In recent years, Panama has become a popular retirement destination. The constant economic growth, the warmth of the locals, the pleasant climate, the extensive beaches, as well as attractive investment opportunities, and the US dollar as local currency are among the many advantages that Panama offers newcomers. Besides that the country offers one of the best discount programs for retirees worldwide: This includes discounts in restaurants, hotels, theatres, cinemas, airline tickets, medical services and much more.

Pensioners and retirees who receive a monthly pension or annuity from a state or private institution or company can apply for a permanent residence permit in Panama under the “Jubildado Pensionado” visa program. There is NO legal minimum or maximum age to qualify for this migration program. The main requirement to qualify for this visa program is the proof of a lifelong pension of at least US $1,000 (US $1,250 for a married couple) a month. 

In case of a married couple where both partners receive a monthly pension, the joint monthly income can be used. In this case, the necessary proof and documents must be provided for both.

The pension does not necessarily have to be paid out by a state institution. To qualify for the ”Jubilado Pensionado” visa, the applicant may also submit a private pension plan, paid out by a bank, an insurance company or similar institution. However, the private company must be specialised in the payment and administration of pension funds, a private company pension will not be accepted by the National Migration Service of Panama.

Step By Step: How To Obtain Your Jubilado Pensionado Visa in Panama

Here you will find the steps to apply for a residence permit as Jubilado Pensionado in Panama. The individual procedures may vary in detail, depending on the  personal situation of each client:

Step #1: Choosing a lawyer and first contact: The Immigration Law in Panama requires that all applications within the ”Jubilado Pensionado” visa category, must be submitted by a licensed attorney in Panama.

Step #2: Define your immigration category: Together with your attorney confirm that you qualify for the “Jubilado Pensionado” visa, or if there is another immigration category that suits you better. You attorney will also provide you a list of all required documents. 

Step #3: Compilation of documents: Collect all necessary documents and papers required for the application. Pay attention to the validity of the various documents and take care of the necessary certifications (apostille) in time.

Step #4: Review of documents: It is best to email all documents and papers to the lawyer in Panama in advance for review, in order to be sure that everything is complete and nothing is missing. At the same time, the documents can already be forwarded for translation in Panama.

Step #5: Trip to Panama: Once all documents are ready, a personal trip to Panama is necessary to complete your file and submit the application in person together with your lawyer. 

Step #6: Completion of your file: Once you have arrived in Panama you will meet with your lawyer and hand over all original documents, sign the lawyer’s power of attorney and any other documents necessary, make copies of your passport, fill out the immigration forms, and complete any other procedure where your person-al presence is required. 

Step #7: Filing your application at the immigration office: As a rule, the file must be 100% complete and all applicants must be present in person, in order to submit the application. 

Step #8: Registration of the passport (”registro de pasaporte”): The registration of the passport is done in advance online by your lawyer. During the application process, all information is checked again and an immigration officer stamps the registration stamp (”sello de registro”) in the passport of each applicant.

Step #9: Temporary migration card (”carné de migración”): Once the application has been submitted, your status in Panama also changes. You are no longer considered a ”tourist” but a ”resident”. All applicants receive an identity card from the immigration office. This card is valid for six months (enough time to pro-cess the application within this period). A photo is taken on-site for the ID card. From now on, your migration ID card must be shown at passport control every time you enter or leave Panama.

Step #10: Multiply Visa (”visa multiple”): The multiple entry and exit visa is a stamp in the passport, that allows you to enter and exit Panama while your residence permit application is being processed. The multiply visa is valid for six months (just like the migration ID card). The Immigration Department takes about 48 hours to issue the Multiply Visa. They will hold your passport for this period. Foreigners (with ongoing immigration proceedings) who leave Panama without having a Multiply Visa stamped in their passport, or whose Multiply Visa has expired, must pay a fine of USD $2,000 (per person) to the Immigration Department upon re-entry into Panama. 

Step #11: Processing your application: Upon receipt of the application, the National Immigration Service assigns a case number to the file and transfers it internally to the responsible department in Panama City. After the application has been successfully processed by the responsible caseworker, the decision (”resolución”) is reviewed by the head of the department. Then the Director of Immigration signs your resolution and the file finally moves to the Notifications Department. The processing of the application usually takes three to four months.

Step #12: Receiving your residence permit and a second trip to Panama: Once the residence permit has been approved, you will be notified by your lawyer. A second trip to Panama is required in order to undergo the notification process and obtain your new migration ID card. Upon completion of this procedure, you will be a permanent resident of Panama. 

Foreigners who hold permanent residence status in Panama can also apply for a Panamanian identity card (Panama E-card or Cédula E) at the Civil Registry (Tri-bunal Electoral). This process is a separate procedure and is not done automatically as part of the application process. The application for the Cédula E must be submitted separately and the decision is forwarded internally by the Immigration Department to the Tribunal Electoral. Subsequently, an appointment at the Tribunal Electoral is required to verify the personal data of the applicant and to take a photo for the Cédula E. The Cédula E is not printed immediately and will be available for pick-up after approximately two to three weeks.

It is not mandatory to have a Cédula E. However, in daily life, it facilitates many administrative, legal and/or business procedures such as opening a bank account. Furthermore, the Cédula E is a prerequisite to register with the tax authorities in Panama and to apply for a personal tax number. 

How to Keep Your Panama Visa as a Part-Time Resident

The good news is: Panama does not require that foreign residents stay a minimum amount of time per year in the country in order to keep their resident status. There is only one golden rule: ”Having to travel to Panama every two years to maintain your resident status”. This said, traveling to Panama every two years just for a couple of days is enough to keep your residence permit. But even so, given the current restrictions implemented on international air traffic, border closures, and controls due to COVID-19 it is difficult for many temporary, part-time or permanent residents to travel to Panama and thus maintain their current residency status. So are there any exceptions to that rule?

What are the consequences if, due to the global situation, I cannot travel to maintain my status as a resident in Panama?

The Law stipulates that there must be a reason for the absence. It is presumed that a global pandemic is a sufficient reason to justify the absence since the National Immigration Service of Panama has suspended all terms for the time being. 

Are there any legal procedures to recover my residency if it is canceled?

If the National Immigration Service decides to cancel your residency in Panama (remembering that in our country nothing happens automatically), there are legal procedures to request the reactivation of your status as a resident, in case you have been out of Panama for a period of more than two (2) years and up to a maximum of six (6) years.

What happens if I can not travel to Panama for more than six years?

Foreigners who have remained more than six (6) years outside of Panama and whose residency has been canceled by the National Immigration Service, will lose their status permanently and must start a completely new immigration procedure in accordance with current regulations at that time. 

There is one exception to the golden rule

If you are an Italian citizen and obtained your residency in Panama under the ”Panama - Italy Treaty” Visa (available to Italian citizens only), you will not lose your status. This is a special cause protected by the Law. 

Bella Italia! Stay safe and healthy!   EG