Updated MAY 2015.
Panama retirement? Why not? Panama’s program for retirees is said to be the best in the world. There is no age limit to qualify for the Pensionado Visa Program. You need only to be able to prove a monthly pension or retirement income of $1,000 from a government or corporation, plus $250 for each dependent.
Before you can apply to retire in Panama, will need sworn documentation showing your pension income, certified and stamped by the Panamanian embassy in your country of origin, plus a valid passport and a clear police record for the past five years.
You must use a Panamanian immigration lawyer, pass a medical on arrival in Panama and be tested free of HIV.
Your legal representative will probably accompany you to a doctor’s office. He or she will also shepherd you through the immigration office, once to register various documents and a second time to have your photograph taken and be presented with your identity card (cedula).
Carry this card with you at all times. You can be fined for not doing so. Prior to receiving your cedula, carry your passport or a photocopy of it.
Legal expenses and fees Panama retirement can vary depending on size of family and complexity, but should be around $1,500 for one person. Let us know where you plan to locate within the country and we will be happy to recommend a good lawyer to help you retire in Panama.
Before you leave
ALL THE DOCUMENTS ISSUED OVERSEAS MUST BE AUTHENTICATED BEFORE BEEN PRESENTED IN PANAMA
These general requirements apply to all visas requested (article 28 of the Law Decree #3 of February 2008).
1. Passport copy, duly authenticated by a Panamanian Public notary;
2. Four (4) passport-size photos.
3. Original passport, which must be valid for at least six (6) months.
4. Police Report duly Apostilled or duly authenticated by the Panamanian Consulate or Embassy in the country it was issued and by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Panama.
5. Medical Certificate of Good Health;
6. Payment to the National Treasure of $250.00 in a Cashier Check and $800.00 to the Immigration Office for Repatriation Deposit, also in cashier check. (Please ask us how in whose name to issue the cashier checks);
7. Sworn Declaration Form
8. Power of Attorney and Application via an attorney/law firm.
Tourist Pensioner - Retirees living in Panama as Permanent Residents.
This permit may be requested by foreigners who receive a retirement pension from the foreign government, international organization or private company, who come to Panama with a view to residing here and have sufficient means to cover all their expenses, as well as those of their dependents.
The monthly income or pension can be no less than One Thousand Dollars (US$1,000.00) per month and must be "for life". Where the applicant can prove that they have purchased a property in their personal name in Panama for at least One Hundred Thousand Dollars (US$100,000.00), then the pension requirement is lowered to Seven Hundred and Fifty Dollars (US$750.00).
In addition to the general requirements referred to in Article 28 of the Law, without the number 4, the applicant shall submit the following documents:
1. Pension Letter Certification letter of being retired or pensioned by a foreign government, international organization or private company, confirming that they receive a pension of no less than One Thousand Dollars (US$1,000.00) per month or its equivalent in foreign currency and that this is for life.
2. In the case of dependents, you must receive Two Hundred and Fifty Dollars (US$250.00) more in your pension.
3. Certification from the Public Registry for the property (if applicable).
If the pension or retirement is from a private company, provide the following documentation:
Letter from the foreign company that administers the pension funds, the trust, the mutual funds, the insurance or the bank, which certify the existence of the funds that guarantee the lifetime pension of the applicant;
Certificate of Good Standing which proves the existence of the company that is granting the pension and responsible for the administration of the funds;
Copy of the payment chit or bank statement.
Note: All documents issued overseas (that were not issued in Panama) must be duly authenticated by the Panamanian Consulate or Embassy in the country where issue and by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Panama or duly Apostilled.
In the case of spouses, they may opt to prove the income required in point 1 with both pensions, in which case both parties must provide all documentation requested as proof of pension.
In the case of dependent children, they shall receive temporary permits until reaching twenty five (25) years of age, so long as they prove that they are studying. However, they shall not have the right to permanent residence or be considered Pensioners. In the case of dependent children with a permanent serious disability, duly evidenced, an exception shall be made.
Benefits of the Pensionado Visa:
Panamanian law also grants retirees a very good tax exemption package including:
Tax exemption to import a car every 2 years
Import tax exemption for households up to US$10,000
Tax freeze on property taxes
Multiple tax exemptions and discounts on services in Panama - see Translation of Law 6 (1987), which provides the list of discounts for Pensioners and Retirees in Panama.
The immigration process must be started before you leave your home country. Once you arrive in Panama as a tourist, you will be able to stay for up to 180 days.
Qualifying for permanent residence for Panama retirement takes from 30 to 60 days, depending on the time of year and the availability of certain key immigration officials. Given all the public holidays, November and December are good months to avoid.
BANKING AND CREDIT CARDS.
Also, keep your credit cards. You will be able to draw money from your credit cards at ATM's throughout Panama. Setting up a bank account is not that difficult. Bring 2 letters of recommendation (originals) from your Canadian, US or UK banks. Don't bother with traveller's cheques, they do not seem to be as readily acceptable as they used to be.
Finally, go to your local automobile association and get an international driver’s license. Your own license is good here for 90 days, but there is no limit on an international license. (Expect lots of puzzled looks from local traffic police as they thumb through the multi-page document written in several languages.)
Panama retirement is much easier than in most other sought-after destinations.
Panama Retirement Benefits
Retirement benefits in Panama include:
25% off airfares
50% off hotels, entertainment and public events
25% off restaurant meals
15% off hospital care
10% off medications
20% off doctors, and many more. See the list.
We have travelled twice with a pet - it can be a trying time. Rule number one: do not over medicate your little friends - possibly some Gravol just to settle their stomach.
Bringing pets to Panama.
No quarantine needed, but they will have a period of house arrest.(40 days in your home). The vet at Panama City goes home in the early afternoon so try to arrive in the morning.
You will need vet's certificate in your country stating the animal is healthy and has the required vaccinations etc. This needs to be done within 14 days of your flight. The best method is to send these documents to the Panamanian consul in your country for stamping (Important) with a pre-paid return envelope. Then you can be sure of receiving it in time.
Certain airlines have flight restrictions for animals, depending on the arriving tarmac temperature - check before buying a ticket.
Here is an amusing article about a lady who flew to Panama with 15 cats and dogs.
Yes! I know this seems like a lot of paper work, but when you are sipping a Margarita on a sun-kissed beach and back home they are shoveling 3 feet of snow- then you will say: "It was worth it."