Immigrating to Panama from South Africa: What you need to know




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For many in South Africa, the turmoil and uncertainty of recent years has become just too much, and staying put no longer seems like a good option. Right now, thousands of landowners in South Africa are under danger of either losing their land, or even worse, their lives, with no immediate end in sight, and little aid from the outside world. As chaotic as life is in South Africa, the resilience of its people is inspiring, and people are taking action into their own hands, and making the choice to emigrate. While this choice is never easy, it’s the best bet for those who want to improve their lifestyle, increase their safety, and continue to grow professionally, or as investors.

While there are many great options around the world for South Africans when it comes to emigrating, one place keeps popping up at the top of the list for people of all ages/backgrounds. That place is Panama.

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What makes Panama so appealing to South Africans wanting to emigrate?

The list is long, and it’s different for everyone, so let’s start with the basics and move our way up. When South Africans choose to emigrate and expatriate to a new country to become full-time residents, they typically choose the UK, or other former British colonies. This is understandable due to the country’s history, many South Africans’ European cultural roots, language, and familiarity. The problem, however, is that all of these countries (UK, Australia, New Zealand, US, etc.) have a very high cost and long process to go through before achieving the proper legal status. In fact, the processes tend to be so long and expensive that it’s no longer a viable (or safe) option for some, as time is truly of the essence due to the current situation in South Africa itself.

South Africans need a country with a stable economy, investment opportunity, a welcoming culture/society, and a legal residency process that’s both efficient and economical. Here is where Panama fits in perfectly. Panama truly fits the bill when it comes to all of the aforementioned, and then some. With an economy that’s been in steady growth mode for a decade, the regions best banking, multi-sector investment opportunities, and a streamlined residency process, it’s no wonder why people from South Africa are starting to catch on to all of the benefits Panama has to offer them.

A variety of residency visas for all types of purposes, lifestyles, and at an incredible price

Panama currently has eight different visa options available for foreigners, that could include many of the potential demographics of South Africans heading abroad. These visas are:

1. Panama’s Pensioner (Retiree) Visa:

Anyone over 18 years of age with a lifetime pension or annuity paying a minimum of $1,000 USD per month qualifies. Another $250 must be paid per month by the annuity or pension for each dependent. The annuity or pension can be paid by a private company, military, government agencies, corporations, a bank, an insurance company, or a Trust. This Panama visa provides several discounts from movie theaters, restaurants, hotels, pharmacies, concerts, and domestic airlines along with other products or services.

2. Friendly Nations Visa:

Citizens from any of the 50 nations considered “friendly” to Panama can move here with their immediate family and acquire a faster permanent residency visa than any other Panama visa. To qualify, the friendly citizen can either buy an existing Panama business or create a new business here or be employed in a professional capacity for a Panama professional services company.

The Friendly nations visa offers permanent residency within 3-6 months and offers the option of getting a work permit. The cost is around $5,000 USD all said and done in order to obtain permanent residency (not including the work permit).

Learn more about the Friendly Nations Visa.

3. Professional Employment Visa:

Foreigners working for a Panama company in a “professional” capacity paying social security taxes and holding a college degree and a professional license (if required by his or her country) can become a permanent resident after two years of being a temporary resident. The term “professional” is not limited to the definition in Panama’s Constitution or the laws defining a professional for citizens.

4. Panama’s Reforestation Investor Visa:

A minimum investment of US$80,000 in a reforestation project certified by the government including purchasing a minimum of five hectares of titled land with an additional investment of $2,000 for each dependent.

5. Panama’s Self Economic Solvency Visa:

Three options exist to qualify for this visa created to attract wealthy foreigners:

-Minimum US$300,000 investment of equity in any Panama real estate with an additional $2,000 USD for each dependent.

-Minimum US$300,000 investment in a 3 year Panama bank CD. An additional $2,000 deposit is required for each dependent.

-Combining the first 2 options by investing in both a Panama bank CD and Panama real estate where the cash and equity total a minimum of US$300,000 (or foreign currency equivalent). An additional $2,000 USD must be invested for each dependent.

6.Panama’s Business Investor Visa:

A minimum US$160,000 investment in capital stock of a Panama corporation. The foreigner can be a shareholder and/or an officer. An additional $2,000 must be invested or each dependent.

7. Married to a Panama Citizen Visa:

This must be a valid marriage (not a sham) to a Panama citizen can apply for a permanent visa.

8. Parents of Child Born in Panama Visa:

The parents of a child born in Panama who is over five years old can apply for this permanent visa. The parents of future children born in Panama can apply for this permanent visa after the child’s fifth birthday.

 

Finding the right type of visa for you!

With so many options available, it’s highly recommendable that you look carefully at visa type and compare it to what suits you best, and what will serve you best when you make the transition to moving to Panama. For many South Africans, the easiest and best (and most cost efficient!) option to go with is the Friendly Nations Visa. According to a recent survey, it was discovered that Panama is the 2nd most affordable in the World as far as paying for the visa process, which is a huge bonus for those trying to be economically efficient as they make the big move.

Like anything of this magnitude, we suggest that you do plenty of due diligence before starting the process, and consult an experienced Panama immigration lawyer to help walk you through each of your options, and get the ball rolling in the right direction once you’ve chosen the route you want to take. Panama is a warm, welcoming, prosperous country, flush with new opportunities, and ready for relocation. Come see for yourself!

About Manoj Chatlani


Manoj Chatlani is a Senior Partner at POLS Attorneys, a full-service law firm in Panama City, Panama. Specializing in offshore services, including asset protection, estate planning, offshore banking, and offshore corporations, as well as Panama immigration and real estate transactions, POLS Attorneys offers clients a streamlined solution to all their Panama legal needs. Manoj is a Panamanian lawyer and holds a law degree from USMA and earned a Masters in Communication Law and Panama Tax law.

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