Move to Panama: Where to Start

Deciding to move to Panama is an exciting, life-altering decision. While many people have big dreams, not everyone makes them a reality. So, if you’re excited about moving to a country with ideal year-round weather, a lower cost of living, and a slower pace of life, then it’s time to learn what it takes to make it happen!

Where should you begin when it comes to making your move to Panama?

In this article, we’re going to discuss some essential points to consider, including:

● Eligibility requirements
● Health insurance and medications
● Cost of living
● And more!

Are you eligible to move to Panama?

Before packing up your bags to move to Panama, there are some things to consider. For example, if you qualify for a residency visa,

Tourists from North America can only stay for 180 days as a tourist. You’ll get a stamp on your passport upon entering the country. But you must get a residency visa to live in Panama. You’ll need residency to enjoy the benefits of living in Panama.

You must consider several factors when determining residency eligibility and if Panama will work for you.

Criminal History

You must show a clean national criminal report to obtain a residency visa in Panama. That means if any felonies show up (even from a long time ago), you probably will not be able to get a residency visa in Panama. If you have misdemeanor charges, you may be able to get a residency visa.

If nothing comes up, then great! Move forward with visa options to see if you qualify.

However, if you have a criminal history, you must send your criminal report to your immigration attorney. If you don’t have a felony, exceptions could be made to get your visa. But, generally, a felony will disqualify you from obtaining a residency visa in Panama (and many other countries, for that matter).

Visa Options

Obtaining a visa will be easy if you’re retired and receive social security payments or a monthly pension of at least $1,000 USD. That’s one of the main reasons Panama has such a large ex-pat community of retirees. If you’re married, you’ll need to add $250 to qualify for a Pensionado visa.

The Pensionado Visa is the best option for qualifying retirees. The only catch is that you can’t work in Panama. You can, however, work remotely for a foreign company.

Panama does not accept income from a 401K, mutual funds, annuities, or job or rental income. To qualify for the Pensionado visa, you must already receive Social Security, a pension, or military retirement. (the only exception is if an annuity was set up by your previous employer for your retirement)

If you don’t qualify for a Pensionsdo visa, other options exist. You could find employment at a Panamanian company, although this can be challenging. The other visa options are a much larger initial investment and usually involve purchasing property for a minimum value of $200,000 or getting a 3-year CD at a Panama bank for $200,000.

If you have an online business or work remotely, visa options are available that cost as little as $5000.

income requirements for visa in panama

Health Insurance and Medications

Moving to Panama can be challenging due to health insurance options. If you have a pre-existing health condition, you may not qualify for health insurance through Panama’s health insurance companies, even if you have a visa. Additionally, these companies require you to have received at least three Covid vaccines. While other insurance options are available, they are more expensive and only cover medical emergencies.

Without health insurance, paying out of pocket can be expensive, especially if you require frequent medical attention or procedures. Medical emergencies like heart attacks, cancer treatments, unexpected surgeries, and other unforeseen medical issues could be financially devastating without health insurance.

If you’re a US citizen and have the right Medicare Advantage plan, it will cover medical emergencies in Panama.

Public healthcare in Panama is available if you don’t qualify for private health insurance. While more affordable, it may come with long wait times and sometimes lower-quality facilities. A regular doctor’s visit costs $2, and seeing a specialist is $5.

If you rely on certain medications, you must ensure they’re readily available in Panama and research their cost. You can check the availability and costs here. Unfortunately, obtaining certain medications can be costly, so conducting thorough research is crucial before investing in a visa. You can set up a telemedicine visit with a Panamanian doctor before you come to Panama to help you determine if your medications will be available.

During an all-inclusive Panama Relocation Tour, we always visit a pharmacy so you can check on the availability and price of your medications in Panama. We also set aside time one afternoon so you can visit with a Panamanian doctor to review your medical conditions. Knowing you can get good medical care in Panama will give you peace of mind about moving to Panama. Of course, you’ll also get detailed information about health insurance options in Panama during an all-inclusive Panama Relocation Tour.

Do You Have Pets!

If you have pets, you will want to bring them to Panama. In most cases, they can come with you on the plane if they are small enough to fit in a carrier under the seat in front of you or cargo. If your pets are too big for cargo, you must use a pet relocation service or charter a flight to bring them to Panama. It will cost about $3500 to use a pet relocation service and $25,000 or more to charter a flight. See the prices of transporting your pets in cargo below. Your pet must be able to stand up in the carrier. When you’re working on your budget to move to Panama, figure in the cost to get your pets to Panama, too.

Thousands have moved to Panama with their pets, and you can too. It’s easy to get your pets into Panama.

copa cargo rates for pets

You should find a pet-friendly rental before moving your pets to Panama.

Working in Panama

Getting a job in Panama is not so easy. Wages are much lower than where you work now. Multinational companies pay the most, but getting a job in Panama could be challenging. Foreigners need a work permit to work in Panama.

Certain professions, basically anything that requires a license, are protected for Panamanians only. Foreigners are not allowed to work in these professions, regardless of their qualifications. In most circumstances, Panama only allows 10% of the workforce at a company to be foreigners. Most jobs will require that you speak Spanish.

Before you move to Panama to get a job, talk with an immigration lawyer to determine if you can work in your profession in Panama.

An online job or working remotely for your current employer may be a better option if you’re not retired or don’t have a pension.

Cost of Living

A more affordable cost of living could be what attracted you to Panama in the first place: a much lower cost of living than where you currently live. Many retirees are also drawn to Panama for the culture, natural diversity, and quality of life you can have for a reasonable price.

For example, you may think having a terrace with an ocean view is way out of your budget. Well, in Panama, it could easily be your reality. You might even have a picturesque mountain view like the one at the bottom of the page!

view of coronado from gorgona panama
Gorgona Panama

Where you live and how you live in Panama will determine your cost of living. Some places are more affordable than others. The good news is that there is a perfect place in Panama to fit any budget. It’s important to develop a realistic budget for Panama and find a place to live in Panama that matches your budget.

Let’s check out a quick snapshot to understand better the monthly cost of living in Panama:

● Panamanian meal for one: $6 USD other restaurants can be $10-$15 per meal
● Normal taxi: $2-$4 USD
● 1 bedroom Panama City furnished apartment rent: $850 USD
● High-speed internet: $36 USD
● Panama health insurance: $117 per month (60-69 year old)

So, according to Numbeo, the cost of living in Panama is 34.5% lower than in the U.S. When figuring out a realistic budget for yourself, factor in your income and lifestyle.

You’ll also need to consider the cost of relocating to Panama. Even if you moved across town, there would be upfront expenses for settling in a new location. Moving to Panama will come with expenses for getting a visa, finding a rental, perhaps shipping household goods, or bringing a pet. Read this article for estimates of the upfront costs of moving to Panama.

Research, Research, Research!

Before moving to Panama, you should visit Panama to ensure it’s a good fit!

Weather and budget will be the two determining factors to consider. Your budget may eliminate some areas because the cost of living is higher there. But there are other more affordable options.

Some think they want to live at the beach but, after visiting Panama determine it’s too hot or humid. Others think a beach lifestyle is perfect.

Some think they want to live in the mountain, but after visiting determine it’s too cool. Others think living in the highlands is perfect.

Only YOU can determine what’s best for you.

And the only way to know which area is best is to visit Panama. An all-inclusive 6-day, 7-night Panama Relocation Tour makes your exploratory trip easy! You’ll visit Panama City, beach, and mountain areas to help you decide which area feels right.

Even before you come to Panama, these are some things you can do to research living in Panama:

Watch videos on the Panama Relocation Tours YouTube Channel to help you get more familiar with different areas in Panama. We have expat interviews during our weekly Livestreams and monthly Retire in Panama Q&A Livestreams.

You can also read the Panama Relocation Tours blog articles to familiarize yourself with different areas and how things are done in Panama.

An all-inclusive 6-day, 7-night Panama Relocation Tour is a good way to see many different areas, learn about amenities, where the closest hospitals are, and learn more about what you need to know for a hassle-free move to Panama. By the end of the tour, you probably know exactly where you want to move to and will have total confidence in moving to Panama.

Once you do this research and visit Panama, you’ll get a better feel for where you want to live in Panama. I’m pretty sure you’ll love Panama! But, if not, it is better to know now before going through the entire visa and relocation process.

Ready to Move to Panama?

As long as you’ve ticked off all the eligibility requirements, you’re ready to plan your scouting trip to Panama.

Remember that you don’t have to visit Panama alone!

Since 2010, Panama Relocation Tours has helped thousands of people relocate to Panama. We’ve completed more than 230 relocation tours.

We have the experience you can trust… and need!

We even offer ongoing support before, during, and after your move to Panama when you come on an all-inclusive 6-day, 7-night Panama Relocation Tour or purchase the Online Complete Panama Relocation Guide.

We’ll help make your move EASY!

See details about Panama Relocation Tours HERE.

Make your dream of living in Panama a reality! When you’re ready, we’ll be here to help.

This is what Denise had to say about their Panama Relocation Tour:

Take This Tour !

Just completed our Panama Relocation Tour and all can say … it was fabulous. So much important information to make your move to Panama easy breezy.

It takes the worry out of a big step. They have gathered all the necessary requirements and put them down in black and white…. Follow the steps and your move here will make in enjoyable.

They feed you all meals, hotel stays and Q&A the entire trip. Highly recommend this trip to anyone thinking of moving and/or retiring to beautiful Panama. From beach to mountain you will experience all climates .

Plus, you meet some really nice folks along the way.

See other testimonials on TripAdvisor, Facebook, our website, and YouTube.

boquete panama
Jackie’s yard in Boquete Panama

Jackie Lange

Jackie Lange is the founder of Panama Relocation Tours and lives in the highlands of Boquete Panama. She has helped thousands of people relocate to Panama.

Reader Interactions


  1. Walter Paz says

    Just a question : As a US citizen did you need to notify the state you live prior retired in Panama or you just live the country? Are there some US legal requirements to just move out to another country ? How this affect my SSI income ?

    Thank you

  2. Walter Paz says

    Just a question : As a US citizen did you need to notify the state you live prior retired in Panama or you just live the country? Are there some US legal requirements to just move out to another country ? How this affect my SSI income ?

    Thank you

    • Jackie Lange says

      Hello Walter. You do not need to notify the state where you live or the US that you are leaving. In some states, you’ll still be responsible for state income taxes. But you can change your state residency to avoid the state tax liability

  3. Eddie Avriett says

    I was stationed at ft amador from 1960 thru 1963 loved panama balboa and the heights yas wonderful

    • Jackie Lange says

      Eddie, you should come to see Panama now! You’ll be amazed

  4. Liz Guerrero says

    Hi Jackie!
    I am planning to come to Panama next month to see where Id like to move. I want to do private tours, looking for land to grow veggies, with a cascita & have a few dogs. Can I start my visa process while I’m there?

    • Dustin Lange says

      Hi Liz, Yes, you can start the visa process if you have the necessary documentation. It would be best to consult with an immigration lawyer ASAP. We publish our list of recommended lawyers in our Complete Panama Relocation Guide.

  5. Timothy M Chiles says

    I’m a US citizen retired Military married to a duel US/Panama citizen, where can I find out how to start my visa process and the time factors?

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