Intel & DataLatin-America

In Panama, 1 in 6 Immigrants is an Investor

In the post-pandemic, work-from-anywhere-but-high-tax-jurisdictions world, Panama’s star is rising. Its clement climate, reasonable cost of living, and relatively low taxes make the Isthmus (which conveniently shares a timezone with the US’ Eastern Seaboard) a compelling proposition for investors, retirees, and digital nomads alike.

Last year, Panama approved 1,414 independent means visas (Jubilados y Pensionados), the highest such figure in more than a decade. Figures from Migración Panamá covering the first two months of 2023 show the upward trend continues into this year. By the end of February, Panama had approved 281 independent means visas (and rejected only four), hinting at a possible all-time-high this year.

Meanwhile, for investment-based visas (of which Panama has more than a dozen categories), the trend is less marked. While it's still too early in the year to identify any clear trends, the 388 investor visas issued so far in 2023 indicate total approval volume this year will fall short of last year's 2,881.

This is chiefly due to the (expected) decline in demand for Friendly Nations Visas, which accounts for 9 out of 10 investor visa approvals. In the second half of 2021, Panama raised its minimum investment requirement for the FNV from practically nothing to US$200,000 (see also: 3 Ways Panama’s Friendly Nations Visa Became Less Friendly Over the Summer).

As might have been expected, the announcement of the coming price hike gave rise to a surge in filings in the latter half of 2021 that Migración Panamá spent the better part of last year trying to manage. We expect to see approval volumes in the FNV category continue to dwindle as 2023 drags on.

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Remove the FNV outlier from the data, however, and it becomes clear that the broader investor visa trend remains positive in Panama. So far in the year, 61 investor main applicants have received residence permits in the country, a figure that indicates 366 of them will do so by the end of the year, slightly ahead of last year's 337.

Two investor visa categories - Inversionista Forestal and Inversionista Macroempresa - appear revived this year. Eight main applicants qualified for residence permits in Panama on the basis of forestry investment in the first two months of 2023, the first time anyone has qualified under that route in five years. Four investors qualified for residence permits under the large-company investors category, a route that remained entirely unused last year.

Note that, in Panama, investor visas have accounted for 16.25% of all visa types issued in the last six years. For comparison, less than half of one percent of all residence permits issued in both the US and the EU in recent years were based on investments. Of course,

If you like data-driven articles like this one, you'll love the IMI Data Center, the world's largest collection of investment migration statistics, with more than 350 graphs and charts on dozens of IM programs and markets.