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Listen to the replay of the Q & A Conference Call about relocating to and living in Panama.
For 8 years, we’ve been helping people relocate to Panama and showing them what their life could be like living in Panama. Join us for a Panama Relocation Tours so I can help you too!
We host these live Q & A calls every month. But you’re also welcome to email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t worry, you can still receive and send mail within Panama and even from outside Panama. These are your options:
Mail Inside Panama
To send and receive mail within Panama, you will use in in-country courier service like Uno Express or Fletes Chavele. You’ll need to take the letter or package to their office and have it addressed to the person you want to send it to, plus their city or location, plus their cell phone number.
If someone in Panama City needs to send me something to Boquete, they will take the package to an in-country courier service. If the package is delivered to the courier service by 2PM, I will usually get the package the next day. They do supply the sender with a tracking number.
The cost will depend on how much the package weighs. It is typically about $4 for a legal sized envelope filled with documents.
Since there is no mail delivery, you will not receive any bills in Panama either. Companies like electric, internet, and cable TV all send your bills by email. If you have a Panama bank account, you can pay your bills online. If you do not have a Panama bank account, you will need to go in to their office to pay your bills or go to one of the general bill pay locations which are throughout Panama.
Using the Panama Post Office.. or not
To receive mail at a Panama post office, you can have letters sent “general delivery” to the post office in the town where you live. You should instruct the sender to include your full name and your Panama cell phone even though it is unlikely that the post office will call you when your mail arrives. This is the most economical way to send mail within Panama cut also the least reliable. It could take a week or more.. if the package arrives at all.
You can also take letters to the post office in Panama to send to your country but they have a 50% chance of arriving.
International Mail — Mail Forwarding Companies
Throughout Panama there are mail forwarding companies like Mail Boxes Etc, Uno Express, etc. You can set up an account with them when you arrive in Panama. They will supply you with a unique Miami address where your letters and packages are sent to. Once your mail arrives in Miami, it is put on a plane to be flown to Panama City. From there it is put on a truck to be delivered to the mail forwarding company where you have an account. When your package or letter arrives, you will receive an email that you have mail. You’ll need to go in to their office to pick up your package. This service is very convenient, but using a mail forwarding company is not cheap! You’ll pay about $4 to $5 per pound for packages.
Here’s an example: If I want to order something on Amazon, I will have it sent to my Miami address. Once the package arrives in Miami, it is flown to Panama City then trucked to Boquete. From the day I order until the day my package arrives in Boquete, it is typically 7 days.
Some of these mail forwarding companies also handle mail that needs to be sent from Panama back to your country. They even offer Federal Express or DHL for time-sensitive packages.
So, even though there is no mail delivery to your house, you can still receive and send mail in Panama. But because of the costs involved, it’s a good idea to convert most of your mail to electronic delivery to reduce costs.
Like all countries, Panama has immigration laws which govern how long a tourist can stay in Panama and the immigration law also defines the rules for getting a Visa to live in Panama indefinitely. If you want to live in Panama, or obtain a second legal residency in Panama, you’ll need to get a permanent residency Visa. This Visa entitles you to live in Panama indefinitely. There are many different kinds of Visa and the rules are different for each one. The Visa most foreigners are interested in are the Pensionado Visa or the Friendly Nations Visa because they are the least expensive and the fastest Visa for getting permanent residency status. Below I will discuss the process for getting either of these Visas but first I want to discuss the big differences for qualifying for each.
The Pensionado Visa, also known as the retiree Visa, is the easiest and least expensive Visa to get. To qualify, you will need to show a lifetime income of $1,000 per month pension plus $250 per month for each dependent. So, a couple would need to prove $1250 a month in lifetime income from a pension, Social Security, military retirement. It is the least expensive Visa because the government of Panama waives all fees which saves you $1050 in expenses. The draw back of this Visa is that you can never work in Panama. You cannot offer any services or products for sale in Panama if you have a Pensionado Visa. The benefits are that you get a lot of discounts like 25% off all airfare, 25% off utility bills, 50% off movie theaters, 20% off prescriptions and restaurants.
The Friendly Nations Visa is the ideal Visa to get if you do not have a pension and/or if you would like to work in Panama. You do not need to prove any income other than to open a Panama bank account with a deposit of $5,000 plus $2,000 for each dependent. As soon as you get your Visa, you can start spending the money in the account. To apply for this Visa, you will either need a labor contract (job offer) or you will need to set up a corporation which shows Panama that you have the “intent” of doing business in Panama. Additional good news… if you are a woman who is 55 or a man who is 60 you will still qualify for all the Pensionado discounts even though you have the Friendly Nations Visa.
Unfortunately, getting a residency Visa is a multiple step process which will require several trips to Panama. Some of our tour clients decide to start the Visa process immediately after a Panama Relocation Tour since they are already in Panama.
These are the steps for getting a permanent residency Visa in Panama:
1. Select a Panama lawyer to work with. The lawyer will send you a list of documents you will need to obtain in your country. You will need a national criminal report, like an FBI report, marriage certificate, proof of pension if applying for the Pensionado Visa, etc. Most of those documents will need to be apostiled. Most documents cannot be more than 6 months old but better to apply for a Visa within 1-2 months after you get your documents. Bank reference letters cannot be more than 30 days old. You will need a Panama bank account to get the Friendly Nations Visa. You should confirm that your lawyer can help you set up a bank account for the Friendly Nations Visa. During a Panama Relocation Tour, you will meet the lawyer who handles all the Visa applications for our tour clients. And we will also help you set up a Panama bank account in 1-2 hour!
2. Once you have all the documents the lawyer requested, you should scan then email them to your lawyer so they can make sure everything is correct and get everything translated in to Spanish before you arrive. You certainly do not want to make a trip to Panama only to find out that one of the documents is not correct.
3. When you arrive in Panama, the first day you will meet with your lawyer at their office to sign documents giving them the authority to represent you at immigration. There is also a questionnaire form that is required for getting a Visa. Don’t be surprised if you are asked if you have even been a prostitute or a drug dealer. This will be a 2 hour meeting.
(NOTE: If you get your documents authenticated at the Panama Embassy in your country instead of an apostile, there is an additional step in Panama which must be done before you can apply for your Visa at immigration. You will need to get all documents authenticated by the Ministry of Foreign Relations in Panama City. This will take 2 days and they charge $5 per document. You can avoid this step if you get your documents apostiled.)
4. The 2nd day, you will meet your lawyer, or their representative, at immigration to file your application for a Visa. This will take 1-3 hours depending on the line.
5. On day 3, you will meet your lawyer at immigration again to get your temporary or also called a processing Visa. The temporary Visa is good for 6 months. This gives immigration time to verify all the documents you have submitted. Once everything is verified, and before the 6 months is up, you will be notified by your lawyer that your permanent Visa is ready. You will probably be at immigration 2-4 hours this day.
6. If you do not plan to stay in Panama for the 6 months that your Visa is being processed, you will need to get a Multi-entry Visa stamp in your passport. This allows you to leave Panama while immigration is processing your Visa. Your lawyer will help you with the Mulit-Entry Stamp process. You will need to give immigration your passport. It will take 2 days to get it back. Failure to get the Multi Entry Stamp will result in a $2000 fine if you leave Panama while you are in the processing phase.
7. About 2 months to 5 months after you get your temporary Visa, your lawyer will notify you that your permanent Visa is ready. This will require a trip to Panama City for 1 day to get your permanent resident Visa.
8. The day you get your permanent Visa, your lawyer will apply for your Cedula (a national ID card) which you can pick up about 1 month later or your lawyer can pick it up for you. The Cedula or national ID card is good for 10 years so you will need to come back to Panama to renew your Cedula if you are not already living in Panama.
9. Once you get your Cedula, you can apply for a work permit if you got the Friendly Nations Visa. It takes several months to get the work permit and cost $500.
As you can see, getting your permanent Visa will take more than one trip to Panama. There are multiple steps in the Visa process.
Once you get your Visa, you are NOT required to live in Panama, but you are required to come back at least every 2 years for a visit.
10. After 5-years, you can apply for Panama citizenship and a passport IF you have lived in Panama the two previous years before applying.
I know it sounds complicated. And it certainly would be very complicated if you were trying to get a Visa without the help of a competent Panama lawyer. They will make the whole process easy for you. Picking the right lawyer to work with is essential in the entire Visa process.