activity. In the first two months of the year, eight primary applicants secured residence permits based on forestry investments, marking the first instances of qualification through this route in five years. Additionally, four investors obtained residence permits under the large-company investor category, which remained dormant throughout the previous year.
Comparative Insights: Investor Visas
It's crucial to note that, over the last six years, investor visas accounted for an impressive 16.25% of all visa types issued in Panama. This stands in stark contrast to the US and the EU, where less than half a percent of all residence permits issued in recent years were tied to investments. This stark difference underscores Panama's robust focus on attracting investors through its visa programs.
In a world reshaped by the pandemic and the widespread adoption of remote work, Panama's appeal as an investment destination has grown significantly. Its favorable climate, reasonable cost of living, and relatively low taxes have contributed to its rise as a favored location for investors, retirees, and digital nomads. While the demand for certain investor visa categories has fluctuated, the broader trend remains optimistic. With the removal of the FNV, investor visas continue to show promise in Panama, indicating the country's commitment to attracting and fostering a diverse range of investors on its soil.