Retirees, investors and second-home seekers are the new-style immigrants to Panama
The trend to seek a retirement or alternative home abroad seems to be growing among people from many countries around the globe but especially among North Americans and Europeans. And Panama is becoming popular with these new-style immigrants.
“International Living”, the renowned magazine and recognized expert for promoting U.S. expatriate lifestyles, has rated Panama as the best place to live outside of the United States. The American Association of Retired People’s (AARP) Modern Maturity Magazine, has ranked Panama’s town of Boquete as fourth in its listing of the “Fifteen best cities in the world for U.S. retirees.”
Here are some representative prices. In Boquete you could find a three bedroom, three bathroom house on a main road on 2500 m2 for $50,000. Or you could pay up to $350,000 for a larger house on several acres with stupendous views. Lots in the area appropriate for house building go for betwen $8 and $20 per square meter. A three-bedroom, apartment in Panama City might cost $90,000; a condo in a new high rise, $175,000. Agricultural land within 30 miles from Panama City could cost between $500 to $900 per acre depending on access and other factors.
There are a number of real estate land developments ideal for retirees, some reasonably close to Panama City, some on the Pacific beaches with access to the city on a fast four-lane highway, and some in the mountains of Chiriquí province.
A retirement visa for Panama brings with it the privilege of importing personal and house belongings with you tax-free and a new car (for private use) every two years. If all this is not beneficial enough, English is spoken widely enough so chances are you can converse with at least some of your new neighbors.
Making the most of their money is, of course, a prime concern for retirees. The U.S. dollar has always been the republic’s currency. Panama is known for its banking center, which boasts branches from nearly all of the international banks. The cost of living is reasonable and is much less than in the States and Europe. Inflation rates are some of the lowest known.
Reasons for coming Some of the reasons for foreigners to obtain a second residency in Panama are catalogued in the following exerpt from the website of Panama Offshore Services which we quote with their permission:
Have a second home overseas in a tropical country where they can live at or visit.
Have a “safe haven” to escape to in the event of war or any type of civil unrest that may threaten their family.
Actually live in Panama permanently, perhaps after retirement.
Relocate to a tropical, stable, safe country where it is very economical to live in comparison with most other developed countries such as the US, Canada, Europe, etc.
Relocate to a more “tax friendly” country where foreign earned income, capital gains, and interest income is not taxed.
Relocate to a country where frivolous lawsuits are not recognized by courts, and assets can be truly protected through a corporate shield, without the risks of “piercing the corporate veil”.
Relocate to a country where one can begin business operations economically, and without heavy restrictions, regulations, or taxes that hinder the growth of the business.
Relocate to a country where real estate is still affordable for purchasing homes in the city or land at the beaches, mountains, lakes, etc.
How to do it While there are several ways to immigrate to Panama, the most popular instruments are the Retiree and Investors Visas. (This information is based on the website of Panama All In One).
Retiree Visa: Designed for persons with a minimum $500 government or private pension ($600.00 per couple, plus $100 per additional dependent).
It is granted indefinitely and includes benefits such as a one-time exemption of duties for the importation of household goods (up to $10,000) and a tax-exempt automobile every two years. This visa doesn’t allow you to qualify for Panamanian citizenship.
Private Income Retiree Visa: This visa is for individuals who do not receive a pension but are no longer working and have received a retirement lump sum payment to be deposited on a 5-year Certificate of Deposit with Banco Nacional de Panama, yielding at least $750 a month (at current interest rates this CD would be approximately + $200,000).
The visa is renewable every five years as long as the Certificate of Deposit is also renewed for the same period.
The Private Income Retiree Visa includes such benefits as a traveling Panama passport (which does not grant citizenship), a one-time exemption of duties for the importation of household goods (up to $10,000) and a tax-exempt automobile every two years.
Person of Means Visa: Designed for those who wish to live in Panama, who are not being employed or starting a business, but living from their own income. This person must open a one-year certificate of deposit in any local bank with a minimum of $100,000. The Person of Means visa will be issued for a one-year period. Upon applying for its renewal, the certificate of deposit must also be renewed for an additional year.
It is granted provisionally for one year and after renewal it is granted permanently with the right to a Cedula (local identity card) issuance.
Five years after obtaining the permanent visa, holders will be eligible to apply for Panamanian citizenship.
Investors Visa: Designed for those who wish to establish a business in Panama (retail businesses and some professions are reserved to Panamanians). There must be a minimum investment of $100,000 and a minimum of three (3) permanent Panamanian employees hired.
It is granted provisionally for one year and after renewal it is granted permanently with the right to a Cedula (local identity card) issuance. Five years after obtaining the permanent visa, holders will be eligible to apply for Panamanian citizenship.
Small Business Investor Visa: Designed for those who wish to establish a small business in Panama (retail businesses and some professions are reserved to Panamanians). There must be a minimum investment of $40,000 in either a new business or an established company with a minimum of three permanent Panamanian employees.
It is granted provisionally for one year, and needs to be renewed three more times before it is granted permanently with the right to a Cedula (local identity card). Five years after obtaining the permanent visa, holders will be eligible to obtain Panamanian citizenship.
Other programs There are several other programs which allow international investors to obtain legal residency, citizenship and passport in Panama.
The basic requirement is a minimum of $200,000 investment. This could go into buying a home or an investment on fixed deposit. The income from the investment is not taxed by the Panamanian government.
But a $40,000 investment in a reforestation project earns a resident’s visa. There is also an agricultural Investor Visa for investing in farms or you can obtain legal residency by renting a plot of land in a tax-free processing zone.
More information If you desire more information about retiring in Panama, numerous legal firms offer a full line of advisory and relocation services. Retirement-related reading includes: “Panama Now”, a comprehensive and beautifully illustrated yearbook, “Getting to Know Panama”, “The Visitor” and “Focus on Panama”, all published by Focus Publications (Int), S.A. email: email@example.com.
“Panama Now” and Getting to know Panama” are available from Amazon.com.
Also useful is: “Living in Panama” from the American Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Panama (firstname.lastname@example.org, www.panamcham.com
Americans may want to contact the American Society of Panama (email@example.com, www.amso.org). There are a number of organizations for foreigners and of interest to foreigners including active groups of Alcoholics Anonymous (panamakevin.com)