The Pensioner Visa is an easy and popular way to obtain residency in Panama. Although the name is “Pensioner” Visa, any person over the age of 18, with a lifetime annuity income, may apply.
The Pensioner Visa’s appeal includes the eligibility for discounts and exemption from certain duties:
The basis of the Pensionado Visa is a lifetime annuity income, but there are two different options to consider:
Option 1 – Annuity only: A lifetime monthly annuity income of at least $1,000 received by the main applicant, or in the case of a married couple, their combined income.
Option 2 – Annuity and real estate: A lifetime monthly annuity income of at least $750 plus the purchase of real estate of at least $100,000.
Further requirements for the Pensionado Visa:
♦ Dependants include children below the age of 18, or below the age of 25 subject to proof that they are full-time students. Failure to prove enrolment will disqualify a child from the right to residency. Since a child cannot use a parent’s pensioner visa to obtain permanent residency, he or she will have to apply for another suitable visa.
♦ The required monthly annuity amount of $1,000 will increase by $250 for each dependent. This additional amount can be satisfied by interest earned on savings at a Panama bank.
♦ The real estate mentioned in Option 2 must be registered in the applicant’s personal name.
Documents required for the Pensioner Visa:
♦ Passport valid for at least 6 months from date of application, plus blank pages;
♦ Criminal history record for at least the past 5 years (if you are resident in another country, that criminal record must be accompanied by proof of legal residency; if you have resided in Panama for the last 2 consecutive years, the criminal history record must be issued by the national police (DIJ) in Panama);
♦ Marriage certificate if a dependant is a spouse. If you are unmarried, confirmation of unmarried status by means of an official certificate from your country;
♦ Birth certificate if a dependant is a child. For children over 18, confirmation of unmarried status by means of an official certificate from their country;
♦ Original medical examination report from a certified Panama medical doctor (ask your lawyer about their service to supply a translator if required);
♦ If pension is paid by a government/government institution/social security: a letter from the respective institution which certifies that the applicant receives a pension for life of at least $1,000 per month (words underlined, in italic must appear in the letter);
♦ If pension is paid by a private institution:
- A letter from the institution certifying that the applicant receives a pension for life of at least $1,000 per month (words underlined, in italic must appear in the letter);
- Certification of the existence of the institution and that it is in good standing with the relevant government;
- Proof of payment of the monthly pension (typically by way of bank statement).
♦ Certificate of Public Registration of the Panama real estate with title in the applicant’s name (if applicable);
♦ Proof of interest earned (if applicable)(letter from your Panama bank, addressed to “Servicio Nacional de Migracion”, confirming that the required amount of interest is earned from local deposits);
♦ Proof of domicile in Panama by way of a utility bill, rental agreement or letter from a hotel;
♦ The remaining documents will be prepared by your immigration lawyer;
♦ For the bank: most of the above plus a reference letter from your bank (some banks require that the letter be addressed to them) as well as at least one more letter of reference from a professional practitioner (for example your auditor/accountant).
♦ No immigration or repatriation fees are payable.
♦ A multi-entry visa fee: $50 per person. The immigration office will only accept denominations of $20 or smaller.
Note: Ask the immigration lawyer for a detailed quote. Then put your understanding of the quote in writing and ask him to confirm. Some lawyers have hidden fees and/or extra charges for some steps. It is your right to be fully informed upfront.
Other important notes:
♦ Liaise with your immigration lawyer ahead of arrival, preferably 30 days or more, in order for them to schedule your visit and application.
♦ Your immigration lawyer will probably ask you to email scanned copies of the documents for review. If everything is in order, they will then probably ask you to courier the final (apostilled) documents at least 14 days ahead of your planned arrival.
♦ Arrange to be in Panama City for at least 2 weeks from date of arrival to get your temporary residency card, then upon approval, another full day for the collection of your permanent residency card.
♦ Once complete and correct paperwork is filed with the immigration office, the applicant will receive a temporary residency card, valid for 6 months.
♦ Documents must have been issued within 90 days of the date of presentation to the immigration office.
♦ All documents originating outside of Panama, must be apostilled by the Panama embassy/consulate in your country. (An “apostille” is a form of specialized authentication, issued and attached to documents for use in countries that participate in the Hague Apostille Convention. Panama require/use apostilles. To apostille documents, submit the document, together with a certified copy, to the Panama embassy/consulate in your country. A fee is charged for the service.)
♦ The immigration office requires a dress code that can be described as business casual: collared shirts, long pants/dress and shoes (no t-shirts, shorts, mini-skirts and/or sandals).
♦ Final approval of your application, before the issue of your permanent residency card, normally takes 3 months, but could be anything between 2 and 6 months.
♦ Part of the process includes a multi-entry visa stamped in your passport, so after the temporary residency card is issued, you can travel without hassles.
♦ The granting of permanent residency requires you to be in Panama for at least 2 weeks per annum.
♦ Once you receive your temporary residency card, you can no longer use your home or international driver’s licence, you now have to have a Panama licence. As with the residency card, the driver’s licence will be temporary, and a permanent licence must be obtained after receipt of your permanent residency card. (You can obviously wait until your permanent residency card is issued, then do your driver’s licence, if you don’t plan to drive.)
♦ After recent changes, this visa can now lead to citizenship.
♦ Residency in terms of this visa excludes the possibility to get a work permit.