One of the reasons that anyone chooses to retire to Panama is because it offers one of the best retirement programs in the world! Panama offers the same exact benefits to foreign retirees that it offers to it's own retirees. It's called the Pensionado Visa. This residency visa will allow us to live in Panama for as long as we want and the benefits will never be taken away and offers tons of discounts.
50% off entertainment such as movies, theater, concerts sporting events
30% off train, bus and boat tickets
25% off airline tickets
50% off hotel rooms Monday through Thursday
30% off hotel rooms Friday through Sunday
25% at restaurants
15% on fast food
15% on hospital bills (when no insurance)
10% off prescriptions
20% off doctor visits
15% off eye exams and dental exams
20% off professiona and technical services
50% off closing costs for homes
no taxes on new homes for 20 years
This visa is designed for persons whose pension from a government entity or private corporation is $1,000 or more ($250 per month for each additional dependant). The Pensionado Visa is granted indefinitely but it is necessary to prove to the Immigration Department on an annual basis that the income is still flowing from your pension. The benefits include one-time exemption of duties for the importation of household goods (up to $10,000) and an exemption every two years of duties for the importation of a car. Anyone that holds this Visa is NOT allowed to work in the country of Panama. We ARE allowed to open a business if we wish to, but are NOT allowed to take a job away from a Panamanian. In fact ALL businesses in Panama have to employ 95% Panamanians for their work force.
To get this Visa we had to start back in Texas with the Panamanian Consulate in Houston. Clyde sent them our marriage license, criminal reports from the police department on both of us and a letter from his pension board stating how much money he would be receiving for life. All paperwork had to be "apostled," which is a form of authentication that they looked at it, stamped it and agreed that it's authentic. Then he emailed it to the lawyer here in Panama City. They had an issue with the pension letter, so that had to be re-done by the pension board and re-submitted to Houston. That time we just happened to be going to Houston for his eye doctor's appointment, so we both went to the consulate.
The Panamanian Consulate in Houston is a tiny office in a huge office complex. We got to meet with the vice-consul Carlos Ortiz-Campana and chat with him for a while about his country and ours. He gave us some practical advice on moving to Panama and we enjoyed meeting him.
Once in Panama we had planned to start this procces immediatly, but with Clyde's lost passport that delayed things until he got a replacement. Yesterday he picked up his new replacement passport and we immediately headed over to the lawyers office. Since the lawyer speaks NO English she assigned her assistant Alexandra to help us out. After meeting with her in the office, Alexandra took us to the Department of Immigration to lead us through the process. The immigration building was old and dirty looking with lots of people applying for visas.
Alexandra took us to a desk to meet with a women who of course, spoke no English. She did all the talking for us and I was the first one to start the process of applying for residency. I think that's when it really hit me that I was applying for residency in another country. I will always be a US citizen but with this residency visa I will be allowed to enter Panama as a resident, but not a citizen. Next time we fly into Panama I will be able to go through the line with other residents. Pretty awesome thought to me!
The legal assistant told me where, what and how to sign all of the paperwork. I was fingerprinted and even had to give names of both parents for a further background check. Let's just hope there are no skeletons in the closet that I don't know about. Then Alexandra took off to another department I think to pay them for all of this while we sat and waited.
The application process for me went great and I'm done. And now for Clyde...... YES he DID get a replacement passport but that new passport did NOT have an entry stamp on it indicating the day he arrived in Panama this time. Since he lost the passport only hours after arriving here we did not have time to make a copy of the entry stamp. He did file a police report but since the lawyer did NOT tell us that this was needed for immigration we could not complete the process for him. Alexandra DID try to convince them to go through with this since we had a copy of my entry stamp. After all how did they think he got into the country? Maybe they thought I stuffed him into my suitcase and smuggled him in?
So once we got back to the lawyers office Alexandra had Clyde sign a power of attorney allowing her to speak on his behalf. Today SHE will go back to immigration and fix this mess about the stamp. Then when she is ready she will call us to meet her at the Immigration Department again to go through the process for Clyde.
Once all the paperwork is submitted which should be today, we will be issued a temporary visa to use until the permanent one comes in which will take about 6-8 months. During that time Panama will look further into our background and money issues before allowing us to have this visa. But the good news is that once we have it.....it is good for LIFE and we never have to re-apply. So until tomorrow when all of this should be fixed......we're off for more adventures along The Gringo Trail.