Panama offers unmatched benefits to retirees, or pensionados, available to all residents of Panama regardless of citizenship. Women 55 or older and men 60 or older qualify for substantial discounts, regardless of the kind of visa they have, and as long as they present a valid form of identification. With the right information about which benefits you qualify for, your money can go a long way.
Pensionados and retirees enjoy a 50% discount off the entrance price to recreational and entertainment activities, including movies, theaters, and sporting events. Transportation discounts include a 30% discount on urban bus fares, 30% off train and boat fares, and 15% off air fares in both public and private, national and foreign airlines. Even heftier advantages are offered for other travel-related expenses: a 50% discount on hotels, motels, and pensions Monday through Thursday, and a 30% discount on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. All the more reason to get out and explore the beauty of Panama! What’s more, you could get a 25% discount off food in all restaurants (except fondas) and 15% off purchases at fast food joints.
Health care is another area where retirees can gain significant discounts, with 15% off the total cost for services in hospitals and private clinics, 10% off prescription medicines, 20% off consultation fees for both general medicine practitioners and specialists, 15% off dental exams and services, 15% off eye exams, 20% off prosthetic devices and other items for personal assistance, and 20% off technical and professional services.
Hold on, there’s more– discounts extend even to basic, day-to-day expenses. Panama offers a 20% discount off monthly electrical consumption (up to 600 kilowatts), 25% off basic service charges for a residential telephone (the phone must be in your name), 25% off any water bill that does not exceed $30 per month, as long as the bill is in your name and the water service is located in your principal residence. And, for those expenses that are more occasional, Panama offers 50% off closing costs for home loans and a tax exemption for the importation of a new car every two years.
Additional benefits are available specifically to foreign retirees: a one-time tax exemption for the importation of personal and household goods up to $10,000, the possibility of obtaining a residency visa with the purchase of a home of more than $200,000, and a 100% property tax exemption for your primary residence. Yes, foreigners can buy and own property in Panama!
There are several visa options available to non-Panamanians looking to retire in the country. The visa de rentista retirado, for permanent residence, is best for those who do not have a monthly pension. This visa requires that your retirement money be held in a 5-year Certificate of Deposit in the Banco Nacional de Panamá, and it must generate in interest at least $2,000 per month. The visa is renewable every five years, as long as the CD is renewed. It includes the benefit of a Panamanian passport, though it does not grant citizenship, and also allows investments to be made in the country. The visa de turista pensionado (pensioned tourist) is for those who have lifetime pensions. It allows for legal residency in Panama as long as you have a guaranteed pension income for life, be it governmental or private, of at least $1,000 per month and an additional $250 for each dependent, monthly. There is no minimum age to qualify.
It is best to work with Panamanian lawyers for all of these visa processes– they are the most up-to-date on legislation that may affect your application, and the most familiar in navigating the inevitable bureaucracy you will encounter in the process. Do yourself a favor and let your lawyer do the foot work. All foreign documents must be either authenticated by a notary and apostille, or authenticated by a notary and the Panamanian consulate nearest you. Note also that all required documents must be issued within two months of the visa application, and your passport must be valid for at least a year after the application date. Regarding dependents, make sure to bring along a marriage certificate to cover your spouse’s visa, and if you have children under 18 that you would like to be covered by the visa, then bring recently-issued birth certificates. Also, keep in mind that all visa applications require a health certificate and an HIV test conducted in Panama, as well as a clean police record.
A few more tips: plan for extra time. As in anything in this world, unexpected encumbrances can slow down the visa process. Be prepared for not getting back any of your original documents (marriage certificates, birth certificates, and so on) except for your passport– but you will have to part with it for a few days anyway, in order to receive your visa. While your lawyer will take care of most of the paperwork, you will be required to make a personal appearance at the Migration office. Be aware that sandals, tank tops, or other revealing clothing are not allowed. In short, dress comfortably, start early, and before you know it, you will be enjoying everything this country has to offer for retirees.