Did you ever think you’d grow up to be a Panamanian pensioner? Well, whether you’ve been weighing the pros and cons for a while or it just fell on your radar, here are some helpful tips to see how to qualify for the Pensionado program, the application process, and, best of all, the benefits that await once you’re here.
Alongside the host of other reasons why Panama comes top for a life-changing move, the Pensionado program checks more boxes than any other for value. Besides making it super easy for expat pensioners to obtain residence in the country, it also saves you 10-50% on everyday expenses like travel, entertainment, eating out, healthcare, and more.
How To Qualify for the Pensionado Visa
The Pensionado programs allows foreigners to obtain legal residency as long as you receive a minimum “lifetime” pension or annuity of USD $1,000/month. And that means anyone – there’s no minimum or maximum age requirement.
If your monthly pension falls short of the US$1,000, but is US$750 or more, you can qualify by buying a property in Panama valued at US$100,000+, effectively reducing the lifetime monthly pension income requirement down to US$750.
If you’re married and your combined pensions add up to US$1,000 or more, you can apply jointly. Dependents, as long as they’re in full-time education qualify under your visa on a temporary basis until they turn 25, but you need to show an additional US$250/month in the monthly pension requirement for each.
The Documentation You’ll Need for the Pensionado Visa
Pensions from foreign governments or agencies simply need a certification letter stating the amount and that the funds guarantee a lifetime pension.
If the pension or annuity is from a private company (bank, insurance, trust or mutual fund company), besides the certification letter you’ll also need to show documentation from a government authority that the company administering and disbursing the pension is registered and in good standing, as well as proof of monthly payments or an account statement from the bank.
If you’re meeting the qualification threshold through the real estate purchase, you’ll also need to provide certification of Public Registration of the property with the title in your name.
Next, you’ll need a police record from your last 5 years of residency, as well as pass a medical on arrival in Panama.
Note that all documents need to be originals, notarized and either authenticated by your nearest Panamanian Consulate or duly apostiled.
Marriage certificates and/or birth certificates (for children under 18 years of age – if applicable) are also required to be originals.
Read on here for some tips from a Pensionado veteran on how to manage the actual process.
Application Process For Residency:
Bear in mind that for the Pensionado visa, you have to start the process in your home country. You also need to hire a Panamanian attorney to file your application, authorizing them via a Power of Attorney to handle the process and documentation on your behalf.
Other than that, the procedure for all resident permits is the same: you register your passport in person at Immigration in Panama and present your application with all the required documents, fees etc, together with your attorney. You should plan to be in Panama over 7-8 business days for this process. Make sure you don’t go to Immigration straight from the beach in your shorts and flip flops, they’re picky about attire.
At this point, Immigration will issue you a “Provisional Processing Card” and “Multiple Entry-Exit Visa” valid for the duration your residency application is being processed. Usually, you’ll get your visa in 2 – 3 months, at which point you should plan to return to Panama to take your final Immigration photos. And there you are, a newly minted Panamanian pensioner.
And Now, To Those Plum Pensionado Benefits:
Once you get the Pensionado visa, Panama’s your oyster. To start, you get half off on entertainment (everything from movies and concerts to sports games), 25% off your restaurant bill, 25-30% off domestic travel fares, 30-50% off hotel stays, and a bunch of savings on healthcare (10%-20% off prescription drugs, doctors’ visits and dental and eye exams).
You’re also in for some great tax exemptions, like a one-time duty exemption on household goods up to a total of US$10,000 and exemptions on importing a new car every 2 years (!).
The benefits also extend to home ownership: you save half off closing costs for home loans, 25% off utility bills and 1% off mortgage loans if the property is used solely as a personal residence.
So, there you have it. Why would anyone not want to retire in Panama?