Some of you are planning a move to Mexico for various reasons. Some of you like the proximity to the USA, familiarity with the culture, its people, and, of course, the cost of living.
However, because the income requirements for residency in Mexico significantly increased in the past 2 years, many of you will no longer be eligible for a legal residency visa. So, I want to introduce you to another country that is stable, safe, uses the US dollar, and affordable.
Don’t get me wrong. I am NOT going to start moving away from promoting and educating you about Mexico. This post is my advice if you want to know your other options.
Many people from different walks of life choose to relocate to other countries, especially now that remote work has become more prevalent due to COVID-19. They’re seeking a place where they can live with more freedom and a lower cost of living.
It’s not just budget-minded people moving to Panama; in a recent Robb Report, 92% of wealthy foreigners are planning a move overseas. Maybe they know something you don’t know.
However, not everyone can sell everything and move to a new place immediately. You may lack a remote job, a mortgage, kids in school, or elderly parents that tie you to your current location.
If that’s the case, don’t worry! You can start taking steps today to make your dream location a reality someday. So, while some people decide to sell everything and head off to a new place, not everyone can do that yet.
However, you can still dream about it. That’s OK! You can start making moves today so your dreams can one day become a reality. In fact, we will look specifically at those of you who would like to pursue a “Plan B”
Reasons for Having a Plan B
- You have the urge to relocate eventually, but now isn’t the time.
- You’d like to retire in Mexico, but the economic solvency requirements are too high.
- You dream of a different adventure
- You are ready to experience a new culture.
- You find yourself better aligning with the values of a different country.
- You had a wake-up call during the pandemic and want to live more freely.
- You know you cannot afford to retire where you are now.
- You no longer feel at home where you live now.
Whatever the reason, and there are many possibilities, you have decided that you want to be prepared for the unexpected.
Well, Panama is a perfect place to have as your Plan B.
How to Make Panama Your Plan B
It’s no secret that I LOVE Panama. Dustin and I lived there some years ago, and we highly recommend this beautiful, welcoming country to anyone looking for a change.
And even though Mexico is number 1 in my heart and soul, I know Mexico is not for everyone. Moving to Mexico is challenging to some people either because of the negative press it has gained through the media or because they cannot qualify for residency.
Gaining residency and opening a bank account is relatively easy in Panama compared to other countries. I’ll cover more on this further down.
Another pro in favor of Panama? It’s a beautiful country, rich in biodiversity, with a lower cost of living than the U.S., Canada, and most Western European countries.
Now, let’s look at what should be on your priority list regarding your Panama Plan B.
Having a legal residency in your Plan B country is absolutely necessary should you need to go there on short notice. Upon arrival to Panama, if you don’t have residency, you can only stay in Panama for 30-180 days as a tourist, then you must leave.
So, there are some options for obtaining residency in Panama.
Panama was ranked one of the Best Places in the World to Retire by Travel and Leisure in 2022. A large reason for that is the many benefits retirees receive in Panama, one of which is a fairly easy way to receive residency.
Retirees can apply for a “Pensionado Visa.” The only requirement is a monthly lifetime income of $1,000 USD through social security, pension, or other government retirement. For a couple applying together, you must show $1250 USD in lifetime income.
Alright, but what about those of you who aren’t retirees?
If you’re not retired, you’ve got options, too. There is a “Friendly Nations Visa.” This visa allows anyone investing $200,000 in real estate or a 3-year CD in Panama to obtain their visa. After five years of permanent residency, you can apply for Panamanian citizenship and a passport.
Or, if you can show income from a remote job or online business, you can get a Friendly Nations Visa for only $5,000 USD.
You must apply for permanent visas in Panama using a Panama immigration lawyer.
If you are getting a residency visa in Panama for your Plan B, you should know there is NO requirement to live in Panama. You only need to visit for at least one day every two years.
Get a Bank Account
Part of every Plan B plan should be quick access to cash. If you need to move money from your country to Panama quickly, you must have a Panama bank account. Opening a bank account in Panama is quite simple. The process is even easier after obtaining your residency.
To open an account, you will need your passport, driver’s license, and a recent bank letter of recommendation. You may also need to show recent tax returns to prove that you don’t owe taxes in the country you are moving from. A letter from your attorney stating you’re in the process of gaining residency will help, too. You’ll also need USD $1,000 deposit to open the account.
Some banks in Panama have online banking and an app in English.
The exact requirements will vary based on the bank you choose. But, with all the necessary documents and a minimum deposit, you could open an account as quickly as a couple of hours.
Panama’s official currency is the Balboa, but they have used the US dollar for over 115 years.
You can wire money from your bank to your Panama bank account quickly and easily. If you have a US bank account, you can also write a check to deposit into your Panama bank to avoid wire fees.
Why Panama For Your Plan B
Panama makes it relatively easy for foreigners from the U.S., Canada, and Europe to gain residency, especially with their alluring options for retirees. Retirees get these discounts once they have a permanent visa:
* 25% off utility bills
* 25% off airline tickets to anywhere in the world
* 30% other transportation
* 20% off doctors’ bills, 15% off hospital services (if insurance does not apply)
* 10% discount on medications (many pharmacies offer 25% discount)
* 15% off dental exams and eye exams
* 50% off movie, cultural and sporting event tickets
* 50% off at hotels (Mon-Thurs), 30% off hotels (weekends)
* 20% off professional and technical services
* Import tax exemption on up to $10,000 household goods
If you ask, you may get other discounts too. Last month I bought a new sofa. I asked the salesperson if they offered a Jubilado discount (same as Pensionado). They gave me 10% off my purchase and free delivery!
You can get a temporary visa within a week. Your permanent visa will not be ready for about six months. And, while you must apply in Panama, you don’t have to stay there for the entire processing time. You must return to Panama for a few days to pick up your permanent visa.
There is no requirement to live in Panama once you get a visa. You only need to return for at least one day every two years.
And, apart from being a practical Plan B option, Panama is rich in culture and natural beauty. The way of living is slower-paced, which allows you to slow down and focus on enjoying the little moments in your day-to-day experiences.
More Reasons Panama is the Perfect Plan B
Panama has a stable government and a strong economy. Panama has traditional values. There is no military. Panama has no bases or wars going on in other countries.
Panama is tough on illegal drugs and does not have cartel problems.
Panama has affordable healthcare and health insurance!
Panama has great weather all year. No snow, no hurricanes! You can pick your ideal temperature in Panama – live at the beach, mountains, or in a big Panama City.
Panama has a 365-day growing season with fresh vegetables and fruit. Panama has the sweetest pineapples you’ll ever eat!
Plus, Panama has fish from two oceans. Of course, they raise chickens and beef too. Rice is grown in Panama. Even if Panama did not import food, there would be plenty to eat from just what’s available in Panama. You have everything you need to survive (THRIVE) in Panama safely.
Look at having a Plan B in Panama as safety insurance.
It’s a good idea to have legal residency in a different country to have a place to go if necessary. You should set it up before you need it!
Legal residency means you have a visa that allows you to live in the country as long as you want to.
You have health insurance in case of a major health problem, so a major medical bill does not bankrupt you.
You have house insurance in case of a fire or hurricane and your house is destroyed or damaged.
You have car insurance in case you get into a wreck, and your car is totaled.
You never know what the future holds, so you get insurance, like safety insurance. At the very least, get legal residency in a different country that you can flee to if things start heading in the wrong direction where you are now. During the pandemic, many countries closed their borders to anyone without a citizen or a legal resident.
Hopefully, you will never have a health problem.
Hopefully, you never have a house fire.
Hopefully, you’ll never be in a car accident.
But you can protect yourself from these dangers with insurance… just in case.
You might never need to flee the country where you live now. But if you do, knowing that you already have complete “safety insurance” in Panama will give you peace of mind.
You may only need to move to Panama for a year or two until things settle down in your home country, or it could be indefinitely. With “safety insurance,” you’ll already have everything in place.
Panama has an entirely different vibe. There’s a live-and-let-live attitude. Everyone is so friendly. Panamanians are also extremely hospitable. It’s easy to feel at home in Panama because the locals are welcoming.
The rules for getting legal residency can change anytime. It’s a good idea to set your Plan B up while you qualify for residency, even if you can’t move to Panama immediately.
Our sister company, Panama Relocation Tours, can help you move to Panama the right way! They offer a 6-day, 7-night Panama Relocation Tour. During a tour, you’ll meet experts, an immigration lawyer, other expats living in Panama and see rentals in each area.
The PRT bus is like a rolling seminar to teach you everything you need to know to have a hassle-free move to Panama. Learn how to get your pets to Panama, ship household goods, get affordable health insurance, buy a car, and more. Plus, you get access to the complete Panama Relocation Guide when you complete a tour. So you can keep up to date with Panama laws and information.