The Panama Pensionado / Retirement Program is a residency you can get. If you’re able to prove that you have a monthly income from an official source and that you’re retired, you can be allowed to stay in the country of Panama legally as a “pensionado,” but you have to be retired, which means you can’t work.
The Pensionado Visa will take you 3 years to get, so while the visa is in process, you have to get a “carnet”, which will allow you to be entitled to the benefits of being a resident of Panama. The Pensionado Visa may cost you roughly US $2,000. In order to get a Pensionado Visa, you have to have your FBI report, prove that you’re receiving money from an official source, and prove your age. You need a lawyer to make it all easier.
For Americans in many cases there’s a better option than getting the Pensionado Visa. The United States and Panama have an international treaty through which we have a visa called the Friendly Nations Visa. Under the Friendly Nations Visa, you only have to put US $5,000 in a Panamanian bank account, have a corporation here, and you’ll be able to get your permanent residency in 3 months, which is better and easier than getting a Pensionado Visa. The $5,000 that you’ve put in your account is still yours. In the process, you need to have the FBI police report. With regards the corporation, it’s just like a shell corporation; it’s a Panamanian entity that allows you to do business, but you don’t have to conduct business through it.
The cost for a Friendly Nations Visa is very roughly around $1,500, which includes the cost of the legal fees. The cost to set up the corporation is very roughly another $1,500, and there may or may not be any other related fees. So, as a very rough estimate, you’ll end up spending about $3,000 - $4000 in total to become a resident of Panama under the Friendly Nations Visa. I never quote a hard price because sometimes clients need to have a little bit more paperwork or there may be some other issues, but this is a good rule of thumb.
Under a Friendly Nations Visa you can work, but if you’re here under a Pensionado Visa, you’re not allowed to work. However, it is not necessary to be in Panama under a Pensionado Visa in order to get Pensionado discounts. They are completely separate. The pensionado discounts are conferred to you as a result of your age, not your visa status.
In Panama, if you are older than 65 years, you are retired. We respect old people here in Panama. That’s the Latin way of working. If you are over 65 years old, you get your 20% discounts when you go to restaurants and the other discounts and benefits as well.