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Panama has put together the most appealing program of special benefits for foreign residents and retirees you’ll find anywhere in the world today.  These benefits are available to anyone over the age of 18 who meets the requirements for a Pensionado Visa.   All you need is a guaranteed pension income of only $500 per month ($600 per month for a couple). It must be a pension from a government agency (social security, disability, or armed forces) or from a private company.

As a qualified pensionado/retiree in Panama, you will be entitled to:

  • 50% off entertainment anywhere in the country (movies, theaters, concerts, sporting events)
  • 30% off bus, boat, and train fares
  • 25% off airline tickets
  • 50% off hotel stays from Monday through Thursday
  • 30% off hotels stays from Friday through Sunday
  • 25% off at restaurants
  • 15% off at fast-food restaurants
  • 15% off hospital bills (if no insurance applies)
  • 10% off prescription medicines
  • 20% off medical consultations
  • 15% off dental and eye exams
  • 20% off professional and technical services
  • 50% closing costs for home loans and more…

In addition you are entitled to a one-time exemption of duties on the importation of household goods (up to $10,000) and an exemption every two years of duties for the importation or local purchase of a car. All this, and you can “retire” in Panama starting at age 18.

 

Plus Panama’s pensionado law stipulates that anyone entering the country as a qualified pensioner today is guaranteed that status as long as he chooses to stay in the country.

The general rules

  • All visa applications must be made through a Panamanian lawyer.
  • There is no age limit required for applying for any of these visas, save for the minimum legal age of 18 years. Youngsters under 18 will qualify for a visa as dependents of their parents.
  • All overseas documents to be presented to the authorities in Panama must be authenticated by a Notary and by the Panamanian consulate nearest you, or by a notary and the Apostille. The Apostille (The Hague Convention of 1961) is a faster way of authenticating documents and is normally obtained through the Secretary of State in your home state (in the United States) or through the Foreign Office (in Britain). For Canada, please check with the Panamanian Embassy or consulate nearest to your home city.
  • All documents must be fresh (within three months of visa application) and passports must have at least one year to run.
  • Dependents: Bring a marriage certificate. However, original marriage certificates are not acceptable if over three months old, so you’ll need to request fresh ones. If your children under 18 are to be covered by your visa, you’ll need to bring fresh birth certificates (not originals).
  • None of these visas grant work permits.
  • All visa applications require that you obtain a health certificate in Panama.

The Tourist Pensioner Visa (Turista Pensionado)


This visa is designed for persons whose pension from a government entity or private corporation is $500 or more ($600 or more for a couple per month). It is granted indefinitely. The benefits include one-time exemption of duties for the importation of household goods (up to $10,000) and an exemption every two years of duties for the importation of a car (sales tax will still apply). However, please note that under this visa you cannot qualify to acquire Panamanian nationality.

 

 

Private Income Retiree Visa (Rentista Retirado)


This visa is for persons who don’t have a monthly pension, are no longer working, and have received a retirement lump sum. As a visa requirement, that money is to be deposited on a five-year certificate of deposit with the National Bank of Panama, to yield at least $750 a month (at current rates the face value of the CD would need to be approximately $220,000). The visa is renewable every five years, as long as the CD is renewed. The Private Income Retiree Visa includes such benefits as a travelling Panamanian passport (that however does NOT grant nationality), a one-time exemption of duties for the importation of household goods (up to $10,000), and an exemption every two years of duties for the importation of a car.  Currently, the Private Income Retiree Visa is considered the quickest means available by which to obtain a Panamaniam passport.



Person of Means Visa (Solvencia Económica Propia)


Designed for those who wish to live in Panama off their own means, without the need to work or start a business. The person must have a two-year certificate of deposit in any local bank of at least $200,000. The visa is granted in two steps: first a one year provisional visa is granted, and then the process is repeated and the visa is approved permanently, with the right to a cedula (local identity card). Five years after obtaining the permanent visa, holders will be eligible to apply for Panamanian nationality.

Investor Visa (Inversionista) Designed for those who wish to establish a business in Panama (note, though, that some retail businesses and some professions are reserved to Panamanians). There must be a minimum investment of $150,000 and minimum of three, permanent Panamanian employees hired. It is granted provisionally for one year and after renewal is granted permanently with the right to be issued a cedula. Five years after obtaining the permanent visa, holders will be eligible to apply for Panamanian nationality.

 

 

Forestry Investor Visa (Inversionista Forestal)


Note: Although currently suspended, this visa is being revised to be brought back.
Designed for those who wish to make long-term investments in reforestation and take advantage of tax breaks. There must be a minimum investment of $40,000 into a duly accredited reforestation company. This investment must be kept until final harvest (approximately 20 years). This visa is granted provisionally for one year and after renewal it is granted permanently with the right to be issued a cedula. Five years after obtaining the permanent visa, holders will be eligible to apply for Panamanian nationality.

 

 

Small Business Investor Visa (Inversionista de Pequeña Empresa)

 

Designed for those who wish to establish a small business in Panama (note that retail businesses and some professions are reserved to Panamanians). There must be a minimum investment of $40,000 and minimum of three permanent Panamanian employees hired. It is granted provisionally for one year, and needs to be renewed three more times before it is granted permanently with the right to a cedula. Five years after obtaining the permanent visa, holders will be eligible to obtain Panamanian nationality.

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A potential expat will, understandably, spend vast amounts of time scouring the internet for useful facts and tidbits of information that will assist them with this faithful leap into the unknown.  

 

Included in what these potential expats will find when doing their research, are blogs of course, and social pages like Facebook and Yahoo.  Great places to interface with people who are already with feet on the ground here in panama and learning the ropes.  

 

But like pain, there are things that cannot be properly expressed in an article, or potential expat's "guide".  There is no way you can put into words, how much it hurts when you hit your head on the cupboard door you left open, on the way back up from kneeling down to pick up that dropped knife in the kitchen!   Often a good analogy for the trials you will face here in Panama!

 

You will read the posts from some of the grumpy expats living here, that just cannot stop complaining about the small things that are unchangable, at least in the short term.  I'm not sure if these people had "poopy pants" back home, but some are finding it difficult to adjust.

 

Your experience living in Panama will vary greatly on a couple of things.  First, the area you choose to call home will obviously be a very important factor in the "quality" of life you are going to live.  I could write forever on that topic, but not in this blurb.  What I'm talking about here is attitude!

 

Panama.  Beaches, mountains, blue waters, islands, lower cost of living, very north americanized, familiar US currency, advantageous tax laws, ease of immigration, lots of fellow countrymen, drinkable water, beautiful latin people, parties, warm weather, predictable climate, one could go on and on....  and on!  Then why is it that so many people move to Panama from another country and can do nothing but gripe?  That is the question, and to answer it, you have to understand the differences in our cultures.

 

I recently gave the best real estate tour to a couple from North America.  We had spent a wonderful, sun-shiney morning up in El Valle, looking at a few area and houses for sale, and taking in the local market.  We decided to stop in for lunch at one of the quaint restaurants that line the main road through the town.  Now me, having lived here for a couple of years now, settled in.  I ordered a cerveza, and two more for my guests, leaned back and shifted to relax mode.  To make what could be a long story short, the food came out in a typical Panamanian time frame (45 minutes or so), but at the 20 minute mark, my clients were bouncing off the walls!  You are going to wait a lot in Panama, for everything.  

 

There are long lines at the supermarket, at the red lights, at the green lights, at the place where you get your license, at immigration, at the till in the mall, and just about everywhere else.  And nobody moves fast.  I sometimes count the seconds between the beeps at the check-out in the grocery store.  I swear the cashier is actually moving in slow motion.  I'm not joking!!  Her arms swipe each item across the scanner at half speed.  If you're in a hurry, people, it's agonizing!

 

I could go on and on here with "things that make you go hmmmmmmm" experiences, but I digress to the point.  If you are the type of person who cannot relax and needs to live life at a full 100 Km/hr speed limit, Panama is going to either defeat you, or change you fundamentally.

 

I'm telling you now.  You are not going to change ANYTHING here.  No more than a Panamanian is going to get off the bus in Toronto and ask if everyone could just slow the heck down!  This is a cultural machine that demands it's cogs to move in key with all of the rest, and if you cannot slow down, and take things as they come, you may live out your time here in the proverbial poopy pants, and no one likes a poopy pants.

 

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