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.
Friendly Nations Visa
Officially named the Permanent Residence for Nationals of Specific Countries, this visa opens the door for professionals and entrepreneurs from 47 countries that “maintain friendly, professional, economic, and investment relationships” with Panama, which includes the U.S. and Canada.
The visa requires you to open a local bank account with a minimum balance of $5,000, as well as doing one of the following:
- purchase real estate, with a minimum required investment of $10,000;
- open a business;
- find employment in Panama.
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.
Professional Residence Permit
This option is open to foreigners who would like to work in Panama, provided they do not choose professions reserved for Panamanian nationals (examples include medical professions, accounting, real estate, and law).
Applicants must have a university education, and unlike other visas, must make two applications, two years apart. When filing the final application, applicants must show that they have been employed in Panama for the last nine months and have been paying local social security.
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.