Panama is a Perfect Plan B

If you’re not quite ready to move overseas but want a backup plan just in case, consider making Panama your Plan B.

If you’re concerned about how things are headed in your country and want to move to a place where it’s more stable, you have more freedom, and prices are more affordable…

Think Panama!

Many people from different walks of life choose to relocate to other countries, especially now that remote work has become more prevalent due to COVID-19. They’re seeking a place where they can live with more freedom and a lower cost of living.

It’s not just budget-minded people moving to Panama, in a recent Robb Report, a whopping 92% of affluent Americans are planning a move overseas. Maybe they know something you don’t know.

However, not everyone can sell everything and move to a new place right away. You may have reasons such as a lack of a remote job, a mortgage, kids in school, or elderly parents that tie you to your current location.

If that’s the case, don’t worry! You can start taking steps today to make your dream location a reality someday. In this article, we’ll focus on creating a Plan B for those who know it’s a smart thing to do!

So, while some people decide to sell everything and head off to a new place, not everyone can do that yet.

However, you can still dream about it. That’s ok! You can actually start making moves today so that your dreams can one day become a reality.

In fact, we’re going to take a look specifically at those of you who would like to pursue a “Plan B.”

Reasons for Having a Plan B

As we all experienced during the pandemic, unexpected things happen, and they can happen really fast. And when they do, it’s terrible to feel like we’ve lost complete control and have no options. That’s why we can all learn from these experiences and prepare ourselves.

At the start of the pandemic, when borders started to close, there was panic, especially amongst those of us who have families spread out worldwide. There was this scary possibility of not being able to hop on a flight and see our loved ones. Or, even worse, seeing them and then being unable to return to our country of residence.

In Panama, when they shut down the borders for several months, there were restrictions that only those with a residency visa could come into Panama. Even those who owned real estate or had family in Panama could not come to Panama if they did not have a residency Visa.

Tourists had to leave Panama. You can’t just move to another country. To live in a country indefinitely, you must get a residency visa.

This pushed many living as tourists to opt for a more permanent residency. We’ll get into how to obtain permanent residency later in this article. But first, let’s look at more reasons why having a Plan B is helpful.

Why have a Plan B?

● You have the urge to relocate eventually but now isn’t the time.
● You’d like to retire in a different country.
● You dream of an adventure like one you’ve never had.
● You are ready to experience a new culture.
● You find yourself better aligning with the values in a different country.
● You had a wake-up call during the pandemic and want to live more freely.
● You know you cannot afford to retire where you are now.
● You no longer feel at home where you live now.

Whatever the reason, and there are many possibilities, you have decided that you want to be prepared for the unexpected.

Well, Panama is a perfect place to have as your Plan B. In fact, you’ll probably find that you want it to be your “Plan A” soon enough.

How to Make Panama Your Plan B

It’s no secret that I absolutely love Panama. I highly recommend this beautiful, welcoming country to anyone looking for a change. However, if, for whatever reason, you aren’t able to make a move completely just yet, it’s a wonderful place to have as a backup plan.

Gaining residency and opening a bank account is relatively easy in Panama compared to other countries.

Another pro in favor of Panama? It’s a beautiful country, rich in biodiversity, with a lower cost of living than the U.S., Canada, and most Western European countries.

Now, let’s look at what should be on the top of your priority list when it comes to your Panama Plan B.

Gain Residency

Having a legal residency in your Plan B country is absolutely necessary should you need to go there on short notice. Upon arrival to Panama, if you don’t have residency, you can only stay in Panama for 30-180 days as a tourist, then you must leave.

So, there are some options for obtaining residency in Panama.

Panama was ranked one of the Best Places in the World to Retire by Travel and Leisure in 2022. A large reason for that are the many benefits retirees receive in Panama, one of which is a fairly easy way to receive residency.

Retirees can apply for a “Pensionado Visa.” The only requirement is a monthly lifetime income of $1,000 USD through social security, pension, or other government retirement. For a couple applying together, you must show $1250 USD in lifetime income.

Alright, but what about those of you who aren’t retirees?

If you’re not retired, you’ve got options, too. There is a “Friendly Nations Visa.” This visa allows anyone investing $200,000 in real estate or a 3-year CD in Panama to obtain their visa. After five years of permanent residency, you can apply for Panamanian citizenship and a passport.

Or, if you can show income from a remote job or online business, you can get a Friendly Nations Visa for only $5000 USD.

You must apply for permanent visas in Panama using a Panama immigration lawyer. Our Online Complete Panama Relocation Guide has recommendations for reliable and affordable English-speaking immigration lawyers that have helped thousands of people relocate to Panama.

If you are getting a residency visa in Panama for your Plan B, you should know there is NO requirement to live in Panama. You only need to visit for at least one day every two years.

El Valle de Anton, Panama

Get a Bank Account

Part of every Plan B plan should be quick access to cash. If you need to move money from your country to Panama quickly, you’ll need to have a Panama bank account. Opening a bank account in Panama is quite simple. The process is even easier after obtaining your residency.

To open an account, you will need your passport, driver’s license, and a recent bank letter of recommendation. You may also need to show recent tax returns to prove that you don’t owe taxes in the country you are moving from. A letter from your attorney stating you’re in the process of gaining residency will help too. You’ll also need about $1000 deposit to open the account. Some banks in Panama have online banking and an app in English.

The exact requirements will vary based on the bank you choose. But, with all the necessary documents and a minimum deposit, you could open an account as quickly as a couple of hours.

Panama’s official currency is the Balboa, but they have used the US dollar for over 115 years.

You can wire money from your bank to your Panama bank account quickly and easily. If you have a US bank account, you can also write a check to deposit into your Panama bank to avoid wire fees.

Why Panama For Your Plan B

Panama makes it relatively easy for foreigners from the U.S., Canada, and Europe to gain residency, especially with their alluring options for retirees. Retirees get these discounts once they have a permanent visa:

* 25% off utility bills
* 25% off airline tickets to anywhere in the world
* 30% other transportation
* 20% off doctors’ bills, 15% off hospital services (if insurance does not apply)
* 10% discount on medications (many pharmacies offer 25% discount)
* 15% off dental exams and eye exams
* 50% off movie, cultural and sporting event tickets
* 50% off at hotels (Mon-Thurs), 30% off hotels (weekends)
* 20% off professional and technical services
* Import tax exemption on up to $10,000 household goods

If you ask, you may get other discounts too. Last month I bought a new sofa. I asked the salesperson if they offered a Jubilado discount (same as Pensionado). They gave me 10% off my purchase and free delivery!

You can get a temporary visa within a week. Your permanent visa will not be ready for about six months. And, while you must apply in Panama, you don’t have to stay there for the entire processing time. You must return to Panama for a few days to pick up your permanent visa.

There is no requirement to live in Panama once you get a visa. You only need to return for at least one day every two years.

And, apart from being a practical Plan B option, Panama is rich in culture and natural beauty. The way of living is slower-paced, which allows you to slow down and focus on enjoying the little moments in your day-to-day experiences.

bocas del toro panama
Bocas del Toro, Panama

More Reasons Panama is the Perfect Plan B

Panama has a stable government and a strong economy. Panama has traditional values. There is no military. Panama has no bases or wars going on in other countries.

Panama is tough on illegal drugs and does not have the cartel problems that some countries have.

Panama has affordable healthcare and health insurance!

Panama has great weather all year. No snow, no hurricanes! You can pick your ideal temperature in Panama – live at the beach, mountains, or in a big Panama City.

Panama has a 365-day growing season with fresh vegetables and fruit. Panama has the sweetest pineapples you’ll ever eat!

Plus, Panama has fish from two oceans. Of course, they raise chickens and beef too. Rice is grown in Panama. Even if Panama did not import food, there would be plenty to eat from just what’s available in Panama. You have everything you need to survive (THRIVE) in Panama safely.

Look at having a Plan B in Panama as safety insurance.

It’s a good idea to have legal residency in a different country to have a place to go if necessary. You should set it up before you need it!

Legal residency means you have a visa that allows you to live in the country as long as you want to.

You have health insurance just in case of a major health problem, so a major medical bill does not bankrupt you.

You have house insurance just in case of a fire or hurricane, and your house is destroyed or damaged.

You have car insurance just in case you get into a wreck, and your car is totaled.

You never know what the future holds, so you get insurance, like safety insurance. At the very least, get legal residency in a different country that you can flee to if things start heading in the wrong direction where you are now. During the pandemic, many countries closed their borders to anyone who was not a citizen or a legal resident.

Hopefully, you will never have a health problem.

Hopefully, you never have a house fire.

Hopefully, you’ll never be in a car accident.

But you protect yourself from these dangers with insurance… just in case.

You might never need to flee the country where you live now. But if you do, knowing that you already have complete “safety insurance” in Panama will give you peace of mind.

You may only need to move to Panama for a year or two until things settle down in your home country, or it could be indefinitely. With “safety insurance” you’ll already have everything in place.

Panama has an entirely different vibe. There’s a live-and-let-live attitude. Everyone is so friendly. Panamanians are also extremely hospitable. It’s easy to feel at home in Panama because the locals are welcoming.

Moving to Panama changed my life. I wouldn’t doubt making the move for a second. After living here for over thirteen years, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

The rules for getting legal residency can change anytime. It’s a good idea to set your Plan B up while you qualify for residency, even if you can’t move to Panama immediately.

The Online Complete Panama Relocation Guide has more information about residency options for you and your family. We also have a list of affordable immigration lawyers to work with. You can get a Pensionado Visa for as little as $1200 plus $250 for your spouse.

Consider coming on an all-inclusive 6-day, 7-night Panama Relocation Tour. You’ll meet experts, expats, and see rentals in each area. Our bus is like a rolling seminar to teach you everything you need to know to have a hassle-free move to Panama. Learn how to get your pets to Panama, ship household goods, get affordable health insurance, buy a car, and so much more.

So, even if you’re not ready to move to Panama quite yet, keep Panama in mind as a Plan B! After a few visits, I’m sure you’ll fall in love with its charm, too.

Omar Park in Panama City
Panama City, 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. Russell says

    considering relocating to Panama 🇵🇦 in 2025.

  2. Nolee Guthrie says

    How can I get job because am not retired yet I visit Panama twice this year I like the feeling the atmosphere, tours and everything that it has offered, currently I work in the tourist industry in Jamaica, also construction. I ran 🏃‍♂️ marathon too looking for to run Panama marathon 42km this year

  3. Amel Urquiza says

    Hello Jackie, I’m receiving Social Security Disability, I qualify for Pensionado Visa.
    Thank you
    Sincerely, Anel Urquiza.

    • Jackie Lange says

      Hello Amel. to qualify for a Pensionado visa, you need to show a lifetime income of at least $1000 per month from a pension from a job, government retirement, military retirement, or Social Security.

      • Osvaldo Sanchez Ruiz says

        Gracia y Paz Jackie tengo mi seguro Social y mi compensation del U.S.Army retire dime cuando tengas Algo para mi ok.

        • Jackie Lange says

          Si ya estás cobrando la Seguridad Social y tu pensión, puedes solicitar una visa de Pensionado ahora. Vea la lista de abogados de inmigración recomendados en

  4. Jeffrey Alan Hall says

    Nice article. Can you shed some light on the numbers of reptile encounters one might experience while living in Panama?

    • Jackie Lange says

      Jeffrey. reptile encounters depends on where you live and what you do. I’ve seen 3 snakes in thirteen years.

      • Jeffrey Alan Hall says

        Thanks for the quick response. We live in Arizona, so reptile encounters are always top of mind.
        We are considering a trip to Panama for exploratory purposes in the not too distant future. We will reach out to you and your organization via the contact info listed. Thank you!

  5. Robin says

    I would LOVE more info on this subject please! I retire in approximately 4 years from my job of 30 years with a great retirement!Thank you.

  6. Caron Galvin-Price says

    If I were to get a residency visa…what does that actually mean? I am considered a resident to Panama (as long as I complete all steps required) but what happens to my US citizenship? I can keep that and still have residency in Panama…and basically come and go?
    Does US government continue paying my social security I am entitled to…they don’t restrict my SS check…right?
    Also what are the tax implications? I imagine I still have to pay income taxes on my income…both countries?
    Can I keep my US passport?

    • Jackie Lange says

      Hello Caron. Getting residency means that you can live in Panama indefinitely. It is not the same as citizenship. You still have your US citizenship. You can still collect Social Security (you can even have it direct deposited into your Panama bank account if you want to). If you do not sell any products or services in Panama, you owe no taxes in Panama. As a US citizen, you are required to report and pay taxes on your worldwide income.

  7. Laurie says

    This is the perfect article for my adult daughter who is not sure about going with me when I move to Panama in 2025.

  8. Luisa De Roo says

    How much to schedule a tour of Boquete and what dates are available?

  9. ABAYOMI says

    Hello Jackie,
    I would very much love to have a plan B in place before things change. However, I’m very nervous and afraid that I am not qualified and that my dream may not come through. 2026 will be my retirement age, I have Savings and, I would like to work until then. My widow’s pension / SS that I receive is $32.00 less than $1,000 I’m afraid of not having $1,000 for my Pensionada visa. Do you have any suggestions? or advice? Thanks.

    • Jackie Lange says

      Hello ABAYOMI. Is Medicare taken out of your widow’s pension? Panama goes by the GROSS amount you receive. So if Medicare is taken out, you would qualify. There is also the possibility to buy real estate worth $100,000 in Panama then you only need to have a $750 pension to qualify

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