Furthering its reputation as one of the world's top choices for foreign retirees and expats, Panama, through a series of presidential decrees beginning in May 2012, has made a significant addition to its already generous list of residency programs. Panama's pensionado program, which allows retirees who can show an income from a pension or Social Security of at least $1,000 per month, is the gold standard of overseas retirement residency options. Now, with what is being referred to as the "Specific Countries" program, this Central American country is opening its doors even wider to citizens of countries deemed "friendly" by the Panamanian government.
Panama is experiencing unprecedented growth. As a result, one of this little country's biggest problems is a limited workforce. This nation of 3.5 million people doesn't have enough educated, trained, qualified, English-speaking labor to go around. Panama has been attracting foreign investors and entrepreneurs, big and small, in ever-growing numbers for the past half-dozen years at least. The country has made it very appealing to do business here, and more foreign businesspeople are taking notice of this fact all the time. Now these business folks are noticing something else--the job market is getting competitive. Salaries are rising, and often, even if you're willing to pay top dollar, you can't find the staff you need for the job you're trying to get done.
The long-term solution is education. Panama must train up her own sons and daughters to continue to fuel the country's growth, and efforts to that end are under way. But that takes time. Where are all the foreign businesses basing themselves here going to get the labor they need today? Panama's President Martinelli recognized that the only possible solution would be to import it.
That's the motivation behind this new residency option. However, you don't have to be in the job market to benefit. Retirees, too, can take advantage of what amounts to one of the easiest foreign residency options available anywhere in the world. All of Panama's other options for foreigners interested in establishing residency in this country take time and require various applications and renewals. As a result, this country's immigration department is overwhelmed. Processes that should take weeks take months, and processes that should take months can take years. The new Specific Countries option cuts through all the red tape.
Forty-seven countries are currently included on the list, as follows:
If you hold a passport to any one of these countries, you, your spouse, your parents, your children under age 18, your children with disabilities, and your children aged 18 to 25 who are single and registered at a university can all claim residency. And this is not temporary residency requiring a series of renewals, as with most visas, but permanent residency immediately.
In addition, you can also qualify for a work permit under this program. This can be an advantage even for "retirees". Some retirees would like to work if given the opportunity, and not all retirees can afford not to work. Panama's pensionado visa specifically restricts holders from taking a job. Qualify for retirement residency in Panama under the new Specific Countries program, however, and you can also get a job if you'd like one.
Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas--Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.