Dreaming about Panama for retirement? Here’s a dream you’ll want to catch, a perk offered by the Panamanian Government called the Pensionado Visa. I’ll cover requirements & qualifications for this ambitious & attractive Visa program, and then add details in a later blog.
Here’s what you need to know about the Pensionado: In short, it grants retirees substantial discounts throughout Panama on utility bills, public transport, travel on COPA, (the national airline) and many more enticements to move to Panama, the land of the world’s best shortcut!
Oso Perezoso: no mas problemas para mi!
Are you 18 or older? Do you have a guaranteed monthly income or annuity of at least $1,000 dollars U.S? Do you have notarized proof of that steady income from a certified financial institution? No criminal record in the previous five years? Chances are you qualify for the Pensionado Visa. If you purchase property in Panama—something allowed by law—the requirement is a bit different. Buying real estate worth at least $100,000 reduces the monthly income requirement to $750 dollars U.S. Seem simple? It is, but like all else in a bureaucracy, it takes time—and patience.
Push? Are you sure?
Speaking Spanish well isn’t a qualification requirement, of course. The Pensionado program is purely a financial transaction. But being conversant in the local language certainly helps, as noted above. Yes, unlike the featured door jamb, it does work both ways; learn Spanish, or acquire a good attorney to shepherd you through the process and push (or pull) open doors. You’ll need an attorney anyway if you intend to buy real estate, and it can’t hurt to establish contact with someone who specializes in local laws & customs. That said, no attorney is strictly necessary to get a Pensionado Visa, but…
Here’s what you’ll need to get started: Note that the application process needs to begin prior to moving to Panama. I mention this because getting documents & official paperwork shipped to you will be a nightmare. Plus—and this is critical—documents can be notarized no more than 3 months prior to application.
1—Proof of the financial position noted above from a financial institution willing to state that the money is there, it’s yours, and it will continue coming to you for life.
2—If the institution is a private company, such as a financial services or investment firm, proof that the firm is established, duly registered, in good standing, certified and solvent, and that the income from the client’s account (that’s you) continues to be forthcoming.
3—Proof that the institution in question actually exists. This may seem a bit trivial & obvious, but Panama, like the rest of us, has been taken in by shady banks, and the government isn’t willing to support slackers. (It’s a bit refreshing, actually.)
4—Proof that retirement deposits continue to be made into the account: Social Security; Military Retirement; A State PERS system; Union/Government/teachers’/any sort of continual deposit into an actual account suffices. But the deposits must be proven. Note: Spouses with guaranteed incomes may combine them to meet the $1,000 dollar/month requirement. Yes, a valid marriage license must be shown.
5—A photograph of you, regardless of how pretty/homely/plain or bedraggled you look. This picture must be taken at time of application.
Dependents? Leave ’em in Toledo and don’t tell them where you’re going. Kidding. Mostly. Here’s the thing: kids can be added to the Visa for proof of another $250/month income per kid. They can stay on mom & dad’s Pensionado Visa till they turn 18, or if they’re in school till 25. After that, they must seek to qualify for some other form of Visa or leave Panama.
Es prohibido nadar!
Pretty straightforward. It just takes time, and there are pitfalls. From the ‘Tombseekers’ blog, Loving Retirement in Panama, ‘Start to finish = 13 weeks! Woot! Woot!!’
From In Da Campo we have this : ‘It is recommended that you also obtain a Multiple Entry Visa if you are planning on leaving Panama during the visa process.’
Taken from Holly Carter’s blog, Let the Adventure Begin, a further note about the 3-month seasoning process: ‘Notarized documents can be no more than 3 months old.’
As you might imagine, there are speed bumps and obstacles along the way to the Pensionado Visa. Next blog post I’ll detail the actual benefits. Stay tuned.