Finding a Visa

The official government web site, SERVICIO NACIONAL DE MIGRACIÓN PANAMÁ is not as helpful as it might be. Unsurprisingly it is written in Spanish but there is a translation avalable courtesy of "Google". Unfortunately many of the supporting pages are not available. Information can be obtained from many commercial web sites, most of them legal firms.

Tourist visas are not necessary for visitors from the U.S.A. or Canada for stays of up to 90 days. From many countries a tourist card can be obtained at the point of arrival for $30.00. The usual requirements of an onward or return ticket and proof of means of support whilst in Panama are necessary as is the case for temporary trips to most other countries. Extensions of tourist visas for up to 60 days are usually easily available. It is, therefore, simple to make an extended visit to Panama to check its suitability as a retirement country. It is also possible to change the purpose of the visit and to apply for another visa while in the Country on a tourist visa. Observing the "golden rule" - visit before taking any irrevocable steps - is easily accomplished.

Panama provides a number of visas which lead to permanent resident status. The visa of interest to most retirees is the pensioners visa. The vital requirement for the Pensionado Visa or pensioners visa is an income of $1000 per month. This may be reduced to $750 per month if property to the value of $100,000 is purchased in Panama. The application for this visa must be accompanied by a number of supporting documents. All documents issued overseas (that were not issued in Panama) must be duly authenticated by the Panamanian Consulate or Embassy in the country where issued and by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Panama or duly Apostilled. The precise supporting documents needed will vary with each individual applicant. The list of possible documents is long.

The links on this page and those under the "Resources" tab on this site together with references in the book "How to Retire in Panama" by Les Johns will prove very helpful to intending retirees.The "Stop Press" page of this site also updates information on the latest available visa for Panama.

Getting Help

It is not possible to complete all formalities for obtaining a pensioners visa without professional help. All documents need to be authenticated by the nearest Panamanian consulate or go through the apostille system. The consulate will charge on a per document basis. In 2011 this fee was $30.00. This process is necessary for all documents including photocopies of all passport pages (including the covers), proof of income for life, birth certificate, police clearance certificate from all places of residence during the past five years, a marriage certificate or, if single, a statement of bachelorhood and four photographs. Applications must be made whilst in Panama and processed by a Panamanian attorney. A health examination will be required. his can be done in Panama but if done prior to arrival it must be conducted by a Panamanian or other officially approved doctor. A sworn statement about your background must be made in Panama before a lawyer. It is necessary to be physically in Panama when the visa is issued. The income requirement can vary over time and also with the number of dependents accompanying the main applicant.

Although it is always recommended that as much of any process or dealing with a government is done by yourself, this is clearly not possible in Panama. The visa application must be done via Panamanian attorney of whom there are many. This may be just as well because no shorts, t-shirts or sandals are permitted in government offices. The fees that will be charged by an attorney to make an application for a pensioners visa is about $1400 for the primary applicant and $1000 for dependents. Professional help is never cheap and there will be further costs for the medical examination and, probably, for a driving license also. Establishing a bank account may also best be done with a lawyers assistance. Banks in Panama are very conservative and will not be looking for your business. It is best to be prepared to live initially through credit or check/debit cards used at ATMs of which there is one on nearly every street corner in Panama.

All of these points can be investigated by studying the links under the "Resources" tab on this site and by reading the book "How to Retire in Panama" by Les Johns. The book can be bought directly from this site.