For several years, Panama has been considered one of the ideal retirement destinations in the world. In 2014, Panama ranked 1st in Forbes Magazine's top 10 list of countries to retire.
Panama is a prime business destination due to the numerous advantages it offers, including: Panama City is one of the most affordable cities in the world, according to the latest cost report prepared by the intelligence unit of The Economist; the presence of first-class medical care and hospitals; the best airline connections in Latin America and a growing number of direct connections to Europe; a good business climate in general with 7.3% domestic economic growth in 2014, among the average rates of economic growth in Latin America according to figures issued by both national and international agencies; and a friendly immigration system that seeks to attract educated professionals and investment.
What is the País Amigo immigration program?
One of the mechanisms that Panama has put into place is an immigration system commonly known as "País Amigo" (Friendly Country) which seeks to attract both investment and professionals who wish to work in Panama. On May 16, 2012, the Panamanian Government established a new system of permanent immigrant visas for citizens or nationals of specific countries. Executive Decree No. 343 gives preferential treatment to the nationals of several countries. Originally including 24 countries, the list was subsequently expanded to include 48 countries or autonomous jurisdictions whose citizens are eligible for this special and preferential program.
What are the advantages of this preferential treatment?
Key benefits include the fact that once the application is approved, the National Directorate of Immigration grants Permanent Residence to the applicant; for other types of visas, permanent residence status is usually granted after two years, provided that the applicant meets all of the requirements. Another advantage is that the applicant does not have to establish domicile in Panama and is only required to travel to Panama at least once every two (2) years to maintain the visa. This offers a huge advantage to those who travel frequently for work or for business, or for those who wish to have a second home in Panama but still have not decided to emigrate per se. The flexibility offered with this visa is that the applicant can travel to Panama with an immigration status, without having to fully settle in Panama. However, the applicant...