Living in Panama – Boundless Potential for Expats and Investors
Living in Panama today can provide a wide variety of options for those seeking opportunities outside the U.S. and Europe to live, retire, and invest. Ranging from big city living to secluded mountain villages, Panama offers a selection of lifestyles that is second to none in Central America.
Panama’s Past Is the Cornerstone of Its Future
Panama’s history is one of change and growth. From its earliest colonial beginnings, to the construction of the Panama Canal, the turmoil of the late 20th century to the revitalization of today, Panama continues to thrive and offer fresh opportunities to live and immerse oneself in the diverse culture of Central America.
One of the major attractions in Panama is the lower cost of living throughout the country. With reasonable rents, lower food and medical costs, and a continuing growing standard of living, it is small wonder that Panama is viewed by many as picking up where other Central American countries have left off.
Living in Panama today provides a cultural and economic opportunity to share in a rich historical tradition while exploring and becoming part of a vibrant and exciting future. In a real sense, Panama’s past has become the cornerstone of the future potential as the country continues its course to becoming a premier expat destination in the 21st century.
Living in Panama – A Wide Choice of Locations and Climates
Panama is fortunate in that it offers variety in both climates and locations. Though located in tropical Central America, Panama has several “micro-climates” that reflect the many regions in the country.
For those seeking the energy and excitement of a modern city, Panama City is the place to be. The skyline along the beaches of the Pacific Ocean is more reminiscent of South Beach than an emerging nation.
The cool climates of the mountains in such locations as Boquete, Sante Fe and El Valle offer a nice contrast to the hotter, more humid beachfront locations. The La Armistad Biosphere Reserve, at Volcan, demonstrates both the geographic and meteorological diversity that can be found in Panama.
A more rustic lifestyle awaits expats looking to the interior communities of David and Chitre. Being able to become part of daily village life may be an ideal alternative for those wanting to avoid the more frenetic pace of larger cities.
Island Life – A Uniquely Panamanian Alternative
Having more islands than any other Central American country, Panama can boast of some of the best beach living in the region. The Las Perlas Islands group on the Pacific side and the San Blas Islands on the Caribbean coast contain the best beaches in Panama and are more affordable than many oceanside locations elsewhere.
Panama Is a Land of Potential on Many Levels
The aggressive efforts of the Panamanian government in recent years to attract foreign investment and to make Panama a desirable location for expats and retirees is beginning to reap dividends. Changes in residency laws, enhanced benefits for retirees, and a pro-business and investment approach is making Panama a model for Central American vibrancy in the 21st century.
New Residency Laws Make Living in Panama an Easy Choice
In May 2012, Panama enacted the Specific Countries Program. Under this program, holders of passports from the United States, Canada and many European countries can become Panamanian residents in as little as six to eight months.
As Panama’s economy continues to grow, the need for skilled workers has led to revisions in the laws impacting those who may want to work in their new expat location.
The Highly Skilled Worker Permit is one of these new revisions. Under this program, which is exempt from quotas and sponsorship requirements, all that is needed is a Bachelor’s Degree (or higher) and a letter from the perspective employer.
Living in Panama – Retirees Are More Than Welcome
Panama is making a major effort to attract retirees with the Pensionado (retirement) Visa program. Any person over the age of 18, with a guaranteed monthly income of $1000 from a government agency, such as Social Security or the U.S. Armed Forces, can qualify for this type of residency.
Holders of retirement visas receive many discounts and benefits in the form of reduced prices for a wide variety of services and items. Some of the most attractive of these discounts are:
|Entertainment (movies, sports, etc.)||50%|
|Closing Costs for Home Loans||50%|
With the Retirement Visa, an individual is entitled to a one-time tax exemption on imported household goods (up to a $10,000 limit). Another important benefit is a tax exemption every two years for the purchase or importation of a new vehicle.
Living in Panama – Growing Pains
For all the positives and potential that Panama offers, it is important to remember that this is an emerging nation in the throes of development. As a result, some of the challenges that expats may encounter may not be a good fit for everyone.
Infrastructure Is Not the Same Everywhere
The modern and urban environment of Panama City does not carry over to other parts of the country. Less developed regions in the mountains and further inland are far more rustic in nature. If having access to modern amenities is a requirement, this could limit the choices for relocation.
Changing Legal Environment
Not everyone has welcomed the efforts of the government to attract foreign businesses and workers to Panama. As a result, changing laws and regulations could impact residency and tax matters. This potential for change can be a negative for some who would like a more stable, less dynamic environment in which to invest.
Improvement and Construction Versus Quiet and Established
The constant improvement of Panamanian infrastructure and amount of new construction is certainly a positive for the country. With this growth, however, comes the disruption of the tranquil nature of many communities in the country. Navigating through construction zones and dealing with the issues that this kind of development brings may be a negative to those seeking a more rustic environment.
Discover the “Panama Potential”
The emergence of a growing real estate market makes doing research on what is on the market more important than ever. Whether the desired location is big city or rustic village, looking at what is available can provide a perspective on the true potential that can be found in the various locations of Panama.