It seems a good time to revisit the Pensionado Visa process. We have been working on this for quite some time now, and things are going along great. The pensionado visa is a permanent residency in Panama reserved for people who have pension income. The visa, once approved, is good for life. We are going to run down the benefits and requirements today. This all seems a little overwhelming at first, but when we’re on the beach in Panama instead of shoveling snow it will all be worth it. The Panama Pensionado visa has numerous benefits that attract retirees from all over the world.
Panama is a nation that is very welcoming to foreigners, and perhaps never more so than when it offers retirees a whole host of discounts, on everything from airfare to hotels, movies, and utilities. These benefits are part of a package of perks that are tailored to retirees of all ages.
The list of discounts and advantages of the pensioner’s visa is lengthy. Here are a few that we found quite enticing:
- 50% off on recreation and entertainment such as movies, theaters, sports, etc.
- 50% off hotels Monday through Thursday (30% off on weekends)
- 30% off public transportation like buses, trains, and boats
- 25% off airfare
- 25% off restaurants (15% off fast food)
- 25% off electrical, telephone, and water service
- 20% off doctors and specialists
- 15% off hospitals and private clinics
- 15% off dental and optometry services
- 10% off prescription medications
- tax-free importation of household goods, up to $10,000
- tax-free importation of a vehicle, or tax-free purchase of a local vehicle, every 2 years
Retirees are also able to obtain a cedula. The cedula is the national identification card issued to residents. It provides improved ease for getting around and transacting business in Panama. The local people feel more comfortable doing business with people who they know are “documented”. This is a great benefit when immersing ourselves in the culture of the country.
The pensionado visa program is more than a retirement program. It is opened to anyone who meets the requirements. Recipients can never lose their benefits, as long as they continue to meet the requirements. Here is a list of the requirements to qualify:
- Monthly income of $1,200 for life from a guaranteed source such as a pension, annuity or social security.
- Or income of $750 per month and a $100,000 minimum investment in Panamanian real estate
- An additional $250 monthly income for each dependent
The $1,200 per month is a total amount for a married couple. In other words, it isn’t necessary for both spouses to meet the income requirement. Dependent children cannot be over the age of 18, unless they are attending college. Exceptions can also be made for adult children with disabilities. The $250 can also be obtained in the form of interest earned on deposits in a Panamanian bank.
The process of applying for and obtaining your pensionado visa is relatively straightforward. The whole process takes several months and costs between $1,500 and $2,000 per person, including attorney fees. The attorney fees may be less for a married couple or a family when it is done together. There will be a bit of paperwork, and it will all need to be properly authenticated (apostilled). A reputable attorney with experience in immigration issues will be a valuable tool as you navigate this process. In general, you’ll need to be prepared to provide the following:
- Certified letter from the appropriate organization or entity guaranteeing your monthly pension for life
- Government certification that the source of your income is in good standing, if your pension comes from a private company
- Proof of prior pension payments (e.g. check stubs, bank statements, etc.)
- Certificate of public registration of Panamanian real estate in your name, if applicable
- Police record from the country where you resided the past 5 years (FBI fingerprint check)
- Marriage and/or birth certificates, if applicable
- Six (6) passport sized photographs of the applicant (and dependents – if applicable).
- Certificate of Good Health, issued by a licensed Panamanian hospital or clinic, signed by a registered, licensed physician, indicating that the applicant (and dependents – if applicable) has no contagious diseases and is in good mental and physical condition. THIS MUST BE DONE DURING YOUR INITIAL VISIT TO PANAMA.
This is where we are in the process. We have a very good immigration attorney in Panama City working on this for us. We have all the documentation except Jen’s pension letter. We cannot get that until her retirement is final. Today we had all the documents apostilled at the Secretary of State. On Monday we will be sending the attorney all the documentation by e-mail (scanned and sent PDF). The attorney will the have them translated to Spanish. We will take our passport size photos with us when we go. The attorney will make arrangements for us to get our health physicals when we arrive in the country. It looks like this process is in good order.
Todays Spanish lesson is very appropriate: Por favor, deme mi descuento de pensionado. Translated… “Please give me my pensioner’s discount.”
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