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Socio-economic and political turmoil is a key driver for third country nationals to seek second residencies through investment abroad. For many nationals from countries such as South Africa, Ukraine, Iran and Turkey a Golden Visa or second country residency offers the peace of mind that they’ll have a bolt-hole in the event that the outlook in their home respective countries were to deteriorates suddenly.

For South Africans, in particular, Panama holds significant appeal as a second residency country and retirement destination. Here are just a few of the key reasons retirees from the US and further afield:

Affordable cost of living: For American retirees, in particular, Panama is an excellent choice as a retirement destination. The country’s currency is the US dollar, and everything from rent to dining out compares favourable against the cost of living in most US cities – especially if you settle outside of Panama City.

Tropical climate: If tropical beaches and sunshine is your thing, you’re going to love Panama City’s beaches. For those who prefer less humidity, however, cities like Boquete and Santa Fe offer a more temperate climate.

Modern infrastructure: Panama boasts very modern infrastructure, with Panama City often referred to as the Hong Kong of Latin America. Internet connectivity, cable TV and telephonic services in Panama are all as reliable as the are in the US, and their tap water is potable. Airport infrastructure is also good, with flights from Panama City to Miami taking only 2.5 hours.

International banking centre: Panama City is a key regional hub for cross-border banking service, with banking brands from across the globe being well represented in the city.

Established expat communities: Most of Panama’s cities have large and established expat communities, making the decision to retire in Panama far less daunting from a cultural point of view.

Spanish proficiency not essential: English is widely spoken, and you could get by with no or very limited Spanish language proficiency.

World class shopping: Shopping in Panama is on a par with the US – the Riba Smith grocery chains stock most of the products, brands and goods you’d find in their US counterparts.

Affordable, quality healthcare: Healthcare in Panama scores well in terms of international standards, with the costs of treatment being significantly lower than in the US. In terms of signing up for health insurance, you can get decent coverage for around $100 per month.

Pro-business environment: Considering starting a side business venture when you retire in Panama? The country has a very pro-business stance, sound telecommunications infrastructure, a highly educated workforce, and the cost of doing business is quite low.



1. The Panama Pensionado Visa Programme 2018

Launched in 1987, the Panama Retirement Visa Programme, also referred to as the Panama Retiree Residency Programme, is one of the best retirement residency schemes in the world. Combined with the country’s affordable cost of living, it therefore comes as no surprise that Panama has become a retirement destination of choice for US citizens, in particular.

The Pensionado Visa is one of the most popular ways for acquiring residency rights in Panama, and offers expat retirees a bouquet of benefits. Pensioners get to enjoy 30% off bus, train and boat tickets, a 25% discount on monthly electricity bills, as well as up to 50% off hotel stays and entertainment. What makes the programme even more appealing is that you cannot arbitrarily lose your pensioner residency status, as the government has pledged to protect the residency rights of pensionado visa holders in perpetuity.

What’s more, you are eligible to apply for a pensioners’ visa even if you’ve not yet reached the age of 60 years.

In order to qualify for a retirement visa, you’ll have to draw a pension of no less than $1,000 per month, with an additional $250 pension income required for secondary dependent visa holders. Beyond this, pensioners are not required to buy property to qualify. The application process can typically take up to 6 months to complete.

NB: Expat pensioners holding holding a Pensionado Visa do NOT become entitled to apply for Panamanian Citizenship.

2. The Panama Private Income Retiree Visa Programme

This visa option is ideally suited for retirees who do not receive the requisite pension required to apply for the Panama retirement visa, but hold a capital lump sum of around $250,000, capable of yielding at least $750 per month when invested with the National Bank of Panama on a 5-year Certificate of Deposit basis. This visa can be renewed every 5 years, provided that the Certificate of Deposit investment is maintained.

You will also be expected to undergo and pass certain health checks, and be a person of good standing.

3. Panama Economic Self Solvency Visa Programme

With a view to attract more wealthy foreign investors, Panama enables third party nationals to obtain temporary residency upon making a qualifying investment of at least $300,000. Investors have the option of choosing to buy real estate, invest in a certificate of deposit, or a combination of these two avenues resulting in a deposit of of $300,000. This investment must be held for a minimum of 3 years.

4. The Panama Business Investor Visa Programme

As of 2018, a qualifying investment of $160,000 or more into the capital stock of a Panamanian company or corporation will earn the investor a Business Investor Visa, provided that the entity employs 5 or more Panamanians locally. The foreign investor can either be an shareholder or an officer of said company or corporation.

5. The Panama Reforestation Investor Visa Programme 2018

Panama’s Reforestation Residency Programme has been very well received internationally, especially from South African nationals looking to get a Plan B in place. A minimum investment of $80,000 will put you on the path to Panamanian Residency. The investment must be made into a government certified project and comprise 5 hectares of either teak or mahogany in a plantation as prescribed by the National Environmental Authority of Panama. Applicants can apply individually or as a company, with returns typically expected within a decade, given that teak grows fast in Panama’s tropical conditions.

6. The Friendly Nations Visa Programme

Launched in 2012, the Panama Friendly Nations Visa is the fastest path to permanent residency available to third country nationals seeking to establish a footprint in Panama. Entrepreneurs and professionals from 48 countries with whom Panama has maintained friendly relations are welcomed to apply for permanent residency under this visa programme, provided that they intend to conduct some form of business in Panama.

What’s more, profits are tax-exempt, and can produce returns of up to 15% per year on longer investment timescales, where a return of initial capital is not immediately required. For more information on teak and mahogany investment residency in Panama, visit by click here.

As of November 2018, the Panama Friendly Nations Visa List includes the United States, Great Britain, South African, Austria, Argentina, South Korea, Brazil, Spain, Slovakia, Uruguay, Chile, Poland, Hungary, Greece, Portugal, Croatia, Estonia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Paraguay, to name but a few.

As is the case with the Pensionado Visa, the Friendly Nations Visa Programme offers immediate permanent residency rights upon being granted.

To qualify, you’ll have to open a Panamanian bank account and make a deposit of at least $5,000. You’ll then need to either open a Panamanian company, buy an existing one, or find professional employment within the country. In addition, you’ll need to be a person of good standing and not have a criminal record. You’ll also be expected to provide proof of financial solvency.

7. Panama Agricultural Investor Programme

Foreign investors wishing to invest in an agribusiness or aquaculture business enterprise has the option to make a qualifying investment of $60,000 in such a project or business. The Panama Department of Farm Development must approve the project and confirm that it falls within an area that is considered to be in the national interests of Panama.

The minimum investment increases by $5,000 per dependent applicant. Investments can be made in a personal or business capacity. The Panama Agricultural Investor Visa is issued for a period of 2 years, and is renewable.

NB: The above information is deemed as correct and accurate at the time of publication, but is intended purely to serve as basic informational guidance on the topic. Always speak to a professional service provider before making investment related decisions. 

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