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Jeff Barton of Punta Pacifica Realty – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Panama Ritmos Ballet Folklorico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe processes to become a permanent resident can be accomplished through several different types of visas. 
 
One of the most common for North Americans is what’s called a Friendly Nation Visa, which is applicable for persons from many specified countries, including the US and Canada. To get the visa requires very little work.  The main things you have to do are prove your citizenship to one of the nations specified as friendly, demonstrate some minimal financial means (the minimum is around $5,000 in your bank account), and a clean police record.  The whole process can happen in as quickly as 60 days. It’s really quite a simple and easy process.
 
There are some other avenues to receive different types of visas. There’s an investment and property visa, which has the requirement of a purchase of $300,000 worth of property or more.  There is another investment visa you can qualify for where if you put, I believe, an equal amount of money into a Panamanian bank on a fixed CD account over certain amount of years. There are even other visas for investments in teak farms.  Panama is very open to US and Canadian expatriates coming to Panama and tries to make it as simple and smooth as possible.
 
There’s also the Jubilado (retirement) Visa. By providing proof of some sort of a pension, either from a company or from the US government, you’re able to qualify for a vast array of benefits including discounts on airfare, discounts on importation of vehicles, household appliances, and you’re able to get discounts at movie theatres and restaurants.  A lot of expats are very interested in that Visa which is very unique for Panama and can provide huge benefits as well. You cannot work if you have a Jubilado Visa, and I believe there’s a minimum age as well.
 
(Theater performance of Panama Ritmos Ballet Folklorico, pictured.)
Elizabeth Vance of The Gringo Guide To Panama: What To Know Before You Go – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
To become a legal permanent resident in Panama, you need to get a residency visa. There are a number of visa types.  To get any of them, you'll need an attorney - that's a requirement per Panama law. There will be a fee, as well as a waiting period and a lot of things you need to provide as part of the visa application.
Bill Hamilton of Bill Hamilton – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
To become a permanent resident living in Panama, you have to apply first. They stamp your passport with the date of your entry as received here and the date they received your passport at the immigration office. Then you get a temporary one year residency. Depending on the lawyer, it can take three months to a year for you to get your permanent residency here. We were lucky. We got our one year residency in ten days. Within three months, we got the permanent one.
 
The advantages of being a permanent resident as opposed to being someone with a visitor’s visa is you do not have limited time. You don’t have to keep coming in and out of the country. Plus, after you got your pension visa, you can apply for a “cedula,” which is like a Panamanian pass. It’s an identity card. When you have a cedula, you don’t have to carry your passport or a copy of your passport around. That said it is as good as the passport and it is used exactly as the Panamanians use it.
 
One of the easiest ways to obtain a cedula (residence permit) is to apply under the pensionado scheme. At the last count the required income was 1,000 U.S. dollars for a single person and 1,200 US dollars for a couple. This can be subject to change if the government decides to increase the required amount.
 
It is a simple process and a good lawyer will do this for you fairly quickly. The important thing is to have all of your paperwork ready when you apply. Most documents must be no older than 3 months at the time of application.  You will need Penales (police record check) to show you have no convictions etc. Certified copy of a marriage certificate if a couple with an apostille. Usually they will need a rental agreement with and address in Panama. Evidence from your pension provider stating that you have a lifetime pension with the amount of the permanent pension. The lawyer will present all of this for you.
 
You will firstly have an endorsement in your passport saying that you intend to be here permanently. After that a couple of visits to the immigration for the papers to be presented and finally your photo taken and receipt of your residencia. Normally you will receive a 1 year temporary permission in around 2 to 3 weeks and the permanent one between 3 to 6 months depending on the backlog!
 
Between the time of the 1 year permanency and the full residencia you will have to apply for a multi entry visa if you want to leave the country. You lawyer will explain and arrange all of this for you. After 3 months you will need to get a Panamanian drivers license. Again you lawyer will do this for you. If your Spanish is good then it is a simple matter to do it yourself.
 
Benefits of a pensionado:-  Discounts on restaurant meals (alcohol not included), electricity, international flight and local flights, hotels. water bills, main telephone and closing fees on house purchase. Also discounts on medical, dental and prescription fees. So all in all a really beneficial residencia!

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