Pensionado - Do You Need It?


I was talking to our neighbors the other day.  They are living on a very strict budget but are returning to the US to gather all required papers to obtain a pensionado visa.  They do not eat out, don't drive, they plan to always rent furnished apartments and they can't afford to travel.  They certainly cannot afford the $2000 it will take to get this visa.  Do they need one?

Without a pensionado visa, expats must make a border hop each 180 days.  From Boquete, David, or the Volcan area, this is easy and cheap  To border hop, it costs about:  $5 bus ride to the border, $50 hotel, $7 exit fee from Costa Rica, and $5 return bus.  That is about $134 (plus food) each year.  Living in Panama City or other eastern locations in Panama, the border hop is slightly more costly.

The visa also gives a nice discount on medicine.  But medicine is much cheaper here than in the US.  Even if you spend $100 a month on medicine, savings at best may only be a couple of hundred dollars each year.

Not everyone benefits from this visa and new residents, especially those with a limited income, should look at the cost to benefit ratio.

On the other hand, we travel a great deal.  Copa Airlines, Air Panama and other airlines offer discounts on flights.  We also eat out several times a week.  Although we don't use the discounts card at tipico restaurants (local, very cheap restaurants), we do at more expensive establishments.  We are moving our household goods from the US, and will avoid paying an import tax.  For us, this visa will pay for itself in just over a year.

Look at your lifestyle and budget and see which is the best path for you.

**A pensionado visa has nothing to do with the required 90 day border hop people must do to drive on their foreign license.

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tombseekers Active member
Member since 22 June 2013
Boquete, Panama
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See also

The investor visa grants permanent residence in Panama for two years. The agricultural investment visa grants six years temporary residence.
The tourist visa entitles you to a 90 days stay in Panama. This visa may be renewed at each exit from the country.
To be authorized to work in Panama, you can choose between the temporary work visa and the specific countries program.
Your pet will need a health card and a rabies vaccination certificate in order to travel with you to Panama. Exotic pets require further approvals.
Panama customs do not impose many restrictions on foreigners. However, firearms must be declared on arrival. These will be retained until your departure.

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