If you are considering a Panama retirement, you most likely have heard about the perks offered to retirees here.
In particular, there is a lot of glowing prose written about Panama’s Pensionado Visa or Retirement program.
- Is this program all it is cracked up to be?
- Do you need a Pensionado visa to enjoy these perks?
In this post, I will delve into Panama’s Pensionado Visa program
- What Are The Perks?
- Are They Guaranteed?
- Is It Really As Great As The Hype?
- Can I Qualify For Them?
- What Will It Cost?
- How Long Does It Take?
- Do I Need The Visa To Enjoy The Same Perks ?
What Are The Perks of Panama’s Pensionado Visa?
This retirement program offers many cost-saving benefits
- 50% off entertainment costs
- 30% off public transportation fares
- 25% off airplane tickets
- 30 to 50% off hotel stays (depending if it is a weekday or weekend)
- 25% off at restaurants
- 15% off at fast food restaurants
- 15% off hospital bills
- 10% off prescription medications
- Phone, water, and electricity bills, dentist and doctor visits, and more can be discounted by varying amounts
- 1-time exemption on the importation of household goods up to $10,000 and an exemption from duties on the importation or local purchase of a car.
Is It Guaranteed Not To Go Away?
Panama guarantees your Pensionado status.
Panama has pledged to grandfather in the rights of Pensionado residents. This means that even if Panama changes its laws regarding the Pensionado visa in the future, your status will never change!
In other countries, new laws have affected the status and perks of long-time ex-pat retirees.
It is obvious that Panama wants retirees to choose to live here. The country even makes it easy to bring your pet to live with you.
Does It Live Up To The Hype?
Yes, the benefits are good, but…
It may not be as wonderful as the over-the-top enthusiastic reviews of the program make it seem.
The list of cost-saving discounts above is not as rose-colored as it sounds.
- The 25% discount on airplane ticket doesn’t apply to all ticket categories. So in reality, a retiree can usually buy a ticket cheaper than the discounted higher price ticket they qualify for.
- Not all hotels and restaurants are eager to give you a discount, especially the smaller establishments.
- Often you must specifically ask for your Pensionado discount at restaurants, hotels, etc… However, not everyone is comfortable asking for a discount.
It is a wonderful program, don’t get me wrong.
For instance, pensionados here in Puerto Armuelles only pay $3.89 a month for water. Granted, without a discount your water bill is only $7.10 a month. But still, it all adds up.
I simply want to inject a dose of reality into the wonders of Panama’s retirement discussion.
Do I Qualify?
You don’t need to be over 55 or 65 to qualify.
There is no minimum or maximum age.
- $750 or $1,000 monthly pension of some kind (It can even be an annuity from an insurance or private company)
- $750 a month – Is all you need, if you own property in your personal name. The property must be at least $100,000 in value.
- $1000 a month is your required monthly pension amount if you don’t own property of the minimal value.
- The pension amount can be what you receive or you and your spouse’s combined pension income
- You need an additional $250 more a month in pension income for each dependent in your household.
- Alternatively, you can meet this qualification with a letter from a Panama bank stating you earn at least $250 a month in interest from your deposits with them.
- Note: dependents must be no more than 18 years of age or be a full-time student and under 25 years of age.
How Long Does It Take? How Much Does It Cost?
It normally takes 6 months to get the fully approved visa once you submit the application with all the documentation. However, you are issued a temporary visa immediately upon submitting your application.
It usually costs from $1500 to $2000 per person to get this visa. This includes lawyer fees. You can sometimes get a discount if you submit the applications for your dependents or spouse at the same time.
What Documents Will I Need?
You will also need a boatload of documents. All the documents will need to be certified, authenticated, translated, etc…
I will outline all those requirements in a future post.
Can You Enjoy These Perks Without The Visa?
Yes, you can.
All Panamanian retirees can enjoy the retirement perks of the Pensionado visa.
This means that if you are of retirement age—60 for men, 55 for women— you can enjoy most of these Pensionado Visa discounts. It doesn’t matter which type of residence visa you are granted.
So again. As long as you are a legal resident of Panama – and of retirement age – you can get the same discounts on services that Pensionados enjoy.
Want to know about other Panama residency visas you may qualify for? Check out this post for 3 other visa types.