The Panama visa for retirement is best known as the “Pensionado Visa”. It has long been regarded as the “gold standard” among visas offered by the many countries that welcome retirees. Although all of the steps for obtaining this visa are clear and the documents required precisely specified this is not a DIY (“Do It Yourself”) process. The Panamanian government requires that all applications to be lodged by a local attorney. A list of attorneys is given here.
Government regulations are usually clearly stated in Panama. Without suggesting that official departments are unnecessarily pedantic it should be noted, as an indication of their strictly applied rules, that casual dress is not permitted in government offices. Visitors may not wear shorts, t-shirts, sandals etc in such offices. All documents must be in or officially translated into Spanish and authenticated as specified, at a local Panamanian Embassy or consulate or via the international “apostille” system (see below).
The Government web site is, as might be expected, in Spanish. A Google translation may help but it is not worth risking a misinterpretation since it is necessary to employ a local attorney for the application in any event. The Pensionado visa is a multiple entry visa that does not lead to the possibility of citizenship.
The outstanding quality of the Panama visa comes from the cost of living concessions which recipients enjoy. The benefits, listed below, accrue to persons who are aged 55 for women and 60 for men. These concessions are prescribed by law and it is this which differentiates the (pensionado) Panama visa from similar visas granted by other countries.
There are other Panama visa possibilities leading to residency and, some, to citizenship but all require much larger contributions of capital to the Panamanian economy, guaranteed employment and/or the establishment of a local business employing local people. The Pensionado visa is the one of most interest to retirees.
This list is provided by the Consulate of Panama in Toronto and may not be exhaustive.
1) Discount of 50% of price charged for entrance to recreation and entertainment activities, such as movies, theaters, sports and other public productions. This discount is not applicable for those events marked as benefits for the youth, homeless or those specifically authorized by the competent authorities.
2) Discounts for the following means of public transportation:
3) A minimum discount of the regular prices of hotels, motels and pensions:
4) 25% discount of food consumed by the individual in all restaurants except for the Fondas which do not require license to operate.
5) 15% discount in those rapid food establishments.
6) 15% discount in the total cost for services of hospitals and private clinics.
7) 10% discount in pharmacies for those medications obtained with a medical prescription.
8) Discounts in the following medical services:
9) Insurance companies that include in their policies health benefits for illness shall adjust their fees to include the necessary adjustment so that the benefits of these discounts are transferred in the payment of the premiums when the insured is 55 years old if female, and 60 years old if male and to the Pensionados & Jubilados.
10) 20% discount for technical and professional services.
11) 20% discount for all prosthetic devices as well as those items and accessories of personal assistance.
12) (12, 13,14, 15, 16, 17 pertain to commercial transactions, loans, etc.)
13) 50% discount in cost of passports.
14) 25% discount in monthly electrical consumption of private or public entity up to 600KW's and the normal tariffs will be applied to anything above that amount.
15) Discus’s discounts to properties owned by associations of jubilados and pensionados and the different discounts they are entitled.
16) 25% discount to the basic phone service charges when:
17) 25% discount in the water bill as long as:
(The normal tariffs will apply to all other residences.)
These benefits are established and confirmed in legislation. (Law No. 6 of 16 of June 1987, modified by subsequent changes in the law by Law 18 of 1989, Law 15 of 1992, Law 37 of 2001 and Law 14 of 2003.)
Private organizations may offer similar discounts
The description of the Panama visa is, perhaps, misleading. There is no age qualification for applicants other than that one must be over 18 years and except for access to the concessions listed above (55 years for women and 60 years for men).
The financial qualification is not excessive. A proved income for life of $US1000 per month is needed as a government pension or approved annuity. Even this low level income requirement can be reduced if real estate of a value of at least $US100,000 is purchased by the applicant. The income needed then reduces to $US750 per month. This income includes an accompanying spouse although other dependents will require an additional income of $US250 per month each. Always check these parameters. Your attorney will be aware of the latest figures as will any Panamanian embassy or consulate. A list of embassies and consulates world wide is available here.
1. Provide all of the required documents and sign a Special Power of Attorney which authorizes your attorney to act on your behalf with Panama immigration.
2. Register you and your spouse and dependents passports with Panama immigration.
3. Provide your attorney with all of the Panama immigration application fee and repatriation deposit (if required, see below).
4. Panama immigration will issue a Temporary Permit (Visa) and a Multiple Entry-Exit Visa.
5. Panama immigration will later issue a 2 year Temporary Permit (Visa).
6. Panama immigration issues a Permanent Residency Permit (Visa).
Note: The applicant does not have to reside in Panama during this time period in order to qualify as a permanent resident or a naturalized citizen. However, a short trip to Panama will be necessary in order to process the Temporary Resident Permit and the Permanent Residency Permit. It is usually recommend that you visit Panama for an initial two weeks because Panama immigration may hold onto your passport(s) for 5 business days to insert their official stamps into the passport.
1. A letter from the foreign government agency or company administrating the pension, or a mutual fund company, or a trust company, or a bank, or an insurance company certifying the funds exist and guaranteeing the payments are for the applicant’s lifetime.
2. Proof of the existence of the private company issuing the payments.
3. Copies proving the payments are being made or a bank account statement showing the deposits.
Note: Panama allows both spouses who are receiving pensions or annuities to combine them to meet the minimum $1,000 USD amount.
Dependents: Panama requires and additional monthly receipt of $250 USD per month for each dependent. Dependents are defined as children up to age of 18 or up to 25 years of age if they are full time college students. Children 18 years of age or older who are not full time college students will lose their Panama (Pensioned) Visa status. They will have to find another Panama immigration visa for which to qualify.
1. A Formal Application to be a permanent resident along with a notarized Special Power of Attorney confirming that your attorney is authorized to act on your behalf.
2. Submit a notarized copy of the entire passport.
3. Provide a Criminal History Background Report from your home country or the country where you have resided in for the past two years. This report must be prepared by a “national”, “central”, or “federal” police force or criminal investigator agency.
(a) If the criminal background report is not coming from the applicant’s country of citizenship, but as a resident, his or her legal residency must be proven with a copy of the legal residency identification which must be Apostilled or authenticated.
(b) If the applicant has been a Panama resident for the past two years consecutively (not left the country) the Panama national police must provide the criminal background report.
4. The criminal background report must be authenticated by a Panama Consulate in the country which issued the report or by Apostille (internationally recognized authentication by a government agency with attached seals).
5. Original Panama doctor’s medical examination report.
6. 2 Certified Checks:
(a) $800 USD for Immigration in case of applicant’s deportation; and
(b) $250 USD for the National Treasury as the immigration application fee.
Note: These checks are non-refundable whether the applicants is approved or rejected.
7. Sworn Affidavit which explains the reasons for applying for Panama permanent residency along with the ability to support the applicant’s family and dependants. (Your law firm can probably supply you with this form).
8. All documents must be “original”, “updated”, “official”, and “authenticated”.
Here are the definitions for these terms:
Original: The original document, not a copy;
Updated: Being recently dated not more than four (4) months since date of issue;
Official: Directly issued by the agency or company and not printed via internet or scan or other external source;
Authenticated: Notarized and authenticated either by a nearby Panama Consul or by Apostille.
Definition of Apostille
An Apostille is a certification that a public document is authentic. The Apostille originated with the 1961 Hague Convention which abolished the tedious requirements for legalizing foreign public documents. In its stead, a simple certification by a public official is accepted to every nation which signed the 1961 Hague Convention. This is also known as the Hague Convention Apostille. The U.S. signed it in 1981.
In the U.S., an Apostille of a driver’s license or marriage or death certificate can be done by a state’s Secretary of State. The Apostille is an official stamp or seal along with the signature of the government official. Documents certified by notary publics can also be Apostilled certifying the notary public’s authority by a state’s Secretary of State.
An Apostille eliminates the need for a document to be certified by the state and then by the federal government or embassy.
The Apostille can be used for birth certificate, marriage licenses, death certificates, driver’s licenses, court judgments, patents, and a notary’s authentication of a person’s signature. The receiving country’s officials upon seeing the Apostille stamp or seal can be assured that the other country has authenticated that this is a legitimate copy of a public record.
104 nations have signed the Hague Convention Apostille including Panama and the U.S.
The above details are a synopsis of the requirements of a number of Panamanian attorneys who will assist in the application for a (Pensionado) Panama visa. Individual firms may require additional items or further conditions to be fulfilled. It is important to get estimates of costs, preferably in writing, from a number of organizations. Always ask questions. Some details such as document duplication, (photocopying), postage, courier services may not be included in an estimate of costs but such “minor” items can mount up quickly and become very expensive.
Whenever possible do whatever you can do yourself. This rule applies equally in the case of an application for the Panama visa even though an attorney must handle dealings with the government. It usually not difficult to obtain up-to-date copies of birth, marriage or death certificates from the appropriate authorities at a very small cost. Your attorney’s fees to make such applications will not be low and correspondent firms in other countries may be employed to obtain such documents. This will add to your costs and may be examples of items not covered in any initial estimate of fees.
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