When you retire and do not have to go to work anymore, you may start thinking: “What do I do now?” Some pensioners go travelling around the globe while others look for a tranquil yet entertaining place to spend their golden years. If you belong to the second group, you should seriously consider moving to Panama as this country offers literally everything that a retired person may desire.
Relocating to Panama by applying to the “Pensionado” immigration program
There are several countries in the world that have immigration programs for retirees but Panama alone makes an offer you cannot refuse. The “Pensionado” visa program that the Panamanian Government launched back in 1987 looks enticing indeed.
What is “Pensionado” and who is the program designed for? Panama uses this legal instrument to lure foreign pensioners to the country first of all. The essential requirement that allows qualifying for this program is a guaranteed lifetime income of at least US$ 1,000 a month. There are very few other conditions to meet in order to be eligible for a Pensionado visa. However, you have to be able to supply an official letter from a state or private agency that certifies your unalienable income. The letter has to be of the kind that provides an iron cast proof of your economic solvency.
Even though the name of the program suggests that it is meant for pensioners, the lower age limit for the applicant is actually eighteen. Thus, if you can prove that you have a stable subvention of US$ 1,000 per month or more, you can move to Panama without much hassle even before you reach the retirement age. For instance, some countries provide state pensions to handicapped persons so if the pension is sufficient, these people also qualify for the Pensionado program.
If your pension is a little short of US$ 1,000, you have one more option you can use. In case you purchase real estate in Panama worth at least US$ 100,000, it will suffice to demonstrate that you have US$ 750 a month stably available to you. Now, one hundred thousand dollars is enough to buy a cozy apartment in the city or a small house in the countryside in Panama.
The benefits of relocating to Panama with the Pensionado visa
The benefits that you will receive moving to Panama on a Pensionado visa are plentiful and diverse. This Latin American country is attractive in many different respects: its geographical location, its climate, its nature, the entertainment possibilities, the social benefits that elderly people enjoy there, the healthcare system, the level of safety to be found in the country, and the low cost of living.
Panama’s geographical location
Panama can be thought of as a bridge between North and South Americas. It borders Costa Rica in the West and Columbia in the East. Its southern coast is washed by the Pacific Ocean, and its northern one by the Atlantic (the Caribbean Sea, in particular). It takes only three to five hours to get to Panama from the United States by plane. Without doubt, travelling to this country from Europe takes longer but the flight time across the Atlantic in nothing unthinkable anyway.
Climate in Panama
The weather in Panama is always perfect: it is never too hot nor cold there. The temperature remains between 22 and 32 degrees centigrade (72 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit) all throughout the year. It is a couple degrees hotter in Panama City on average than in the rest of the country. If 32o C (90 o F) still sounds too hot for you, you can lodge higher in the mountains where the temperature never goes above 28o C (82 o F).
The rain season, that is the substitution for winter in Panama, is a very pleasant time of the year, as a matter of fact. There are no rains that would fall for days in a row – only short refreshing showers a couple of times a day.
God also keeps Panama from natural disasters that frequently hit other tropical and subtropical countries. Hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, or earthquakes hardly ever happen there. There are very few places on the planet that can compare to Panama in terms of climate. If paradise on earth existed, it would probably be located in Panama.
Nature in Panama
One of the most exciting characteristics of Panama is that four different types of terrain are found there, all of them being absolutely wonderful.
First is Panama’s sandy beaches on both coasts. When in Panama City, you can swim in the Atlantic and the Pacific in one day. Some of the beaches will stretch for miles; others are shorter. You can walk on fine white sand in one place, and find grey volcanic sand in another. The ocean beaches are, of course, the central tourist attraction in Panama.
Multiple islands off the coasts are the second type of terrain to be found in Panama. There are hundreds of them: some huge, like Coiba Island, for example, that is the biggest island in Central America, and some really tiny, like those of the Pearl Islands archipelago. Some Panama islands are densely populated and often visited by tourists, while others remain uninhabited. If you are looking for a place close to idyllic, residing on an island near Panama – in the Atlantic or the Pacific – is the best choice.
Lodging in one of the Panama’s pristine rainforest areas is another attractive option to consider. Especially if you appreciate biodiversity and untouched nature. You can spend years trekking in the forests and kayaking along the rivers while exploring the wildlife in Panama. Forest areas are available both close to the capital – the Gamboa region surrounding the Gulf of Panama – and in remote areas such as Boquete or Santa Cruz de Cana, for instance.
Finally, you can find a comfortable accommodation in a town in the Panamanian mountains as well. It feels like spring in these regions all the year round. The town of Volcan is arguably the most popular retirement spot in Panama. It offers a slow, laid-back living style and marvelous mountain views. Cerro Punta is another highly elevated place where many expats choose to reside. It is the country’s agricultural center and walking around the area you will see a number of farms with locals wearing national costumes.
Depending on your personal preferences, you can choose the area in Panama that appeals to you most of all and settle there for the rest of your life. If you find that all terrains – the beaches, the islands, the rainforests, and the mountains – look very attractive, with a Pensionado visa you are perfectly free to travel around Panama and spend as much time in each area as you please.
Entertainment in Panama
There are also multiple ways to spend leisure time in Panama (of which you have plenty as you are retired now). You can find day and night, fast and slow, active and relaxed, types of entertainment in the country.
The Panamanian Government took full control of the Panama Canal in 1999. Until that time, the Canal had been operated by US companies for nearly a hundred years. This fact has brought tremendous American influence onto Panama. Panama City in particular is thought to be very much ‘Americanized’. This means that you can find the same sorts of entertainment facilities in the capital as American megalopolises offer. Bars, restaurants with different national cuisines, nightclubs, discos, amusement parks, shopping malls – you name it. Please rest assured that nightlife is as active in Panama City as in any other large capital city in the world.
On the other hand, if you want some slow-paced and quiet entertainment activities, the choice of those is even greater in Panama. Thoroughly exploring the nature in the country will certainly be a breathtaking experience. Forest and mountain hikes, boat trips on the rivers, visits to the islands –these all are of avail in Panama. You can also acquaint yourself with the local culture and traditions. In order to do that you will have to travel to the remote districts of the country where the friendly native residents will introduce you to the traditional ways of life in Panama.
Besides, what can compare to lying on the beach all day long occasionally going for a swim? Hardly anything.
By the way, you do not have to speak Spanish in order to obtain a Pensionado visa. Panama does not have a language fluency requirement to immigrants coming to the country via any of its numerous migration programs. At the same time, Spanish is an easy language to learn and many locals, especially in Panama City, speak English. So escaping the language barrier problem is going to be very easy.
Benefits for elderly people in Panama
The Panama of today provides for a high level of social security. Senior citizens in particular enjoy a large number of benefits such as numerous discounts for goods and services. The Panamanian legislation makes no difference between local and foreign seniors in this respect. Retired expats enjoy the same privileges as elderly locals do. For instance, senior residents in Panama are eligible for some serious discounts. The largest of them include the following:
- A 50% discount on entertainment such as concerts, movies, sports matches, etc.
- A 50% discount on hotel stays Monday through Thursday
- A 30% discount on hotel stays Friday through Sunday
- A 30% discount on local public transportation fares (buses, trains, boats)
- A 25% discount on flight tickets – both domestic and international
- A 25% discount on utility bills
- A 20% discount on professional and technical services
- A 20% discount on doctor visits
- A 10% discount on prescription drugs
There are other discounts available to senior citizens in Panama as well. Some of them are given automatically, others have to be asked for. Given the low cost of living in the country in general (see below), such deductions will make your life there even less expensive.
Healthcare in Panama
The healthcare system in Panama is referred to as one of the best (if not the best) such systems in Latin America. A large number of Panamanian doctors have studied medicine in the United States. As a result, they do not only have thorough knowledge of their area of specialization but also speak good English.
Medical centers in Panama are equipped and operated ‘in the similitude’ to the best such centers found in Europe and North America.
Healthcare is an important factor to take into consideration especially when you are closing on retirement age. Choosing Panama as the country of your residence late in life you will secure obtaining qualified medical assistance in case you need it.
Level of safety in Panama
Several decades ago, Panama was a scary country to go to. Conflicts between narcocartels, civil unrests, and overall poverty made Panama a truly unsafe country. Thank goodness, these times are long gone and forgotten now. Today Panama has gone out of harm’s way and become one of the safest countries in Central America. Of course, small crimes still happen (as they do everywhere else in the world) but the number of serious offences has been reduced drastically over the last several years.
Panama’s GDP has been stably growing by five to six percent over quite a few years now. Thus, the overall level of prosperity in the country has improved significantly. And increasing social welfare is the most effective instrument in combating crime in a country. Panama in particular has been applying this instrument in a most effective way. So, fret not about the safety issue in Panama. Today it is safe to live there. (Some American expats report that they feel safer living in Panama than they felt living at home.)
The cost of living in Panama
Why do you think the Pensionado program sets the minimum limit of guaranteed income at US$ 1,000? Is it because it is such a round sum? Of course, not. It is because a thousand dollars a months is enough to live in Panama carefree. Let us be more precise: it is more than enough. Thus, if you have a place to stay in the country, the required income is only US$ 750 a month (see above). On top of that, if a married couple is applying for a Pensionado visa, their combined income has to amount to US$ 1,000 per month.
Of course, there is no upper limit to the amount you can spend on entertainments in Panama. But if you live a simple life, the thousand dollars will easily see you through the month. The food is very inexpensive in Panama as the best portion of it is produced inside the country. As far as services are concerned, they are quite cheap too because the labor still costs much less in Panama than in Europe or North America. As for clothes, you do not need much of those living in Panama: a T-shirt, shorts, a pair of sandals, and a shady hat will constitute all the necessary clothing.
While a modest apartment rent alone will cost US$ 1,000 or more in US or Europe, the average salary in Panama of today is less than US$ 800 a month. This actually means that quite a number of people in the country live on much smaller sums of money. Thus, if you bring an average European or American pension with you to Panama, you will be among the wealthy there, in fact.
Shortly speaking, Panama provides almost all the amenities and opportunities available in the first-world countries at the prices typical for developing nations.
Shortcomings of the Pensionado visa program
If you are a typical US or European retiree with a state pension, you should not have any problems whatsoever obtaining a Pensionado visa in Panama. All you have to do is hire a legal advisor who will do all the application paperwork for you, and be prepared to pay the necessary state duties that are quite insignificant.
Offshore Pro Group will gladly assist you in acquiring Panama residence with a Pensionado visa. Please contact us via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and we will provide thorough consultations on all the matters related to moving to Panama.
However, if you come from a country with a soft currency, you might run into problems. First, your pension agency administration may appear unable or unwilling to quote your monthly income in US dollars. Second, the Panamanian immigration authorities may refuse to accept such a quote even if you manage to obtain it in your home country.
Besides, if your pension comes from a private foundation rather than a national state, you may have hard times proving to the Panamanian authorities that this foundation really exists and is in good standing with the Government and that your pension is for life. (Providing such proof will be easier for Canadians and US citizens as the authorities in Panama are familiar with the social security systems in these countries.)
Many people also manage to earn their own ‘pension’ through investment in stocks and bonds that they make during their working careers. If you submit this sort of evidence of your monthly income to the authorities, very much will depend on the type of income and the type of the financial institution it comes from. In general, in the eyes of the Panamanian immigration authorities dividends and interest is a much less secure source of income than a state pension is.
At the same time, there are quite a few other immigration programs in Panama, and there is a good chance that you are eligible to at least one of them. You can request a free consultation with as on the programs you can use in order to move to Panama by sending us a message to email@example.com. We have a back office in Panama City and first-hand experience in helping people from all over the world to relocate to this beautiful Central American country.