After living in 7 different places in 6 years, Susanna Perkins considers herself an Anywhereist. This is her story of moving to Panama and her life th
Your guide to moving to Panama. Panama visas, Panama citizenship and more.
Why move to Panama?
More and more people are immigrating to Panama to take advantage of all this beautiful country has to offer. How do they move to Panama? In fact, Expats in Panama use a variety of Panamanian Residency and Citizenship programs (including the attractive Panama Citizenship by Investment program) to move to Panama.
But why move to Panama? In reality, Panama has become a favourite destination for Expats, and it is no surprise.
Panama has a low cost of living
Panama has an exceptionally low cost of living, with expenses of less than half of what you’d expect in a major US city. While prices vary by region and by area, groceries, eating out, entertainment, rent, and transport are all outstanding value. Also, the cost of labour is low, so a gardener or housekeeper could cost as little as $20/day, freeing you up to do the things that you love. So, if you are thinking about immigrating to Panama or retiring in Panama, your money going much further should play a part in that choice.
Another critical point is that Panama uses the US dollar as its official currency for the purpose of keeping exchange rates stable and inflation within targets. Because of this, Panama is not likely to experience the hyperinflation that other countries in the region have suffered.
Retirees are also eligible for a range of discounts that can include 50% off on entertainment like the cinema, theatre, and concerts tickets, to name a few. Further, travel is made even more attractive with a 30% discount on bus, boat, and train fares, and 25% off on domestic and international airfares. Government hospital bills are subject to a 15% discount (see below for more on health costs).
Panama City has world-class health care facilities
In brief, healthcare in Panama is excellent. In fact, there are many English-speaking doctors trained in the US. Indeed, facilities in Panama City offer a full range of services that rival any other city in the region. And all this at a fraction of the cost you would pay elsewhere in the developed world. To this end, Panama has significantly invested in its health care sector both as a service to the country, and to encourage health tourism. For that reason, the public system is continuously improving. At present, a thriving private medical system supported by remarkably cheap health insurance ($45 – $120 per month). This system has arisen in large part to service the growing Expat community. In the final analysis, if you are planning to immigrate to Panama, or to retire to Panama, high-quality health care is a big incentive.
Panama has excellent infrastructure
Panama has seen massive investment in a range of infrastructure projects over the last decade, and this has accelerated over the previous five years. Because of this, across the country, you have access to reliable power and water, high-speed internet, cable television, and cellular phone coverage.
Also, there are a wealth of golf clubs, shopping malls, restaurants, beach resorts, and other recreational facilities available at a range of price points.
Lastly, a second terminal at Tocumen airport, a second metro line in Panama City, and a plan for central America’s first high-speed train all show the commitment of the country to improving transport options. In fact, these are a complement to the best roads in the region.
Panama is a relatively safe country
In general, Panama’s crime statistics have been improving steadily for several years due to an increased focus on law and order to promote tourism and inbound investment. To be sure, Panama has its problems. However, they are concentrated in some areas that suffer from drug-related gang violence. Critically, violent crime is not common outside of these areas. For this reason, the 2019 Global Peace Index rates Panama as 47th out of 163 countries, with a “High” peace ranking and a similar score to the United Kingdom and Italy. What is it like to immigrate to Panama in terms of security? Expats’ experience is above all positive with some advice. That is to say; the information is always to be aware of your surroundings and situation. However, this is no different from most places in the world.
Panama’s location also keeps it safe from the worst impacts of hurricanes that form in the Caribbean, on account of their usual route Northwards through the Caribbean. Because of this, a hurricane hasn’t hit the country since the highly unusual Southward travelling Hurricane Martha in 1969.
Panama is a travel hub
Because of its geographical location, Panama is a hub for regional air travel, logistics, and shipping. Given these points, there are economical, reliable, and regular ways for you to travel and to buy the things you may need.
Panama has a wonderful climate and diverse natural beauty
To illustrate the diversity of the country, from the same spot on the top of the 3,475m Volcán Barú, you can famously see the sunrise over the Caribbean and sunset over the Pacific from the same place! In effect, two beautiful coastlines are separated by a mountain range. Without reservation, we can say that whatever your preference, you’ll be able to find the ideal location to live in Panama for you. In particular, this is a country of large areas of unspoiled natural beauty, from the rain forests of the North to the tropical islands dotted along the coasts. Because of that fishing, walking, birdwatching, scuba diving, cycling, sailing, boating, and much more are all activities that are available to the adventurous. What’s more, all this is within a country that you can drive from top to bottom in around 8 hours!
In conclusion, year-round warm weather, and sunshine, with a refreshing mountain cooldown just a short drive away, is on offer. Obviously, the best place to live in Panama will, therefore, depend on which climate, population centre, and geography suit you best.
Panama has a ZERO tax rate on foreign income
Yup, the Panamanian government will not apply any tax to income you earn outside of Panama. For instance, as a digital nomad, you can choose the tax resident country for your business, and accordingly, the Panamanian government will let you keep 100% of your earnings.
Panamanian people, food, and culture
Panama has long been a hub of international business. The result is there is not the pushback for Expats that some countries have. Significantly, the people here are overwhelmingly warm and welcoming. In addition, many speak excellent English, as well as the native Spanish. Not to mention that while many restaurants offer American style food, there is also a sumptuous local cuisine, influenced by Spanish, Caribbean, African, American, and Indigenous cultures.
Here are some of the ways to a Panamanian residency visa
Panama Friendly Nations Visa
Panama introduced this exceptional visa in 2012. Foreigners from 47 Nations (click here for the full list) can qualify for immediate permanent residency in Panama along with a Panama work permit. Indeed, it is quite easy to qualify. To clarify, you need to deposit $5,000 into a local bank account plus USD$2,000 for each dependent. In addition, you also need to have professional ties to the country. Examples of this could include starting a new business, purchasing an existing business, or being hired in a professional capacity by a Panamanian company. In fact, you could qualify by simply setting up an offshore company in Panama. Indeed, if you are self-employed, having your company set up in Panama may be an excellent option with possible tax benefits. What’s more, after five years, you can apply for Panamanian citizenship, nationality, and a passport.
Panama Pensionado (Retired) Visa
If you can show, you have a monthly income for life of $1,000 (or $750 if you purchase a Panamanian property of more than $100,000) you’re eligible for Panama permanent residency. Additionally, after five years, you are eligible for full Panamanian citizenship, nationality, and passport.
If you have more than USD$170,000 to deposit on a five-year certificate of deposit with the National Bank of Panama, you may obtain a retiree visa. Basically, it will yield approximately $750 a month for living expenses. That shows the Panamanian government that you can support yourself, given that this is the amount the government uses as standard.
Panama Marriage Visa
Generally, if your spouse is a citizen or permanent resident of Panama, you are eligible for temporary residency, and after one year, you can apply for permanent residency. Significantly, you can apply for citizenship after three years of residency in Panama. It must be remembered that Panama must recognise your status as a spouse in Panama (given that the definition of what constitutes a spouse varies by country.)
To find out if you need a tourist visa to visit Panama, please use the VisaHQ tool.
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