What Could Prevent You From Getting a Visa in Panama?

Tourists are allowed to stay in Panama for 180 days. But if you want to live in Panama, you are required to get a residency Visa. Since 2012, the two most popular visas have been the Pensionado Visa and the Friendly Nations Visa.

To qualify for the Pensionado Visa, you need to prove a lifetime income (from Social Security, military retirement, or pension from a job) of $1000 for one person plus $250 for each dependent. Some annuities are accepted bu not all. For the Pensionado Visa, Panama does not accept 401k, IRA, or rental income. To qualify, the income must be a lifetime income. The Pensionado Visa is the most affordable visa because the government fees are waived for retirees.

The Pensionado Visa is also what’s called a fast-track visa because you get a permanent Visa in usually less than 6 months.

If you don’t qualify for the Pensionado Visa, you can get a Friendly Nations Visa which requires on of four things:

*Get a job in Panama
*Put $200,000 into a 3-years CD at a Panama Bank
*Buy titled real estate worth at least $200,000
*Set up a corporation that issued you a labor contract.

If you have a college degree in a profession that is not a protected profession for Panamanians only, you may qualify for the Professional Visa.

The most important requirement for any visa application is your national criminal report, like an FBI report if you’re a US citizen or an RCMP report if you’re Canadian. Even if you have some dings on your criminal report, you can usually get a visa UNLESS you have a felony. If you have a felony on your criminal report, you will not be able to get a residency visa in Panama. Even if these charges were 20, 30, or 40+ years ago, Panama will not allow you to get a visa.

If you have multiple DUI’s or misdemeanor drug charges, immigration may require you to provide a blood test to determine if there are drugs or alcohol in your system. If the test is clean, you can get a visa.

If your national criminal report is not completely clean, your attorney will need to request permission from the Director of Immigration for you to apply for a Visa. This process is called a Buena Vista and can take 2-4 months for approval. There is an additional charge for a Buena Vista. Once the Director of Immigration gives the green light, your attorney can help you apply for a residency Visa. Just because you apply for a Buena Vista, there is no guarantee that it will be approved.

If you suspect that you will have dings on your national criminal report, we recommend that you get your national criminal report now then consult with a Panama immigration attorney about getting a visa before you make plans to move to Panama. Search for companies in your area that do electronic fingerprints to get the results in about 30 minutes.

Keep in mind that without a permanent visa, you will not be able to take advantage of any of the Pensionado discounts.

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. Steven P says

    Jackie and all of You at Panama Relocation Tours…. Ive heard nothing but GREAT things about You and the tours…. To be honest, I really didn’t think I would even receive a reply to my question… Thank You for getting back to me with an answer AND doing so, so quickly…..



  2. John R. Atephens says

    Hi Jackie,

    I have been following you on Facebook and You tube for quite awhile. My wife and I had talked about visiting Panama several years ago. My idea, and she loved travelling, so she was open to spending time in Panama, but not moving there permanently! My beautiful wife lost her battle with lung cancer two years ago. I’m just now at the point to carry on with our/my retirement goals and dreams. In any event, I’m ready to come to Panama and look it over. I let my passport expire last year and have filed for renewal. It’s in process and have been notified it would be ten to twelve weeks to receive my new one. I am going to purchase your online relocation guide in the next month or so. I’m retired, drawing social security, and have a small photography business. Nature, landscape and wildlife.

    To get more to the point, where do I get a FBI background check? I do have DUI’s from twenty five plus years ago, so I want to see what comes up before trying for a visa, as you recommend. I’m a layed back country boy living in Wyoming, who rides motorcycles, takes pictures and loves hiking the mountains. I feel like the Boquete area would be awesome, from what I’ve read and watched. Sorry for the long post and look forward to your reply.

    John R. Stephens

  3. Tony Henderson says

    Thanks for the update and information in regards to the FBI criminal background report, however, my question is does it matter if you were charged but not convicted on felony charges?

    • Jackie Lange says

      if it shows up on your FBI report that you were not convicted, then it will not matter. It’s best to ask a Panama immigration attorney.

  4. ramon says

    im much younger age 50 but i see that the next few decades here
    will be very difficult. im in miami , and watching your videos
    nightly and wondering about this as an alternative to living in the
    u.s. like to onow what is the social sceene like for american bachlers
    meeting other americans , and are younger americans beging to migrate
    to panama.thanks ramon

    • Jackie Lange says

      HI Ramon

      A lot of people, in all age groups, move to Panama. There are several different organizations that organize weekly get togethers to help ex-pats meet each other and to help you meet Panamanians too!

  5. Dana C. Moore says

    I was interested in the Pensionado Visa, but my guaranteed income prior to getting Social Security is from an Annuity with a guarantee provision. I do not want to wait until I am 65 to retire, I want to retire in 2 years at age 60. That said, should I go for the friendly nations visa instead?

      • Calin Nicolas Bugnariu says

        Hello Jackie,
        I’ve checked this site and, form my understanding, it looks like “a bank, an insurance company” are acceptable sources for annuity as long as it’s a lifetime. Can you please confirm if it is still true?


        Anyone over 18 years of age with a lifetime pension or annuity paying a minimum of $1,000 USD per month qualifies. Another $250 must be paid per month by the annuity or pension for each dependent. The annuity or pension can be paid by a private company, military, government agencies, corporations, a bank, an insurance company, or a Trust. This Panama visa provides several discounts from movie theaters, restaurants, hotels, pharmacies, concerts, and domestic airlines along with other products or services.”

        • Jackie Lange says

          Panama will NOT accept an annuity unless it is set up by your employer for a retirement plan. If you set up the annuity yourself, it will not be accepted by immigration to qualify for the Pensionado visa.

  6. Damas J Alabre says

    I am thinking about retiring in Panama. But, I won’t be retiring until March 2022. Is there anything that I should now, even though I am not ready yet? Please, advise me.

    Thank you,

    • Jackie Lange says

      Even though you don’t plan to retire in Panama until 2022, you might start visiting Panama to determine WHERE you want to retire in Panama. A great way to get a good overview of Panama is during an all-inclusive Panama Relocation Tour. https://panamarelocationtours.com/tours

  7. Anthony Cappuchi says

    Hi Jackie, I was in Panama for 3 yrs quite a while ago let’s say 60 yrs ago.I’m not sure if I want to relocate there at 78yrs old. I have no interest in working and will book a tour with you just to be on the safe side. I have worked most of my life. My wife has passed after 52 yrs marriage. I have several pensions ;SSI,US Army retirement,USPostal retirement and VA Disability. I Just want a change I Think!!! So I will try your tour and see if it’s for me. Thanks TonyC

    • Jackie Lange says

      HI Tony. Thanks for your interest in Panama Relocation Tours. Panama has changed a LOT in the last 60 years. You’ll be amazed. You would qualify for the Pensionado Visa if your retirement income is at least $1000 a month. A tour would be an excellent way to see a lot of different areas in Panama to determine where you might want to live. See details at https://panamarelocationtours.com/tours

  8. Ron says

    Jackie, I see Panama relocation tours everywhere and will likely take advantage of them in the future.
    For now, a question about using annuities to qualify for $1000 per month income. We would like to not start collecting social security until 70, but will likely want to retire before that. You mention that a life time annuity (from an insurance company, say) would not qualify but there are many other sites which say they may. Does it depend on the attorney and how good they are, or is there just no way for this to happen.

    • Jackie Lange says

      annuities are ONLY accepted if it was set up by your employer for retirement.

      If you set up the annuitiy, it is not accepted.

      The attorney you use does not matter, those are the immigration rules.

  9. AJAY DAS says

    I am a USA CITIZEN (of India origin) holding USA passport, 76 yrs old retired single male in good health…FINANCIALLY have lifetime social security (USA) of US$ 3000 +/month and handsome USA bank balance to carry me through the end of my life…

    As I love to travel outside USA and for the last over 6 yrs. living in India as expat American (without returning to USA, but my US passport is active)… now being bored like to move to PANAMA following seeing your many videos online…

    QUESTION: I can satisfy all requirements of PANAMA pension visa except the FBI background checkup to be replaced by INDIAN police backup checks…will it be acceptable?….thanks…

    • Jackie Lange says

      Yes, you can use an Indian background check if you have been living in India for the past 5 years at least

  10. Jerry Blake says

    Hello, just recently my wife mentioned Panama, as a possible Retirement location. We have been immersed in the videos for the last couple of days. Wonderful Information. Presently, we are residing in Eastern Europe where my wife is from. With regards to the Pensionado visa, do both people need to be receiving Retirement income, or does one Retirement suffice for both people to receive the pension Visa? Thank you.

    • Jackie Lange says

      THANKS for watching our videos! I’m glad you are enjoying them. Only 1 person needs to be receiving a pension that is at least $1250 USD in lifetime income. With that income you can both get a Pensionado visa.

      • Mario Bouchard says

        So, the amount of $1250 USD can come from a part of each of our pension combined ?

        • Jackie Lange says

          HI Mario, Yes, to qualify for a Pensionado visa, you can combine pensions to qualify. One person doe not need to have the full $1250.

  11. Lorna L Ellis says

    My mother, sister and I looking to move to Panama. Mom is 81, I’m 55, and sis is 54. Mom and sis both have the required income for the Pensionado visa. I do not, at least for another 10 years. Can I be a dependent on my mom or sister’s? I do want to work at least some. Any advice? Thanks, Lorna

  12. Terry Smith says

    Hi! My husband and I are probably a little more than a year off from being able to make the jump full-time to Panama. Question: Per your suggestion I want to do our national criminal background checks to make sure we are VISA eligible. Mine should be fine but my husband had a very small civil disobedience issue in the early 80s and I wonder if that will come up on his background check. Is it OK for us to have the results mailed to us or do we need to identify an attorney now and have those results mailed to the attorney? Panama Relocation Tours is incredibly helpful and I really appreciate all of your efforts.

  13. Pam says

    My husband is on a small dose of a pain medicine for medical reasons, a prescription. Would this be an obstacle for a visa? Are the hospitals in Panama good? What type of insurance would we need and is it expensive there?

  14. Diana J Pae says

    Is there any one specific background check program that you have found to be easier in maneuvering and responsive to request?

  15. Steve Cockrell says

    I have a portfolio worth around 3 million dollars. When you need cash, I’ll call my financial advisor and have him transfer money to my bank. Could this be configured into income requirements ?

    • Jackie Lange says

      HI Steve

      Your portfolio would not qualify you for a visa in Panama even if your financial advisor transfers $1000 per month to your account. To get the Pensionado Visa, you need $1000 a month in lifetime income from Social Security or a pension from a job. Other visas require an investment in a 3-year Cd in a Panama bank or purchasing real estate in Panama.

  16. Miu Lee says

    I am a Canadian. How long is the criminal record report valid for the pensionado visa application. I am over 70 and receiving a municipal pension income and am thinking about living in Panama after watching so many of your informative videos.

    • Jackie Lange says

      Your RCMP cannot be more than 6 months old when you apply for a visa.

  17. Denise says

    Hello Jackie, thank you for all the wonderful information. One question I have is, it was mentioned that there is a list of questions asked when applying for the visa. Is there somewhere I can access the list of questions?

  18. Donald McCargar says


    I am in Panama now and planning on staying for a month or so. Just saw your website today. I am planning on making a application for the pension visa. Can I get my fingerprints taken electronically here in Panama and sent back to Canada to get my criminal record from the RCMP? Can you provide a link to get this service done? As you say, the first step is to get the criminal record check done. Then I would buy your guide or take a tour.


    Don McCargar

    • Jackie Lange says

      Hi Don. You’ll need a lot more than your RCMP. In the Online Guide, we have recommendations of two companies who can help with all the things you need, including getting all documents authenticated at the Panama Consulate in Canada, even though you are already in Panama. They are fast and efficient.


  19. Mike Wan says

    Hi Jackie,

    Thank you for providing such informative video content.

    My FBI report is dated 04/11/2022.
    Is that too old to submit for a Pensionado visa?
    Apart from providing the FBI Report and Social Security $1000 monthly income, is there any other requirements to apply?
    I’m planning to buy the online guide and visit April-May and would like to visit the Caribbean coast of Panama for residence consideration. Do you have any suggestions/tips?


    • Jackie Lange says

      Hello Mike, Your FBI report cannot be more than 6 months old when you apply for a visa. If you’re not married, then the only other thing you’ll need is Social Security income verification. All documents need to be authenticated by the Panama Consulate in the US. For the Caribbean side, I recommend Bocas del Toro. See our YouTube channel for some videos about living in Bocas. https://www.youtube.com/@PanamaRelocationTours

  20. bobby says

    Does my VA disability qualify for the pensionado visa?

    • Jackie Lange says

      Hello Bobby, YES, your VA disability qualifies for the Pensionado visa if it is at least $1000 per month.

      • OB says

        Hi Jackie,

        Does VA disability have to be ‘total and permanent’ to qualify for the Pensionado visa? Also, how much extra for 2 dependents? Thanks

        • Jackie Lange says

          Hello OB. Your VA disabilty needs to be at least $1000 per month for you to qualify for a Pensionado visa. For each dependent add $250. So for two dependents, you will need to prove that your disability payment is at least $1500

          • OB says

            Perfect! Thanks!!

  21. Bryan says

    hello jackie. My wife and I (age 60 and 76) have researched panama and want very much to relocate there. I think we have an insurmountable roadblock that has derailed our plans and preparations. that is the felony conviction. I have a conviction from 1988 and apparently the only solution would be a pardon, which would take a long while and could always be denied. do Panamanian lawyers know any ways around this obstacle? would a pardon be a waste of time?

    • Jackie Lange says

      Bruce, Contact an attorney in your state to get the felony expunged from your record. That is the only solution. In Panama, it does not matter how long ago the felony was, if it shows up on your record, you’d be denied a visa.

  22. Luis Borgen says

    Hello Jackie,
    We are planning to take one of the tours to go see what is all the fuzz about Panama (I have a highschool friend who has been telling me about it for years whose mom and husband already moved to Panama). The thing is that my wife and I are between Italy, Spain and now Panama with Panama moving fast to the front of the fight.
    The question I have is related to the pensionado requirement to have a lifelong income. I am 62 but my wife is older and already getting Social Security. If I stop working now I’ll start drawing from our IRA at Edward Johns. I suspect that the IRA from EJ may not qualify but I won’t get Social Security until I am 67 (or I’ll lose almost $1000. Besides I do not need it yet considering EJ’s IRA).
    Do both of us must get the lifelong income at the time we apply?
    I suspect the $1000 is per person but since my wife gets over $3,000 will that cover me as well?
    Or will in our case be just my wife? and I will have to figure something else?
    We can always do everything under my wife and I use tourist visa and go out for a week or so out of the country every 180 days.
    I have been browsing your website every day now for a week and… yeah I am ready to move to Panama.

    We are interested in your comments.

    Thank you very much.

    • Jackie Lange says

      Hello Luis. If your wife’s pension is at least $1250, you can both get a Pensionado visa. You will not need to prove a lifetime income.

  23. Mia says

    Hi Jackie, I see you’ve already answered the question about VA disability can be used for the pensionado visa. I am receiving VA disability over $1000. Do I have to be at retirement age when applying for the pensionado visa with VA disability? Im much younger than the retirement age but would very much like to relocate to Panama.

    • Jackie Lange says

      HI Mia

      If you meet the financial requirements, you can get the Pensionado Visa. Age is not a factor.

  24. Vince says

    Hello Jackie, My apologies if you have answered this question already but here goes. My wife and I qualify for the Pensionado Visa and understand we are not allowed to have a job with that visa. The question is, does rental income (Airbnb, VRBO, or long term) count as a job? We found some great places online that have two dwellings on the same property and would love to rent out one of them and live in the other. Thank you for your great resources and we will most likely be down to take the tour in February with extensions on both ends for personal exploring.

    • Jackie Lange says

      HI Vince A Pensionado visa holder can own and rent out rental properties. But you’ll need to file an annual tax return, and pay taxes in Panama. You will usually also owe taxes in your country too. For AirBnb, you may owe a Panama tourism tax in addition to income taxers.

  25. Johnny says

    Hi Jackie, we have the social security income to retire comfortably but I want to continue providing hypnotherapy serving US citizens from Panama. I’m 69 and my wife is 74. I believe we qualify for the Pensionado Visa. Can I do hypnotherapy if I do not serve Panama?

    • Jackie Lange says

      Johnny, Check with your immigration lawyer to see if you can offer hypnotherapy service in Panama. Most “health related” services are protected professions for Panamanians only

      • Juan Cardona says

        Hellow Jackie ! How are you ? Will you clarify something for me ? I just look at the requirement for the background check on the Panama Immigration Law. They require a background check as far as 5 years back. On your remarks you said that if you have something on your record it does not matter weather is 5 ,10, 20 , 30 , 40 or any years back , you will not qualify for a visa and they ask for only 5 years background check. Will you please , explain this ?

        • Jackie Lange says

          Juan, your national criminal report must for for the entire time you have been an adult. It cannot only go back 5 years. If there’s a problem with your FBI report, check out some countries that do not require a report like Mexico, Colombia Chile, or Italy.

  26. Patricia O. says

    Hello Jackie,
    My bf and I have been actively researching countries for our retirement. I visited Panama City a few years ago and loved every second on my solo adventure (he couldn’t make it, work committments) and we plan to visit David because of a friend who lives there.

    We are very interested in registering for your tour to get a feel for Volcan and Boquete and maybe a beach community but we very much want support, such as your tour.

    Question: we are teachers near our retirement but he had a felony charged that was dropped about 30 years ago but remained on his record. When getting his teaching certification this charged popped up and he went through the process to get it expunged from his record so he could get his state license. Will this be a problem for getting a pensionado visa? (we know as an unmarried couple we would need to each have $1k per mo in lifetime income. we both will have SS & teacher pensions)

    • Jackie Lange says

      Hello Patricia, Unfortunately, if the felony charge shows up on his criminal report, he will not be able to get a visa in Panama. Mexico does not require a national criminal report so you might want to consider there — see https://mexicorelocationguide.com/

  27. Glenn Major says

    Hi Jackie
    In the requirements for the Pensionada Visa there is a request for a medical done in Panama I think; what is the purpose of this?

    • Jackie Lange says

      Glenn, the medical is required to immigration to get a visa. It’s primarily to determine of you have any infectious diseases

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