Why Getting Residence in Panama is a Good Idea

Millions of people travel the world as tourists and millions more on business. It’s wonderful to get out there for whatever reason to see different places and have new experiences.

Fewer people choose to live overseas and obtain residence status in a foreign country. But having residence in your retirement home is smart and carries many benefits.

Applying for a residence visa in Panama makes sense. There’s no need to renew a tourist visa every 90 days, which can be a hassle at the border. Having legal status as a resident and having a national identification card, called a cedula, allows you to move around freely without your passport. And after five years as a resident of Panama, you have the option to apply for citizenship and get a second passport. If that’s your goal, the sooner you get your residence visa the better.

For some people having a residence provides security in an uncertain environment. Nanette Wittmer chose to move to Panama over three years ago from Colorado. She decided after visiting several countries that she wanted to live overseas. “I think it’s important to have a second residence because of the status of the world right now,” Nanette says. “Having a second place you can call home gives you an alternative in rough economic and political times.”

Linda Pedersen agrees. She and her husband Hellmut, both world travelers, saw the advantages of residence when they moved to Panama from Washington state 11 years ago. “As a failsafe, having a choice is a great asset, just like people who have dual citizenship. It opens the doors to wider horizons and different cultures,” Linda says.

Panama’s Pensionado visa is the one most commonly used by retirees. It grants permanent residence and entitles you to many discounts on medical care, utilities, bus and plane tickets, meals and hotels, and even movie tickets.

To give you an idea of how the discounts can help with everyday costs, an average water/garbage bill of $16 comes down to $12. An electric bill of $50 has 25% off, so it comes down to $37.50. And retirees get 50% off tickets to movies, theaters, and all sporting events like baseball games and soccer…so first-run movies that normally cost $3.50 cost just $1.75.

Linda and Hellmut, who also have Pensionado visas, were attracted by Panama’s lower cost of living, as she explains. “The biggest reason we moved here at the time is the fact that our dollar goes further, although that has changed some over the years. Panama is a democracy, only has 4.5 million people living here, is friendly, tropical, and the Panama Canal is a huge support to keep this country’s economy in good shape. We both have a sense of adventure and Panama has satisfied our quest by offering us an opportunity to experience this country and mix in with the culture.”

Nanette is not yet retired, so she opted for permanent residence with the Friendly Nations visa, which allows her to work.

Applying for a residence visa in Panama is not difficult, but it does require some effort and patience to get through the process, and the help of a competent attorney. Nanette feels that it’s worthwhile, saying, “I love having a residence in Panama. It allows me the opportunity to enjoy the Jubilado discounts for seniors. Having a cedula, the resident identification card, makes it easier to open a bank account and obtain a driver’s license, and it’s recognized by everyone.

“And having residence status gives me the feeling that among Panamanians I have proved that I want to belong,” she says. “I feel by obtaining a residence permit I have made a commitment to abide by Panama laws and respect the culture.”

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