There are several ways to obtain legal residency in Panama.
The laws are among the most attractive of any Latin retirement
destination as Panama is aggressively seeking retirees and
foreign investors. This text is from
Panama has put together the most appealing program of special
benefits for foreign residents and retirees you’ll find anywhere
in the world today, starting with the pensionado, or pensioner
In Panama, qualified pensionados or retirees are
- 50% off entertainment anywhere in the country (movies,
theaters, concerts, sporting events)
- 30% off bus, boat, and train fares
- 25% off airline tickets
- 25% off monthly energy bills
- 30% to 50% off hotel stays
- 15% off hospital bills*
- 10% off prescription medicines*
- 20% off medical consultations*
- 15% off dental and eye exams*
- 20% off professional and technical services
- 50% off closing costs for home loans, and more…
*Unless insurance applies.
If you become a pensionado, you’ll also be 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, better yet, local purchase of
Plus, Panama’s pensionado law stipulates that anyone
entering the country as a qualified pensioner is guaranteed that
status for as long as he resides here. That means that even if
future laws change the pensionado requirements, your
status will be grandfathered in…it won’t ever change!
The general rules:
- 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
Apostille. The Apostille (as per The Hague Convention of
1961) is a faster way of authenticating documents and in the
U.S. can be obtained through the secretary of state in your
home state; in the U.K., this can be done through the
Foreign Office. In Canada, please check with the Panamanian
embassy/consulate nearest you
- All documents must be valid (within two months of visa
application) and passports must be valid for at least
another year from time of application
- Dependents: Bring a marriage certificate. However,
original marriage certificates are not acceptable for the
visa application if over two months old, so you’ll probably
need to request a copy. If you have cdependents under 25
that you’ll be including on your application, you’ll need to
bring valid birth certificate copies (not originals)
- All visa applications require that you obtain a health
certificate in Panama
- All visas require a clean police record from your last
place of residence
- All visas require 6–9 passport-size photos (gentlemen in
suit and tie; ladies in long sleeves).
In the past, the government of Panama has allowed any adult
who could show proof of a monthly pension of any kind (from the
age of 18 upward) to qualify for a pensionado (retiree) visa. As
in the past, if you are receiving a pension from a government
entity or a well-known international company, age is not an
issue. You must simply provide proof of adequate income.
However, if you are on a private pension, the pensionado visa is
available to you if you are of retirement age (50 or older). The
age of your spouse (if applying as dependent) will not be
considered on the age limitation.
For many years, pensioners with a qualified pension of $500
per month were entitled to apply, but in August 2008 the
pensionado requirements finally changed. Now you must draw
a minimum pension of $750 and invest at least $100,000 in
property in Panama or you must have a pension of at least $1,000
per month (no real estate requirement). However, there is a
plus: you may now pool your pension with your spouse’s to meet
the minimum pension requirement.
A big new plus: you may now pool your pension with your
spouse’s pension to meet the minimum pension requirement,
provided you’ll be applying together.
Person of Means Visa (POM)
If you plan to live in Panama but not start a business here,
this may be the best option for you. To qualify, among other
things, you must invest $300,000 in one of three ways: by buying
property here; by placing $300,000 in a fixed-term deposit; or
by applying with a “mixed use” split between a property purchase
and fixed-term deposit, provided the total investment adds up to
at least $300,000. Previously, the Panama government stipulated
that the only acceptable split was 40%/60% invested in property
and a fixed term deposit, respectively. Now, you may determine
the split yourself (for example, if your dream property costs
you $280,000, you may place $20,000 in a fixed-term deposit to
qualify for this permit).
You must keep the property and/or fixed-term deposit for
approximately three years or until you are granted your
permanent residency. (You can apply for this two years after
your initial application is approved).
Forestry Investor Visa
The forestry investor visa encourages the production and
preservation of teak. Basically, the program consists of two
options, dubbed the small forestry investor and the large
forestry investor visas. The small forestry investor visa
requires a minimum investment of $60,000, whereas the large
forestry investor visa requires a minimum investment of $80,000.
The Small Forestry Investor option has some drawbacks. It
doesn’t grant you permanent residency after two to three years,
like the other permits mentioned here. It is a temporary
resident permit, and you must spend more time and money to
re-apply every year for six years. Only on the seventh
application will you be able to apply for permanent residency.
The Large Forestry Investor visa is granted provisionally for
two years. After that, you may renew and apply for a permanent
residency permit. Five years after obtaining permanent
residency, you may apply for Panamanian citizenship.
If you have a different type of investment in mind, note that
Panama offers many different visa alternatives; those listed
above represent just a few of the more popular options.
Tourist visa: If you are from the U.S. or
Canada you do not need a visa for tourist visits of up
to 90 days. Tourists may stay for up to 90 days and, in
general, extensions are not available unless you can prove you
need more time because you are changing your status from that of
tourist…for example, if you entered Panama as a tourist and then
decided to apply for residency.
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