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I love living in Panama. But, it’s not right for everyone. Some people move to Panama then realize it’s not right for them, so they move away. It’s not always a “bad” reason that people want to leave Panama. This information is based on talking to people I know who have moved away from Panama.
We strongly recommend that you just rent for at least the first year when you move to Panama. This gives you time to make sure you like living in Panama. It gives you time to make sure you like the microclimate you have moved to. Living in Panama a year gives you time to experience the dry season and the rainy season which can be dramatically different. Living in Panama for a year gives you time to understand the “right” price to pay if you follow the real estate market.
The Top 10 Reasons People Leave Panama are:
1. Newly Retired – a couple spent most of their time working before moving to Panama. They were together a few hours in the evenings and on weekends. But when they move to Panama, they are suddenly together 24/7. Some people realize they don’t like living together 24/7 so one might leave Panama or they both leave Panama then go their separate ways. To avoid this problem, it’s good to get involved in separate activities when you move to Panama. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities, hiking groups, cooking classes, and other things to get you out of the house. Volunteering is a good way to meet people too.
2. Health Problems – They may develop serious health problems then want to go back home to be close to family. Or they leave Panama so they can use Medicare or other health insurance that does not cover them in Panama. Sometimes, a close family member may become very ill so they leave Panama to help take care of them.
3. Prescription drugs – It’s important to find out if your medications are available in Panama and what they cost before you move to Panama. Some have left Panama because they could not get their medications or because they were too expensive. Panama insurance may not cover the cost of medications so you have to pay out of pocket. You may be able to get drugs shipped to Panama from your country. During a Panama Relocation Tour, we take you to several pharmacies so you can check the availability and price of your prescriptions.
4. Unscrupulous real estate agent – Most agents in Panama are honest and ethical. But some do what’s called a net listing where they charge more for a house than it is worth either for houses for sale or a house for rent. Just this week a couple was shown the same house with three different prices by three different real estate agents. Another lady was quoted a sales price of $100,000 more than the seller was really asking. When things like this happen, people feel like they have been taken advantage of (which they have) then leave Panama in disgust. Some people have had a bad experience with a builder. Or they bought land then discovered later that they could not build on it even though the agent told them they could. Unlike North America, Panama does not have a widely used MLS (multiple listing service) in Panama so it’s impossible to get a good comparative market analysis on a property to know the “right” price to pay. I have a file full of testimonials of people who have run into all these kinds of problems. Keep in mind these unscrupulous things can happen anywhere in the world, they are not exclusive to Panama.
5. Next Adventure – many expats are adventurous people. They like to live in one place for a few years then move to another country for a few years so they can experience their next adventure.
6. Language barrier – Even though English is spoken a lot in some areas in Panama, English is not spoken everywhere in Panama. The official language in Panama is Spanish. Some people leave Panama because they get frustrated with not being able to communicate with everyone or not being able to hear English everywhere they go.
7. Cultural differences -almost everything you do in Panama will be done in a different way. Something as simple as opening a bank account can take days if you don’t know the right way to open an account in Panama. Repair people might not show up on time. The frustrations are enough to cause some people to leave Panama. If you move to the wrong rental, you could get stuck next to people who have barking dogs, who love to party until the wee hours of the morning, or who own roosters who make noise all day.
8. Politics – some people move to Panama because their candidate did not win the election. Once their party gets back in power, they leave Panama. (note, it’s better to move to Panama because you want to experience Panama, not because you are running away from something)
9. Money problems – it’s very hard for a foreigner to get a job in Panama. If people can’t find a job and their money runs out, they leave Panama. Even retirees leave Panama because of money problems because an unexpected expense comes up that they cannot afford because they have not saved some of their income every month.
10. Crime – some people move away because there was an increase in crime in the town/area where they live. It makes them uncomfortable, especially if the crime happened close to their home.
11. one more – the pandemic – some expats left Panama on a humanitarian flight during the pandemic. They did not like the rules, regulations, and lockdowns that Panama implemented.
Some people made some very costly mistakes when they moved to Panama. It created such bad feelings about Panama that they moved away. Don’t let that happen to you!!
Before you sell everything you own then move to Panama, it’s a good idea to come to visit first. To avoid costly mistakes, before you move to Panama, you need to get a thorough education about what life is like in Panama, how to get things done, and who you can trust. Do your research. You may want to join us for a 6-day all-inclusive Panama Relocation Tour or for a Private Tour of the areas you are most interested in. Then, after visiting Panama, you may want to give Panama a 3-6 month test drive before you make the final decision to relocate to Panama. When you move to Panama, rent a furnished house/condo for at least a year before you make a buying decision. Many people decide to just rent the whole time they live in Panama so they have the flexibility to leave whenever they want to.
Our Online Panama Relocation Guide has all the information you need to know to have a smooth, easy relocation to Panama. If you follow the advice in the Online Panama Relocation Guide, you will be able to avoid mistakes that could cost you tens of thousands of dollars. The Online Guide has recommendations for reliable immigration lawyers, honest real estate agents, buying health insurance for 40% less, buying a car, getting pets in to Panama, and much more.
Watch this video to learn what Queen Victoria Kavanaugh has to say about the Online Panama Relocation Guide.
To get any residency Visa in Panama, you are required to present a national criminal report, like an FBI report. If you have ANYTHING on your national criminal report, no matter how long ago, I highly recommend that you get a copy of your report to send to your immigration attorney to ask if you will be able to apply for a Visa.
If your national criminal report has ANY infractions on it, your attorney must go through a process called a Buena Vista, where they submit your national criminal report to the immigration director requesting that you be allowed to apply for a Visa. In most cases, you will be able to apply for a Visa .
However, Panama has tightened the rules for getting any Visa, including a Pensionado Visa. You cannot get approved to get a Visa if you have a felony drug charge, a DUI that is less than 7 years old, charged with aggravated assault with a firearm, or charged with being a pedophile.
In addition, Panama immigration has PROPOSED significant changes to the Friendly Nations Visa. These proposed changes are listed below. These are only proposed changes at this time. A group of immigration lawyers have written a letter. and requested a meeting, with the Immigration Director requesting that the changes not take effect for at least 6 months. We should know this month what will happen to the Friendly Nations Visa. Of course, I will let you know as soon as I know the details.
As you can see from the proposed changes to the Friendly Nations Visa, it seems to have been written by real estate agents trying to FORCE you to buy real estate if you want to get a Visa in Panama.
Proposed changes to the Friendly Nations Visa (if real estate agents in Panama get their way)
1. It will require two (2) applications to obtain permanent residency. You will first apply for a two (2) year temporary residency and then before that expires you will apply for the indefinite residency.
2. The economic purpose of the visa will be provided with the following options:
a) Having a Job in Panama while providing all the corresponding contracts and paperwork from the company giving you work (payroll, operation permit, good standings, etc…)
b) Purchasing a property with a value at least of $200k. Important thing here is that you are allowed to purchase with a mortgage and there is no minimum established from your own money. So for example you could put $20k down and finance $180k as long as you obtain financing for that amount.
c) Establish a business or buy a business with $150k minimum investment.
It is important to note that we don’t know when, OR IF, these changes will take place. Of course, as soon as I have more details, either way, I will let you know right away.
FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE CURRENTLY IN THE PROCESS OF GETTING A FRIENDLY NATIONS VISA THESE CHANGES WILL NOT AFFECT YOU.
IMPORTANT... If you already have a Friendly Nations Visa, you will be grandfathered in by the OLD rules. These changes will not affect you at all.
When you first move to Panama, it will take awhile to learn where to go shopping for the things you really want or need. Sometimes people get frustrated because they can’t find a certain item to make their favorite recipe or the perfect accent piece for their new condo on the beach. I remember one time I wanted to make vegetarian enchiladas but I could not find chili powder anywhere in Boquete. I was not willing to drive 30 minutes to go to David. Luckily, I did find a McCormick Enchilada sauce mix, the main ingredient was chili powder, so I used that as a substitute. You WILL learn to substitute things in Panama! Now, when I find chili powder, or other things that I know are harder to find, I’ll buy 6 bottles so I know I always have some available.
Even if the item you are looking for is not available in the town where you live, it’s probably available in Panama City. But most people don’t want to fly to Panama City to go shopping. I HATE shopping anywhere!
THE SOLUTION: Luckily there is a great service in Panama City called SimplifyPanama.com! They will go shopping for you to find exactly what you need then they send it to you using a next day courier service.
Listen to the replay of the conference call when Julie, the owner of SimplifyPanama.com, talks about her shopping and concierge service.
Since the pandemic began, Panama Relocation Tours has been hosting weekly conference calls to keep you informed about life in Panama.
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