Did you know that you cannot just move to Panama? To live in Panama, you must get a residency visa. The most popular visa for retirees is the Pensionado Visa. A Pensionado Visa is also the most affordable residency visa.
During this Livestream, Jackie shares information about getting a Pensionado Visa, what you need to qualify, the process, costs, and much more.. See the notes below the video:
Here’s an overview of the process for getting a Pensionado Visa.
Requirements for the Pensionado Visa
You must currently receive a pension of at least USD $1000 per month in a lifetime pension from the government, Social Security, the military, or a pension from a private company.
If you’re married, you will need to add $250 for your spouse can also get a Pensionado Visa. Minor children can also be added to the Pensionado visa for an additional $250 per dependent.
Panama will not accept common-law marriages, domestic partners, or same-sex marriages.
Panama will not accept an annuity unless it was set up by your previous employer (not you) for retirement.
If you and your spouse both have a pension, they can be combined to equal the $1250 requirement.
Documents Needed to Get a Pensionado Visa
Some documents you will need to gather in your home country. And some documents your attorney will provide in Panama. The documents you need to gether in your home country are:
- National Criminal Report ( see note below if you have dings on your report)
- Proof of lifetime pension
- If married, a certified copy of your marriage certificate
- If minor, a certified copy of their birth certificate
These documents will need to be authenticated by the Panama Consulate (in your country ) or apostiled by the federal government (in your country)
Ideally, you mail these documents DHL or FedEx to your immigration lawyer at least two weeks before you arrive in Panama to get a visa. This will give your attorney time to get them translated into Spanish (must be done in Panama) and, if necessary, get the documents re-authenticated at the Ministry of Foreign Relations in Panama City.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Your documents cannot be more than six-months old when you apply for a visa.
Process for Getting a Pensionado Visa
The first step to getting a Pensionado Visa is selecting an immigration attorney to work with and setting a date on when you will come to Panama to get a visa. We have recommendations for reliable and affordable immigration lawyers in the Online Guide. We recommend getting an itemized list of charges before hiring an attorney so there are no surprises. Also, find out if the immigration lawyer charges extra if you pay with a credit card. They will send you a list of documents to gather in your country.
Plan to be in Panama for at least five business days to get a visa, seven days is better just in case there are any problems.
First, you will meet with your immigration attorney in their office to give them a Power of Attorney to represent you to get a visa. They will have you sign other documents like the Affidavit of Criminal Activity ( we have this 9-page document in the Online Guide).
Usually, the next day, you will go to immigration to get your visa. You should plan to be at immigration for 3-4 hours, but it could be faster.
For all government offices, you need to dress business casual. You cannot wear shorts, sandals, or sleeveless tops.
Initially, you will receive a temporary visa, which is good for six-months.
Within 6 months, your immigration attorney will let you know when your permanent visa is ready. It could be 2-3 months or it may take six months.
Once you get your permanent visa, you can apply for your Cedula, which is the national ID card. Ask your attorney if they will help with that process. (We have Fixers listed in the Online Guide who can help you get a Cedula)
Costs to Get a Pensionado Visa
Each attorney has their own fees. We have a list of affordable immigration lawyers and their fees in the Online Guide.
The lawyers we work with charge between $1150 for one person to $1250 for one person to get a Pensionado Visa. There is a discount for a couple applying together. Note, that these are only the legal fees to get a Visa. There will be additional charges of about $100 per person in government fees and about $100 per person in translation fees. Get a complete list of charges from your immigration lawyer so there are no surprises.
Some immigration lawyers include help with getting a Cedula, a driver’s license, and opening a bank account. Others charge extra for these services. So you need to ask what’s included.
Some immigration lawyers (not on our list) in Panama charge $3000-$5000 or more to get a Pensionado Visa. There is no need to pay more for getting a Pensionado Visa.
As you can see, the Online Guide pays for itself just in the savings for an immigration lawyer!
If you have dings on your national criminal report, you may not be able to get a Pensionado Visa! If you have a felony or any assault charges, even if they happened 40 years ago, Panama will reject your application for a visa.
If you think there may be dings on your criminal report, we suggest that you get the report now and then share it with your immigration lawyer to see what the chances are for you to get a visa.
There is an extra fee for a Visto Bueno.
If you have misdemeanor charges on your national criminal report, your attorney may need to submit a Visto Bueno to immigration requesting permission to apply for a visa.
It does not happen often, but sometimes a Temporary Pensionado visa is issued, but a permanent visa is denied because immigration discovers sometimes when they do further investigations. For this reason, we recommend that you not buy real estate or ship a container of household goods to Panama until you have a permanent visa.
Benefits of Getting a Pensionado Visa
The #1 benefit of getting a Pensionado Visa is that you can live in Panama indefinitely. Living in such a beautiful and affordable country is an honor and privilege!
Once you have your permanent visa, you will qualify for these discounts too:
- 50% off on recreation and entertainment such as movies, theaters, sports, etc.
- 50% off hotels Monday through Thursday (30% off on weekends)
- 30% off public transportation like buses, trains, and boats
- 25% off airfare to anywhere in the world!
- 20% off restaurants (15% off fast food)
- 25% off electrical, landline telephone, and water service
- 20% off doctors and specialists
- 20% off prosthetics and other personal assistance devices
- 15% off hospitals and private clinics
- 15% off dental and optometry services
- 10% off prescription medications (most places give you 20% discount)
- tax-free importation of household goods, up to $10,000
- tax-free importation of a vehicle, or tax-free purchase of a local vehicle
It’s Worth It!
If you are a retiree and already receiving a pension, getting a Pensionado Visa is a no-brainer!
With all the Pensionado discounts, the visa pays for itself within a few years.
Living in Panama is not required once you get a Pensionado Visa. But you are required to come back to Panama every two years. That makes Panama’s Pensionado Visa an excellent “Plan B”!