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Relocating to Panama for Permanent Residence: What Is Panama Like, and How Do Emigrants Live?

Most immigrants who have moved to Panama for permanent residence are quite happy with their lives. For an immigrant, Panama is a country where a comfortable lifestyle and permanent residence cost several times less compared to the cost of living in other popular countries for emigration. However, costs largely depend on lifestyle and personal preferences.

Panama people

Relocating to Panama: A Country Between Two Oceans

Panamian flag

Panama is located on the isthmus between the two American continents. In recent years, relocating to this country for permanent residence has been getting increasingly more popular not only among wealthy pensioners, but among middle-aged people and the younger generation.

Panama is one of the most amazingly beautiful countries in Central America, although by many people its reputation is still unfairly reduced to the Panama Canal and its appeal for offshore business.

The population of Panama is just over 4 million people, among which the majority are mestizos, a mixture of indigenous peoples with the Spanish (65%), Africans (9%), Afro-Spanish (7%), up to 10% are people with Asian background, and about 7% are Europeans.

Panama is a respectable democratic country with a progressive economy and hardworking people. The country managed to stand up with dignity against slander and unfair attacks from controlled media after the Panama Papers leak. The government of Panama signed a multilateral convention to share foreign taxpayers’ information with other nations, increasing its defenses against shady financial deals and money-laundering schemes, which has undoubtedly improved its international reputation.

The country has long attracted international investors and professionals in the field of trade and logistics, who are determined to ride the wave of the country’s progressive development and get maximum benefits for their business.

Relocating to Panama: The United States Are a Big Deal

Moving to Panama for temporary residence, permanent residence, or emigration has long been an attractive option to Americans and Canadians. For many years, the country has been working in tight partnership with the United States, developing strong and varied economic ties. Panama also receives great support from the American officials in ensuring the country’s security and strengthening the rule of law.

Since historically Panama was under Spain’s colonial control for a long time, Spanish became the official language in the country. Most locals and Panamanians with permanent residence do not speak English; it is mostly used in the business environment or the banking sector.

The country gained independence from Colombia (1903) and introduced the US dollar into circulation along with its Balboa currency, which laid the foundation for the strong influence of the United States on Panama’s economic and social life.

Panamanians love to dress like Americans; they have a similar day-to-day lifestyle; the most popular sports in the country are baseball, football and basketball. In fact, many people with permanent residence in Panama have close relatives in the United States.

Despite the above-mentioned similarity with the United States, Panama has retained its national cultural identity and a lot of its original traditions. All in all, we can say that today it is an independent country with its own way of life, culture and government.

Relocating to Panama: A Country with a Warm Climate

Emigration, namely, relocation of retired American and Canadian citizenships for permanent residence in Panama, is largely inspired so much by economic attractiveness, but rather by the country’s warm climate and the sun shining all year round. Indeed, nature here is incredibly beautiful, and there are plenty of marine parks, exotic beaches, and stunning islands located in both oceans.

Climate in Panama

If we try to describe the climate in Panama, we should note that it is tropical with high humidity. The average annual temperature is 28°-30°C (82-86°F): enjoyable to some, it may not be really suitable for everyone. However, there are also cooler mountainous regions in the western part of Panama, where the average air temperature throughout the year is 21°C (around 70°F). Why not relocate there for permanent residence?

Despite the fact that the climate in Panama is divided into two seasons – summer (from late December to May) and winter – the rainy season (from May to December), the greatest volume of precipitation falls throughout the year. But this hardly has any effect on the emigration of foreigners from different countries to Panama at all.

Panama never experiences the devastating hurricanes or tsunamis that often shake up the Caribbean, the West Indies, or the US states of Florida and Louisiana. Although the country is located in a seismic zone, tremors are rare, and if they do occur, they are rather slight.

Relocating to Panama: Lifestyle and Expenses

For those who decide to radically change their lifestyle and relocate to Panama City for permanent residence, all temporary difficulties of moving are compensated by the vibrant and lively atmosphere, warm climate and hospitable local residents. If 25 years ago most of the regions of Panama were the same, and it was mostly considered a “third world country”, today it is a completely different place. Panama City is a world-class metropolis with modern infrastructure, tall skyscrapers, and easy access to high-speed Internet. Immigration here for permanent residence may be a very satisfying experience for those who seek the comforts of a big and busy city. However, the country offers much more than just the hustle and bustle of the capital! Further on we will describe the various regions of this beautiful country in greater detail.

Panama is a country where you will find a calm, unrushed lifestyle, typical of warmer “southern” countries, in which locals are usually laid back and don’t like to rush around. In this connection, the concepts of “punctuality” and “efficiency” are not really popular and important for the native Panamanians, which may sometimes frustrate the newly arriving immigrants seeking permanent residence in the country. Panamanians’ leisurely manner can be observed in all sorts of interactions, from waiters serving your table in a restaurant to arranging business meetings. Being late is considered normal and acceptable.

One should remember that this is what the local culture is like. These are local traditions and mentality of the people, which have been formed over many centuries. Emigrants relocating here for permanent residence are much better off if they try their best to adapt to this lifestyle, understand and accept the local ways and customs.

Another interesting local feature: depending on the circumstances, Panamanians can be quite picky about the dress code. Despite the fact that the average temperature is around 30°C (86°F), locals strictly observe the etiquette in clothing, wearing suits and ties and formal shoes to work. Foreigners who have immigrated to Panama for permanent residence are easy to identify in the offices in summer by their more casual clothing – unless they really take the trouble to blend in with the natives. Joking aside, it is important for foreign citizens to take into account that it is considered unacceptable to visit government offices or churches wearing shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops.

When moving to Panama for permanent residence, everyone must decide for themselves what lifestyle they would prefer, and what they want to achieve in the new country, since that would greatly determine the costs of emigration itself and the expenses in the course of permanent residence in the country.

Among the countries of Latin America, Panama is not considered the cheapest state for permanent residence. However, given the increasing business attractiveness of the country, the cost of living in Panama has been rising significantly over the past few years. 

Americans who have immigrated to Panama for permanent residence note that the country has better prices for food and various services over American ones. They claim that compared to living in the US, in Panama they can afford much more and live a more luxurious life with the same money.

In many ways, the cost of permanent residence depends on whether an immigrant chooses to live in Panama City or in a provincial city, and whether it will be a closed community of expatriates or a group of people including the majority of native Panamanians.

Relocating to Panama: Permanent Residence in Panama City

If you are looking for a luxurious city for permanent residence with the maximum level of comfort that can be found in New York, London or Barcelona, ​​then Panama City is exactly the place you need. We are going to give a more detailed description of this highly attractive city and its various neighborhoods.

Panama City is a modern, lively metropolis, with about 2 million permanent dwellers, which makes it no different from most large cities in Europe and North America. In Panama City you will find stunning city views, two subway lines connecting various parts of the capital, plenty of parks and green areas, over 500 shopping malls, as well as excellent restaurants, theaters and galleries. 

High-speed Internet is available anywhere in the city. We should also note the good quality of cellular and telephone communications, electricity, water supply and all the other services usually available in any large city where a modern person may decide to relocate for permanent residence.

Of course, out of all the possible locations for permanent residence in the country, living in Panama City is the most expensive option, however, the cost of living in the Panamanian capital is much lower than permanent residence in other famous capitals of the world. Such areas of the city as El Cangrejo, Costa del Este and the Punta Pacifica are popular among the immigrants.

El Cangrejo District in Panama City

El Cangrejo is one of the popular districts of the capital, to which many wealthy foreigners move for permanent residence. It is considered one of the coolest and trendiest urban areas in Panama City. El Cangrejo means “Crab” in Spanish. The area got its name thanks to the layout of its streets. That is, the center of the El Cangrejo district is sort of the “body of the crab”, and the streets branching out from the center are its “legs”. Two main streets are curved inward and directed to the north, and the rest of them stretch in different directions from the center.

El Cangrejo

This international area is suitable for both single people and families with children, who wish to move to Panama for permanent residence. It has a vibrant multicultural atmosphere, partly thanks to the abundance of universities and colleges, and certainly owing to the variety of restaurants and scenic parks. The area was created in 1950, and was the first Jewish quarter in Panama City. This is one of the safest areas in the capital, both during the day, when couples with children or flocks of students walk around, chat and relax on the lawns, and at night, when nightlife is bubbling up in local bars and clubs.

In recent years, the Panamanian government has made significant improvements to the El Cangrejo area worth several million dollars. As a result, the area has become even more attractive for those foreigners, who wish to move to Panama for permanent residence.

Most of the apartments offered for sale or rent are located in one-storied or two-storied buildings. Offers in high-rises or big apartment blocks are less common.

So, for example, for a person who decided to move to Panama City for permanent residence, renting a two-room apartment near the metro station with a total area of ​​42 square meters and without furniture would start from around 650 USD per month. Renting a two- or three-bedroom fully furnished apartment would cost between 1,200 USD and 2,600 USD. The rent depends on the location, number of storeys, and the level of comfort provided.

Compared to other areas, the cost of real estate available for rent in El Cangrejo is considered to be more moderate, therefore the area is best-suited for middle-class expats on a budget who want to move to Panama for permanent residence.

Costa del Este City District

Costa del Este is a modern and luxurious area of ​​Panama City. In many ways it may remind a traveler of Los Angeles, and you can really feel the American atmosphere here. It is called a mini city within a city. The area boasts wide avenues with palm trees, modern glass skyscrapers and exclusive restaurants.

Costa del Este

It has all the necessary infrastructure and services, thanks to which those wishing to move to Panama for permanent residence do not need to leave the area very often to satisfy their everyday needs. In addition, the location of Costa del Este allows you to get to the center of Panama City or Tocumen Airport in just 15 minutes by car.

Compared to other central districts of the capital, this is a quiet and tidy area. It is a favorite place of permanent residence for a number of wealthy expats and senior managers of well-known large companies and corporations that have established their headquarters in Costa del Este. Predictably, this is the area with the largest concentration of luxury cars.

If we talk about real rental prices, the cost of renting an unfurnished apartment in the area would start at 1,200 USD. However, an expat with a more exclusive tastes and means seeking permanent residence in Panama City may find in the Costa del Este area some elite apartments or penthouses (many offering pools and terraces) for as much as 7,000-9,000 USD. Most of the top-range real estate is located in private gated communities of residential complexes (if you are curious, you can search “Santa Maria Court” to see what they may be like).

It goes without saying that real estate prices in Costa del Este vary, depending on the proximity of the building to the ocean, the quality of construction, the total living area, the level of comfort, the availability of services, as well as the age of the building.

Punta Pacifica District

The urban area of ​​Punta Pacifica is another favorite area for wealthy expats relocating to the country for permanent residence, as well as wealthy Panamanians, who have decided to purchase real estate in Panama City. This is a relatively new area overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Punta Pacifica

Most of the skyscrapers here are new, modern buildings with impressive designs. They offer really luxurious apartments and penthouses for those foreigners who are considering a move to Panama for permanent residence. The area boasts the best infrastructure and transport system. All the facilities necessary for life and recreation are within a walking distance.

For example, it is possible to rent an elegant 300-square-meter penthouse in the Oasis on the Bay skyscraper. Or perhaps you would prefer a two-level apartment with a total area of 171 square meters? If you intend to move to Panama for permanent residence, you may even think it a good idea to buy one of those properties. Prices for apartments of this class may start from 700,000 USD, however, the most spectacular properties in the most luxurious towers in the area cost around 3,500,000 – 5,000,000 USD.

Emigration to Panama City will be the most expensive in comparison with other areas of Panama, since in the capital a foreign permanent resident receives maximum comfort and amenities that meet the highest international standards. Also, the capital offers a chance to buy a wide range of imported goods and foodstuffs. Here you can find more expensive fine-dining restaurants. To make your permanent residence in the capital of Panama comfortable, you will need to be able to spare about 2,000-2,600 USD per month for day-to-day expenses.

At the same time, if one makes sure that their lifestyle is focused on goods and products of Panamanian origin (which, by the way, are of fairly high quality), and local cuisine, then the living expenses may be considerably lower.

A significant part of the cost of permanent residence in Panama City is comprised by electricity bills, since it is pretty hard to feel comfortable at the temperatures of around 30°C (86°F) without air conditioning. If a person relocating to Panama City for permanent residence expects to travel around the capital by their own car, these costs also need to be added to the mix. However, sticking to the public transport in Panama City will greatly reduce the day-to-day costs thanks to the fact that it is quite inexpensive: a subway ride costs about 0.35 USD, the city bus – 0.25 USD, and tickets for longer bus routes would start at 1.25 USD.

A taxi in the city can cost from 3 to 7 USD, and if you need to get to Tocumen International Airport, the trip will amount to 30 USD or more. You also need to keep in mind that Panama is a country with many public holidays and various festivals, during which part of the infrastructure is shut down. Many taxi drivers would not work on those days, which means that during holidays it is much harder to order a taxi.

A foreigner choosing permanent residence in Panama City gets unlimited access to its private hospitals, where many doctors have studied in the USA, as well as the high-quality medical care and insurance services.

Relocating to Panama: Business Opportunities for Residents

Foreigners who relocate to Panama City for permanent residence can take advantage of the country’s huge business opportunities. There are a number of untapped niches in the national market for activities, so there are good opportunities to register a company in Panama and start a prosperous business. Of course, when choosing the type of activity, you will first need to conduct market research and decide on the direction of business that suits your interests and capacities.

At the same time, most foreign residents in Panama prefer to conduct international business, receiving income outside the jurisdiction of Panama, which allows some of them not to pay taxes. The fact is that in Panama only those profits that are received from activities within the country are taxed. Also, in Panama a foreign resident receiving dividends or interest payments of foreign origin in Panamanian banks is exempt from taxes on these funds. (Please note that this does not apply to American citizens, who are liable for taxation for any income they receive around the world, unless they renounce their US citizenship).

Panama offers great potential for business connected with the Panamanian Free Economic Zones, which provide foreign investors with a number of advantages and tax benefits after they immigrate into the country.

If your main goal is to protect your international assets, then there is no better option than the Private Panamanian Foundation. It is also worth considering the benefits of becoming a tax resident of Panama after relocating there for permanent residence in order to protect yourself from the potential risks connected with the regulations of the government of your native country.

Permanent Residence in Panama Provinces

If for your permanent residence you prefer to choose areas far from the capital Panama City, then the costs will be significantly lower. However, in this case, you must expect a decline in the quality of life, that is, you will have limited access to a more luxurious life, better medical services and comfort in general.

Boquete, a Town in the Mountains

For example, if we consider the town of Boquete located at an altitude of 1150 meters above sea level for permanent residence, the cost of living there will be much lower.

Boquete

This small town is situated in the province of Chiriquí in the west of Panama, 60 km from Costa Rica. For more than 20 years, the largest number of American emigrants, most of them retired, have been choosing this town for permanent residence. Foreigners prefer Boquete because of comfortably cooler temperatures throughout the year. The lowest temperature is around +10°C – +15°C (50-59°F), the highest is +21°C-+ 25°C (70-77°F).

It is important to note that real estate for permanent residence in Boquete is much more expensive than in other provinces. And again, the actual expenses depend on your personal preferences: you can rent a modest one-bedroom apartment for about 600 USD or a luxurious condo for 1,500 – 2,000 USD per month.

Food also costs less in Boquete than in Panama City, both in stores and in restaurants that use local produce.

Among other things, you can expect to spend less on utilities, especially electricity. Since the temperature in Boquete is much lower than in the rest of Panama’s lowlands and coastal areas, you will not need to use an air conditioner as much to cool the premises of your permanent residence.

Boquete is more like a rural area, with no hustle and bustle of the city, not much noise, not many big shops and entertainment venues, and fewer services of all sorts. But only 35-45 minutes away by car, down on the plain there is a large city of David, where you will find a lot of supermarkets, banks, an airport, and all the services you may require.

If you want to go for a swim in the Pacific Ocean, you will find Boquete beaches within an easy 30–35-minute drive. Reaching the Caribbean coast will take more time, something like 3.5 hours. We are preparing an article about life in Boquete. Come back to our portal soon to read about the popular myths connected with permanent residence in this picturesque and peaceful town.

The Town of Coronado

Unlike Boquete, Coronado is located on the Pacific coast an hour away from the capital. This resort town is a favorite vacation spot for wealthy Panamanians who come to relax in their country houses or apartments. The town is also popular among expats and tourists.

FAM Tours for Real Estate Investors in Panama

The cost of permanent residence in Coronado will be higher than in Boquete. We can say that the expenses will be roughly equal to the costs of living in the capital. At the same time, there is a completely different atmosphere here. Unlike Boquete, Coronado is focused on beach holidays.

Monthly permanent residence costs can range from 1,500 USD to 3,200 USD, depending on the chosen comfort level. For example, meals at McDonald’s will cost around 7-7.5 USD, and a 3-course dinner in a mid-range restaurant (for two, without alcohol) will amount to 55 USD. Panamanian beer (0.5 l) costs 2 USD, and bottled imported beer (0.33 l) – 4 USD; a loaf of bread (500 grams) is 1.5 USD, and 1 liter of milk – 1.75 USD.

Every year the number of people in the communities of emigrants with permanent residence in Coronado is growing. The things that attract foreigners the most in this city are its proximity to the ocean, good roads, modern comfortable buildings, shopping malls, and all the services that are traditionally associated with comfortable permanent residence. We are preparing a detailed review of permanent residence in Coronado and the best nearby beaches. It is coming soon on our portal!

Panama’s Permanent Residence by Investment

In order to obtain a permanent residence permit in Panama, a foreigner must be ready to fulfill the requirements of the investment visa program that they choose. The most popular visa programs include the following:

  • Friendly Nations Visa;
  • Economic Investor Visa
  • Business Investor Residency Permit;
  • Retirees and Pensioner Visa – “Pensionado”

At the end of October 2020, the government of Panama introduced a new Qualified Investor Visa program. This visa program allows foreigners to receive a permanent residence permit in Panama for investment as quickly as in one month (30 days)!

The key advantages of the Qualified Investor program compared to other visa programs are as follows:

  • Significantly wider opportunities for investors and types of investment included, especially concerning investing in property for permanent residence in Panama.
  • In the first two years of this program (from 10/16/2020 to 10/16/2022), preference is being given to applicants for permanent residence. The minimum investment in real estate is $300,000. After 10/16/2022, the minimum amount of investor capital is to be increased.

Panama Migration Programs are the easiest and most inexpensive way to obtain permanent residence over a short period of time. For those who want to have a second passport, Panama will also be the most profitable option.

Examples of our services connected with Panama:

After five years of permanent residence, foreigners have the right to receive citizenship in Panama. Foreign residents are required to demonstrate their economic attachment to the country by having some assets in Panama.

If you are tired of cold winters and have a desire to live near the ocean in a “tropical paradise”, please contact us via email: [email protected] for a private consultation based on your specific individual needs and situation. We will make the process of requesting permanent residence in Panama much easier for you, providing full legal and administrative support. Contact us today!

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