Considering emigrating from South Africa

Hi,

I'm planning on emigrating to Panama from South Africa and was hoping to get input from others who have done the same. I'm 42 and a freelance web developer.

I've already contacted Kraemer law so I'm familiar with their fees.

1) What I'd like to know is what kind of expenses can I expect until I find a job?
2) How easy is it to find work?
3) How long does it generally take to get residency and settled?
4) I've read about power and water outages. How bad are they?
5) Finally, how has the experience been overall for you?

Thanks in advance for any input.

Hi
1) What I'd like to know is what kind of expenses can I expect until I find a job?
     The ideal situation would have been to make two trips.  First to process your initial temporary residence.  That itself requires you to stay inside the Panama City for 10 workings days. Full resident application approval can take up to 3 months.
    I dont think you can engage in local work until you have receive a Work Permit, but work     permit comes after full resident permit
    So if you stay in the suburb for 3 months you can rent a room for $300 per month or $500     for a small flat for 3 months

2) How easy is it to find work?   Chances during the first 4 mths  are slim (legally speaking). If you speak Spanish this will help.  If you run a completely online business, then its ok, so you are not dependent locally.  Because of your proximity to USA then you can look into the US market

3) How long does it generally take to get residency and settled? minimum 3 months

4) I've read about power and water outages. How bad are they?  Panama City is ok, other towns I dont know.

5) Finally, how has the experience been overall for you?  Experience is great.  Very friendly people.  Everybody mind their business, many mixed races. But try and learn Spanish fast to avoid being stuck.

Overall check legal prices.  I understand the firm you mentioned are good, but I saved over $2900 by not using them to achieve the same result.  Panama is a practical place, its a do-it-yourself  thing, especially if you are ready to just get on with it.
Also take a look at Transferwise.com as it was useful for me in Panama.

It seems to me if you are a web developer, you could work on line with anyone in the world. You don't need a work permit to earn money outside of Panama. But, you will need residency to live here.

We live in David, and power and internet are reliable. Water, not so much but we installed a water tank which has solved the problem. But utilities are very dependent on where you live. Boquete folks up the road from us are constantly complaining about outages of everything. More rural areas will have more expensive internet and slower speeds, and less reliability which can be a big concern if you need the internet for work.

There is Panama City, and the rest of the country and the two are quite different in costs, lifestyle, people, etc but of course PC, being a big city, has the most opportunities. We have found life in David and Chiriquí to be really happy, super nice people, beautiful, tranquil, but we are retired so work is not a concern.

Best wishes, hope you find a situation that works well for you

I've already contacted Kraemer law so I'm familiar with their fees.

Why just them? We can provide you more in depth service for the same price.

1) What I'd like to know is what kind of expenses can I expect until I find a job?

If I were you I would stick to your freelance web developing. Otherwise you are going to need to get a work permit and need to speak some Spanish or you may find it difficult to find a job. Expenses all plan on where you plan on living and your standard of life.

2) How easy is it to find work?

Everyone's situation, skills and connections are different. Having a work permit and speaking Spanish will help greatly. As will being highly skilled in a high demand profession.

3) How long does it generally take to get residency and settled?

As long as you can open your bank account, open your company, and have no issues with your paperwork and background you can finish the program in about 2 months.

4) I've read about power and water outages. How bad are they?

Depends on your location. In general it is not a problem in the city.

5) Finally, how has the experience been overall for you?

Everyone's perception of the experience is going to be based on a variety of personal and environmental factors that are unique to everyone. A millionaire CEO is going to have a different experience all around than a blue collar working man. A retiree is going to have a different experience that someone who is trying to find a job. Someone actually starting a new business in Panama a different experience than someone who is trying to work in Panama. In general, if you like your freedom and the fact that opportunity is largely up to you in Panama then I believe you will like it.

Have a great day!

Panamanian law requires that you use an attorney to apply for immigration status as a resident, to the best of my knowledge.

Be very careful of anyone who solicits your business in forums.  I have gone through the process in multiple countries; some good, some not so good.  I went through 3 lawyers before I found my current one.

You might want to find a job first, apply for residency later, if a local 'job' is important to you.  Otherwise, the online option is your best bet.  Most expats work for themselves.  If you want a 'job', expect to earn local wages, which are between $400/month and $1000/month for university graduates who already speak fluent Spanish and require no work permit.

Living in the City, you can reasonably expect to pay up to $1000/mo for a decent neighborhood in rent for a 2-3 bedroom apartment with utilities.  Food prices depend on your lifestyle, but they are going up. 

Power and water issues depend where you live.  Nicer neighborhoods have reserve tanks and generators in their buildings.  They also have an informal priority when services go down.  In the country, expect the power to go out every day for at least ten minutes.

Panama looks great on the Internet.  The reality is not so rosy.  Visit first and talk to people.  You have other options.

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