The first time I heard someone say they needed a second passport, I immediately thought they must have some kind of shady past. Since then, I’ve learned that second passports are not just for James Bond and international spies.
And while second passports are nothing new, there is currently a renewed and substantial push for individuals to become “economic citizens” along with plenty of reasons to want to carry more than one passport.
[thrive_text_block color=”green” headline=””] “Just like you diversify an investment portfolio, you want to diversify your passport portfolio” said Christian Kalin, a citizenship expert with Henley and Partners headquartered in Switzerland, but with 20 offices around the world.[/thrive_text_block]
Christian estimates that every year people spend a collective $2 billion to add a second or even third passport to their collection through residence-by-investment and another $5 billion is spent to earn citizenship-by-investment.
Golden Visas, Permanent Residency and Citizenship
I have found there are “golden visas”, permanent residency and ultimately, total citizenship for individuals who want to have additional passports for various reasons. The world is getting smaller and no longer do people live within ten miles of where they were born like they did in the early 1900s.
Generally, having a second passport is wise for many situations, including the reason the first person who introduced me to this concept explained: “I travel all the time for work and with my US passport, I am constantly getting Visas for South America. It’s a hassle and it’s expensive. I can’t even go to Paraguay without a Visa. I want residency in Panama and a Panamanian passport,” said the man in his mid-40s who was getting ready to buy a three-bedroom condominium in Panama. “I don’t want to renounce my US citizenship, I just want to have some options.”
Over nearing ten years of selling real estate in Panama to people from all over the world, I have found that Panama is certainly not the first country to offer a fairly easy route to dual citizenship, but it is one of the easiest and least costly. Investing in property today can set the clock for individuals to gain Panamanian passports for every reason from healthcare, tax planning and traveling ease and security.
A Million Dollars And Ten Full-Time Jobs
According to an article recently published in The Guardian, about 20 countries operate similar systems. In the US, Immigrant Investor Visas are awarded to foreign nationals who invest $1m in the economy and create 10 full-time jobs for US citizens within two years of arrival. Those who do so are awarded permanent residence and, after three more years, can apply for full citizenship. In the Canadian province of Quebec, “Immigrant Investors” must invest $800,000 CAN ($641,000 US) in an interest-free, five-year bond and show at least two years of proven management experience before they can apply.
The European programs tend to be more lenient. Greece, Cyprus and Macedonia offer fast-track resident permits for foreign investors who spend a minimum of €250,000 to €400,000 ($271,000 to $433,000) in the country. Spain grants a residency visa to foreign buyers who spend €500,000 ($544,000) or more on Spanish property, though the wait for permanent residency and EU citizenship is five years.
If $544,000 Seems Expensive, Consider $40,000
While second passport rules change regularly and I’m certainly no expert, I would note, if an investment of $544,000 still seems expensive, consider that you can be on your way to a Panamanian passport for as little as $40,000. Invest in the government’s Reforestation Program by purchasing land for as little as $40,000, sit on that investment and in five years you may apply for a second passport. If you invest $80,000 in the program, which will get you about two hectares, or just under five acres, you can have that second passport within two years.
There are many types of Panamanian programs aimed at individuals who are financially stable including the Private Income Retiree program which requires a $170,000 investment and proof of at least $750 a month income. This will lead to a traveling Panamanian passport but not citizenship until five years of residency has been established. The Person Of Means program requires a $200,000 investment—of which $80,000 can be in property or the Investor program which requires a $150,000 investment and three created Panamanian jobs. All of these governmental programs will lead to a second passport.
Not Interested In A Second Passport? No Problem
[thrive_text_block color=”green” headline=””]Many of the people I work with are not interested in a fast path to a Panamanian passport. They want to invest in property, and recognize the benefit of having the option to obtain a second passport by doing so. [/thrive_text_block]
One of the most popular program for individuals who come to retire in Panama is the Pensioned Tourist, which allows for $10,000 of personal goods to be imported tax-free. A vehicle may also be brought into the country every two years without taxation. The requirement for this designation is proof of income of at least $500 a month, or $600 a month for a couple. Because this is not a route to a second passport, it also does not allow you to work in Panama. It does offer a number of benefits such as reduced medical care including prescription medications, dental and vision, discounts at cinemas and other cultural activities, discounts on airline tickets and other transportation such as buses, boats and trains and reduced rates at restaurants and hotels.
Panama has always opened their doors to individuals who were born in other parts of the world. Until 1999, Americans managed or co-managed the Panama Canal so everyone is used to living collectively. There are a number of lawyers in Panama who specialize in the requirements needed to negotiate the Panama Immigration offices, and I’m happy to make recommendations on those specialist so they can explain the many differences.
A Stable Government, Strong Dollar and Economic Growth
Whether you are seeking to diversify your investment portfolio through real estate or wish to bank outside your home residence or perhaps you live in a politically unstable part of the world, know that Panama is one of the best places you may want to call home. Panama has a stable government, is experiencing unprecedented economic growth, increased property values and low unemployment.
The programs I have mentioned are only part of the opportunities that await individuals who are interested in Panama. There are as many questions and answers as there are individuals.