Before buying a product or service from us, you should be aware of the basic qualifications you must meet in order to obtain legal permission to live in Panama.
You must present a national criminal report when you apply to become a legal resident of Panama. U.S. citizens need an FBI report. Canadians need an RCMP report. Citizens of other countries will need a national criminal report from their home country.
If you have anything more than minor traffic violations in your criminal history, your immigration attorney will need to get special permission from the Director of Immigration for you to apply for a visa. Some criminal charges could prevent you from getting permission to live in Panama. See this page for more information: What Could Prevent You From Getting a Visa in Panama?
The Pensionado Visa is the easiest and most affordable visa to get – if you qualify for it.
To qualify you must already be receiving the equivalent of at least $1,000 USD in gross guaranteed lifetime income plus $250 for each dependent. Social security, government or corporate pension, and military retirement benefits are some forms of income that qualify.
** If your employer set up a retirement account with a third-party administrator, and that retirement income is being paid out by an annuity, then Panama may accept it. Additional documentation will be required. If you purchased an annuity or have a non-employment-related annuity, it will not be accepted.
The Pensionado Visa is intended for retired people. With this type of visa, you are not allowed to be employed in Panama. You can own a business in Panama but you can not work in your business. You would need to hire others to sell your goods and services in Panama.
You are allowed to continue working outside of Panama. For example, you can work as a remote employee for a non-Panamanian company. You can also operate a business, such as an online business, that is formed outside of Panama and doesn’t sell goods or services in Panama.
If you qualify for the Pensionado visa and do not have a criminal history then you’re in luck. You are eligible to move to Panama!
Other Visa Options
If you do not qualify for the Pensionado Visa, it may be difficult, expensive, or even impossible for you to move to Panama.
Effective August 2021, most other visa options will require a substantial financial investment.
Some example options include:
- $80,000 investment for the Reforestation Visa
- $160,000 business investment plus hiring five Panamanian workers full time
- $200,000 purchase of real estate for the Friendly Nations Visa
- $300,000 deposited into a three year time deposit account (CD) at a Panama bank
We do not recommend buying real estate or any other investment in Panama until you have lived in Panama for at least a year. This gives you time to make sure you like living in Panama and that you like the area you have selected. It’s easy to buy real estate in Panama but it could take many years to sell.
Another, albeit risky option is to stay in Panama as a perpetual tourist. You can stay in Panama for 180 days as a tourist. Then you must leave Panama for 30 days. Then you can come back for another 180 days. You could potentially do this indefinitely.
One thing that may complicate this option for some people is that you are only allowed to drive in Panama for the first 90 days as a tourist. You will need to use taxis and public transportation after the first 90 days.
The reason this option is risky is that the rules could potentially be changed with no notice. The Panamanian government could, for example, change it to where you are only allowed to stay in Panama for 90 days per year. We’re not saying this is likely to happen, only that it could happen.
For this reason, being a perpetual tourist is not a good long-term option. You should only consider doing this as a “test-run” to decide if you truly want to move to Panama and make the investment required to obtain legal residency.
Our PLAN B has always been living in Mexico. Mexico does not require you to have a guaranteed lifetime income or make a substantial investment to get a visa. For more information about moving to Mexico, check out these pages on MexicoRelocationGuide.com: