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Obtaining a Pensionado Visa in Panama

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Here’s some great advice from a fellow Expat on obtaining your pensionado visa in Panama:

The criminal background check can be from either your town, city, county or state, they don’t care as long as it comes up clean.
·        If you can keep up with the attorneys as they run around Panama, then you’re healthy.
·        All Apostilling will take time and some fees. Sec of State best place for us so we went there. As she said, plan for someone screwing something up and delaying you a day and you will be good. You know, standard government stuff – any government.
·        We did fill out the Panama Immigration papers the very first day we met with the Attorney early before the shuffle began, that helped.
·        Be mentally prepared to completely surrender you Marriage License. They keep it for good and you have to pay to have them retrieve it, after you are approved.
·        Be prepared to surrender your passports overnight to the attorney for processing. They take it to a notary and have it copied and whatever else…   Don’t worry, by the time they ask for it, you have seen immigration at least once and you will feel you trust them by then.
·        If you can, get your 6 passport quality and size photos before you go, that will save you 1-2 hours in shuffling around getting to a place that looks and feels like a Walgreens. Farmacia Arrocha is a good bet, and they are all over town.  Although it won’t be cheaper, it will save you time and stress.
·        Buy your lawyer or the person shuffling you around lunch, they will appreciate it and you will all have to eat somewhere along the trek.
·        Wear comfortable clothes the two days you are going to need to do this. It gets good and hot there and proper attire is advised but make sure that men have long pants on.  Also carry a couple liters of water with you.  Stopping to get some will only slow you down.  Hydrate a lot, it is hot in Panama…
·        Don’t be insulted on the quality of the temp card picture they will be giving you. A US DMV picture is more flattering and the ID cards you had in High School looks more official than the temp and from what I have seen, the permanent card does.
·        Your Apostilled award letter can also be from any agency administering the pension or disability funds. Pensions by other than governmental agencies need to run through some additional financial solvency and validation hoops before they are accepted.
·        After the final approval, you get and email or call from your attorney and they will need to send in the temp IDs and an additional fee of 100 dollars for each of you for them to provide you the final papers and then get back to Panama and get your pictures taken again and the final cards made and that’s it.  Indefinite Residency is yours.   Not sure about the 100 dollars going to just the fees, that’s what we are going to be charged.   Optionally, you could just go back to Panama with your temp cards in hand , pay your fees and then surrender them …
·        Bring cash, it makes things go the fastest.   Plenty of ATMs in various places along the way if you feel insecure about carrying cash.

About the Author

Kent Davis, founder and head broker at Panama Equity real estate, has been widely quoted in publications such as Time Magazine, Capital Financiero, and The Panama Guide for his unabashed views on the Panama real estate market. Panama Equity is regarded as one of the most active real estate agencies in Panama and Kent’s articles, reports, and market research projects have been syndicated by press agencies including Bloomberg and the Associated Press.   Connect with the Author via: Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Google+

32 Comment

  1. Howard Landis says:

    Can my wife and I apply for the pensionado visa from the US or must we actually be in Panama to go through the process? We have the necessary minimum retirement income for a couple, $1250. Thanks for any assistance you might be able to give us.

    • Kent Davis says:

      Hi Howard, I know that a part of the visa application process must be done in Panama. Im going to connect you with our go-to attorney on immigration issues.

      • Barbara Mathewson says:

        I own a home in Valle Escondido, Boquete, Panama and I spend time here. I paid cash for the home and I am very comfortable here. I have a Republica de Panama ID which expires 26/07/2013. Do I need anything else?

    • jacob says:

      my question is that my finacee is Colombian and I am a U.S citizen and we are traveling to Panama to look at a home to purchase. Would there be any problem with her staying in Panama if I open a joint account there with at least 10,000 to show support for her until I return back to Panama to establish residence under the pensionado program? I am a retiree and am looking forward to starting a new life in Panama. Just also wondered if the lawyers that handle real estate also hand the pensionado paperwork? Does my finacee needs any particuar paperwork as well? I will be coming to Panama blind and can’t afford to tangle with a situation that would leave a bad taste in my mouth. If your firm has the answers please direct me. If not would apprecitate your assistance in directing me in the right direction. Thank you

      • Kent Davis says:

        Dear Sir,

        It is a pleasure to greet you.

        Mr. Davis from Panama Equity asked me to respond to your immigration questions.

        Basically your fiancé will be able to stay in the country legally until her tourist visa runs out, she can always leave the country and come back to renew it. Once you apply for the pensionado visa, if you plan to apply with her, you will need to be legally married to be able to add her a dependent.

        Attached you will find some useful information regarding the pensionado visa, also there is more information on our website.

        If you are receiving a pension of more than $1000.00 per month then you qualify under the law to obtain an pensionado Visa in Panama. The process basically has 3 main steps, which are first registration, we make an appointment with the client to come into our office sign some forms and we take the next morning to immigration to get their passport stamped. The second step is the application, when we present the application to immigration with all the requires documents, bellow I will indicate what you will need to provide, you will need to be in Panama for minimum of 7 working days as we will need to process a temporary ID for you and a multiple entry and exit permit after application. After application Immigration will take around 3-6 months to grant the visa assuming all the paperwork is in order, once the visa is granted the client must come down to Panama to obtain their permanent ID, though they don’t have to come right away, this can be done at your convenience.

        The documents we will require from you are the following:
        1. Police report issued during the last 6 months, this document must be authenticated by the Panamanian consulate nearest you. If you are a US citizen, the police report must be FBI 2. Proof of pension (from what organization is your pension?) this document must be authenticated by the Panamanian consulate nearest you 3. If you are planning on applying with your spouse you must also provide a marriage certificate and police report, these documents must be authenticated by the Panamanian consulate nearest you 4. Declaration at US embassy in Panama (if you are using Social Security) 5. 8 passport size pictures (this you can get around the corner from our office)

  2. Robert & Helen Berding says:

    Hi Kent.

    We are Dutch and since 10 years permanent residents of Saint Lucia. How long does the process takes
    once you have presented all documents for the Pensionado Visa correctly? We speak fluently Spanish as we lived and worked 15 years in Spain.

    Robert & Helen

  3. Rick Mewshaw says:

    Kent,
    I am 57 years old and I have retired. However, I am entitled to access my 401K and IRA without any penalty. As far as showing that I receive the minimum of $1000/month, can I show that I am receiving $1000/month from my IRA through what is called the rule 72t? This is a rule in which the IRS allows one to take automatic distributions from their IRA, even though they are not 591/2 years old yet. That the distributions must be taken for at least 5 years. Once I turn 62, I can use my social security to show that I am receiving an automatic distribution but until then i want to know if distributions from my IRA using the rule 72(t) would still qualify me.
    Thanks.

  4. Dino Bozen says:

    I’m on Social Security Disability and have been 12+ years. I need to know what I need to prove that I get this pension (the amount is almost double the requirement) in order to qualify for the pensionado visa. Will 12 years worth of yearly statements do it? Will a copy of the deposit page of my bank account for the last few years do it or do I need something else (please tell me I do not have to deal with Social Security, I get a headache just thinking about it! LOL) The FBI Background check and sending it off to the state dept for the apostille, I get (I actually have done this once already, and found an error that I got straightened out, so I just need to repeat the process). Do I do this with my last yearly SS statement? I cannot seem to get this answered anywhere, so please … be my savior! I did receive a letter asking about my condition last fall and received a reply that they don’t need anything further from me, and thanks for replying. BTW, I’m looking to make the move around Sept ’13 and will be 57 at the time. Thanks! Dino

  5. Xose Alvariño says:

    Hi Howard, great site, much info. Got a few questions for you, here are a couple: can I apply for the Pensionado Visa from the US? How does depositing SS/pensions in Panamanian banks work? Thanks! My e-mail is: xmamb@yahoo.com

  6. Donald Mckee says:

    Hello Mr. Davis – I am 75 years of age. My monthly Social Security check is currently $956 per month. Please advise how I can add on an additional $44 to reach the $1000/mo requirement for pensionado status. Thank you.
    Donald Mckee

  7. Sandra says:

    I am curious, I recieve a pension from the Veterans Administration as a widow of a deceased veteran. This is for life and is over the required amount. Would this qualify me for the pensioners program? I am 40 something and very interested in living in Panama. Thank you.

  8. evangeline says:

    Please help me to find a good Lawyer in Panama. I am planning to spend 3 months in Panama this winter and would like to get residency Penionada while I am there.
    I am taking with me to help the process

    6 Passports size pictures,
    Criminal Background check
    Letter and bank deposits from the Federal Governemnt of Canada

    Please let me know what else I can take to make the process faster. Do I do the Medical here or in Panama.
    How much those the whole process costs.

  9. Tiziano Repetto says:

    Hi Kent congrats for the site, I’d like to know whether citizens from Italy, Europe, can apply for a Pensionado program, thanks sincerely

    • Panama Attorney says:

      Hello Tiziano,

      Of course citizens from Italy, Europe can apply for a Pensionado Visa. Most important thing, you must have a Life-Time Pensionado income for at least $1,000 per month. Actually, for Italians, there is another option as there is a Economic and Mutual Assistance Agreement signed between Panama and Italy, which allows or gives advantages for Italian citizens to obtain a Permanent Resident Visa in Panama.

  10. Jim says:

    I thought I read some where that an FBI background report was the only one excepted.

    You article says different. Has something changed? Is a state police report OK?

    Thanks,
    Jim

  11. TC says:

    Hi Kent,

    Thanks for the information – I too had heard that ONLY FBI background checks and not local PD reports are being accepted. Just applied for our FBI checks and was informed that they take six weeks to receive, so everyone plan ahead! TC

  12. Peter Raphael says:

    I am sailing with my boat to Panama next February. Will take all necessary paperwork with me. Can you give me a name ((contact) of a lawyer ?
    Thanks

  13. Brad Swanson says:

    Is the requirement 1,000 per person or combined of my wife and myself social security and pension ?
    Thank You, Brad& Cindy

  14. Terry "Doc" Musgrove says:

    I have a enough income for life to qualify for my family. We plan on moving to Panama as soon as we sell our house. Will you put me in touch with an attorney who is reliable and reasonable as we have adopted 2 children (3 & 6) so we know it will be a real circus for us and would like it to go as smooth possible.

  15. Jeffrey Ellis says:

    Hello,
    My wife are looking into the retirement visas for Panama and would like to speak with your immigration lawyer also,
    Best regards,
    Jeff

    • Kent Davis says:

      Jeff, from our Panama immigration attorney:

      First of all, allow me to introduce myself. I understand that you are interested in the Pensionado/Retirement Visa Program. I will be happy to assist you on all your queries or concerns.

      In Panama, there is the options for any foreigner to apply for a Pensionado or Retiree and get a PERMANENT Residency Permit. This is the key benefit of this program, it´s PERMANENT not temporary, which will eventually will allow you to get a Panamanian ID and even become a citizen.

      The Law states that any foreigner with a retirement or pension income from either a foreign government, private company or international institution, with enough source of incomes to take care of his/her expenses and his/her dependants, will be elegible to optain a Visa under the Pensionado Program. The minimum monthly pension must be for at least $1,000 and it must be a lifetime pension. However, the minimum income accepted could be $750/month if the applicant proves and show that he/she has made a property investment in Panama for at least $100,000.00.

      Husband and wife could both apply for this program but both will have to accomplish all the requirements. If you have children under 25, proving that they are still studying and dependents, could also be beneficiaries of this program, but their permit will be temporary until they reach 25 years old.

      There are some other requirements for this Visa program, but they are related to paperwork and government fees. The most important requirement would be a Certification of you monthly pension.

      I hope I had answered to your question and please feel free to contact me and send me any further questions or comments. I will be happy to discuss about this program with you, as well any other alternatives to your needs.

  16. Jean says:

    Hi !
    If I qualified for pensionado resident do I have to stay a minimum of days in Panama during the year.

  17. Rob Carey says:

    Hi Kent,

    I am a dual citizen (Panama and U.S.), when I retire and move back to Panama will my wife (U.S. citizen) be entitled to residency since I am a Panamanian citizen? Thanks for your time.

  18. Andrew says:

    Hi Kent,

    Thanks for all the great info here! And thanks to those for contributing from experience. Could you please put me in touch with a reasonable lawyer whom I can ask questions and begin the process of applying for this program? I am also interested in beachfront, mountain, or island property if you would like to email me on those topics as well. Your assistance is much appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Andrew

  19. Tim Coney says:

    I, too, am wanting info on the Pensionado visa process. I am unclear about the criminal background/income verification process with the notaries, Apostilles, and consulate requirements I need to do before going to see a Panamanian lawyer (know one specializing in NOT rich Americans? :-) ). Guidance is appreciated. I contacted an Apostille company here but they are as confused as I am. Thank you.

  20. Susan Picciuto says:

    Hello Kent. Thank you for such wonderful information. I receive $2100 from social security monthly. I am not married. I have lived with my significant other for many years. Can we apply for the Pensionado Program together? We have been to Panama and love it. Thanks, Susan

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