Panama—Convenient, Easy and Affordable
Panama’s allure lies in a rare combination of value and variety. Plenty of places in the world offer one or the other. But how many offer both?
When it comes to attractive retirement destinations, the list is short and Panama is at the top. It’s the only country in Central America with a true First World city. But unlike most South American capitals, Panama City is only two-and a-half hours by plane from Miami. (And let’s not forget that, unlike some places closer to the U.S. border, Panama is hurricane free).
Nearly everything about Panama is convenient, particularly if you’re coming from North America. The currency is the dollar, English is widely understood, and the international community is large and welcoming. Even the littlest things are easy…your U.S. appliances will work here, no converters needed. And you can find anything you need, from gourmet ingredients to popular clothing brands.
Plus, no matter what you like to do… loll on the beach, golf a championship green, hike the highlands, join special interest clubs…you’ll be busy here. Unless, of course, you choose not to be. Spend as little—or as much—as you like. A good lifestyle is very affordable. Just be aware that it offers more temptation and opportunity to spend than some other overseas havens.
So if all these things are true (and have been for many years), what’s so special about Panama today? At the top of the list are its welcoming immigration policies.
Last year, two new residence programs made it easier than ever to move to Panama.
Quite a feat, since Panama has always been accessible in that regard. The Pensionado or pensioner residence program—which helped put Panama on the map as a retirement destination in the first place—is the primary reason. For anyone with a government or corporate pension, residence is almost a given. That’s regardless of age. The main requirement is simple: your pension must be at least $1,000 a month…and even that rule has its exception.
Of course, there are plenty of people who don’t have pensions. That’s where the new visas come into play. The first, nicknamed the “Friends of Panama” program, offers residence to members of over 40 countries…among them the U.S., Canada, and the UK. Geared toward professionals and entrepreneurs, the program’s straightforward requirements include a local bank account of at least $5,000. Applicants must also buy real estate, open a business, or get a job in Panama.
If your country of citizenship isn’t featured, you may be able to qualify for the new Professional Residence Permit. Also created in 2012, this program is a good option for anyone wanting to work in Panama. You must have a university education and steer clear of professions reserved for Panamanian nationals, such as the practice of law.
There’s one more reason Panama is even more alluring of late. The tiny country is in the midst of its most ambitious infrastructure overhaul ever. Panama has always been known for its above-average infrastructure. But the current administration upped the ante in ways never before seen.
Panama City is now the only city in Central America with a metro line. The transit system was barely able to cope with the city’s growth…and the thousands of shiny new cars joining the hustle-bustle every month. But now new buses, roads, traffic lights, overpasses, pedestrian bridges and more are helping speed things along.
Though transit (including the expanding Panama Canal) has been a major focus, infrastructure is excellent across the board. Panama is top-ranking in the region for technology and Internet coverage, reliable public transport, and clean drinking water. It also boasts consistent stability—in business, banking, and politics. And so the country that ruled the roost that is the Global Retirement Index for seven consecutive years is back at number one.