Panama Visa and Residency Information
Panama’s Pensionado Program
Panama has put together the most appealing program of special benefits for retirees you’ll find anywhere in the world today…and the program is open to foreigners.
In Panama, resident pensionados or retirees are 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
- 25% off monthly energy bills
- 30% to 50% off hotel stays
- 15% off hospital bills*
Plus a lot more perks.
*Unless insurance applies.
If you choose to obtain residency in Panama via the Pensionado Program, you’ll also be entitled to a one-time exemption of duties on the importation of household goods (up to $10,000) and tax exemptions every two years on the importation of a car (or, better yet, the local purchase of a car).
Plus, you cannot arbitrarily lose Pensionado status. Though in other countries, new laws have affected the status of long-time retirees, sometimes stripping away their residency, Panama’s government has kept its pledge to grandfather in Pensionado residents. That means that even if future laws change the Pensionado requirements, your status will never change!
So how do you become a member of the oh-so-fortunate Pensionado elite? It’s easier than you think. Let’s start with some of the basics:
- You must draw a pension of at least $1,000 per month to qualify.
- You are not required to buy real estate in Panama to qualify.
- Foreigners who obtain residency via the Pensionado Program are protected from changes in the law, in effect allowing them to maintain residency in perpetuity.
- Foreigners on Pensionado status are not entitled to apply for Panamanian citizenship.
By the way, you can enjoy Panama’s great Pensionado discounts no matter which residency permit you have. Legal permanent residents of Panama age 60 and over for men and 55 and over for women may ask for the discounts, even if they are not Pensionados. (This does not include tax exemptions for importation of household goods or car, but it does include tax exemption on the local purchase of a car.)
* Note that you can apply for the Pensionado visa even if you have yet to reach the above ages. The government reviews applications on a case-by-case basis, and if you’ve begun receiving your pension early (because of disability or any other valid reason) you are welcome to apply, no matter what your age.
Person of Means Visa (POM)
If you’re not a pensioner, and do not plan to work or engage in business activities in Panama, the Person of Means (POM) visa may be the best option for you. To apply, you must be prepared to make a fixed-term deposit or invest $300,000.
Basically, you can structure your investment in one of three ways:
- by spending a minimum of $300,000 on property in Panama;
- by placing $300,000 in a fixed-term deposit in a bank with a physical branch in Panama;
- or via a “mixed use” split between a property purchase and fixed-term deposit, provided the total adds up to at least $300,000. 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 until you are granted your permanent residency (at present this takes approximately three years). Once you have your permanent residency, you can do what you like with the property—including sell it to get back your cash (and hopefully a profit on the sale). Likewise, you can withdraw any/all funds from your deposit post-term.
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 significant 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.
For more information on the Forestry Investment visas and potential profits on this investment, contact Robert Kroesen of United Nature.
New! Executive Decree 343 for Work/Business in Panama
Panama has announced it is opening the doors wider for professionally active expats and investors who may not qualify for Pensionado status. This thanks to a new executive decree that creates a new category of permanent residency.
It’s known as Executive Decree 343, for nationals of specific countries with an interest in doing business or even working in Panama.
According to government sources, this new permanent residency option will be open to qualifying expats from the U.S., the U.K., and Canada…as well as various other countries.
One Easy Application: The program will require one easy application, with candidates required to deposit a minimum of $5,000 in a local bank account, plus an additional sum of $2,000 for each dependent. Applicants will also have to show evidence of one of the following: investment in real estate in Panama; ownership of a Panamanian corporation with business license; or an employment letter and contract from a business in Panama.
Once an application is approved, those wishing to apply for jobs in Panama may apply for a work permit in keeping with the local labor code.
Keep in mind, this decree is still very new, and immigration experts are still unsure of how certain parts of it will be implemented. We’ll keep you posted on updates.
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.
*Prices as of 2013
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