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Panama Dreaming: Everything You Need to Know About Moving to Panama

Updated on December 3, 2010

Everyone (in the know) has Panama on the brain… and maybe you should, too.

If you have ever considered living in another country you should put Panama at the top of your list. But don’t just take our word for it. The Tripartite Committee has ranked Panama #1 in the region for low cost of living and in a recent Harper’s Bazaar article it proclaimed, "Panama is the most beautiful treat in the world and almost undiscovered."

With its largest agricultural exports being flowers and coffee, you’ll find it to be a fragrant eye dazzler. And, unlike many of its Latin American cousins, it has a stable (U.S. dollar based) economy and democratic government. For the past forty years its rate of inflation has averaged less than 2% a year which is outstanding. In addition, a documented 15% of its people officially speak English as their first language. (That’s not counting all the people who speak English as a second language.) The rest speak Spanish as a first language.

But that’s really just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The Panamanian government actually encourages foreigners to invest and live in their country by offering very enticing incentives. What’s in it for them? Well, they understand the power of influx; money coming in and staying in means overall economic improvement for the entire country. Therefore, they have passed over 40 laws to protect foreigner’s investment rights, including the very important Investments Stability Law. Its function is to guarantee all foreign and national investors equal rights.

Panama boasts one of the most attractive programs for foreigners on offer anywhere in the world. For example, if you buy or build a house you pay no property taxes for 20 years (sounds good doesn’t it?). In addition, you’ll receive a 20-year exemption from things such as fees for construction materials and equipment, real estate taxes, income and other taxes as well as exemptions from import duties. And if you live in Panama but earn your money outside of the country the news get even better. As a resident you pay no taxes on foreign earned income and they offer huge savings on taxes and fees for entrepreneurs. All of these advantages are especially good for netpreneurs who only need a fast internet connection to set up shop.

Panama offers First-World amenities at a 25% discount compared to the United States, making it a very affordable retirement alternative. As a Panama "pensionado," retiree, you are eligible for discounts on just about everything, including doctor and dentists’ visits. You can expect to receive a 50% discount on movie tickets, sporting events and other recreational activities. Public transportation will run you about 30% less then your younger countrymen. You even get a 25% discount on national airline flights, utility bills and restaurant tabs.

To be eligible to be considered a “pensionado” you must hold a valid passport from your country of residence, be at least 62 years of age if you are a man and at least 57 if you are a woman. You must also prove that you are free of AIDS and in general good health. A clean police record dating back 5 years is also a must. And lastly, you must have a verifiable monthly income of at least $500. This money can be derived from a government pension such as social security or a private company fund. You will need an additional $100 dollars a month to support each dependent that you bring with you.

Panama also has excellent asset protection, offshore corporation laws and the largest banking sector south of the U.S. In fact it’s second only to Switzerland. You’ll find banks from over 35 different countries, many with high profile names such as Citibank, Bank of Tokyo, and Dresdner Bank. All banks in Panama adhere to the strictest of confidences when it comes to their client’s holdings and corporate books. Their secrecy laws are second to none, making Panama very possibly the best tax haven on the globe.

Panama also boasts very relaxed views on exchange controls (there are none) nor are there any restrictions on moving money in or out of the country. These policies have earned Panama the rank of one of the world’s best offshore banking centers.

If you’re into the outdoors life, Panama’s got that in abundance. Whether your tastes run more towards ecotourism or a relaxing day of 18 holes; with mountains and rainforests, tropical islands and beaches that line both the Caribbean and Pacific oceans you will not lack for something to do. For those of you more into adventure sports, you’ll love the white water rafting and deep sea fishing that’s available; it’s some of the best in the world. Surf Playa Santa Catalina’s 10 foot waves and when you’re done head on over to one of the countries 12 national parks where you can relax as you meet some indigenous wild life such as giant sea turtles, and jaguars, just to name a few.

Panama also has a sprawling metropolis filled with modern facilities and Spanish charm that rivals many European and U.S. cities. In Panama City you’ll be able to stroll streets lined with world class restaurants, luxury shopping and multinational businesses all offering their goods at about half the price of any American city.

Panama is a place where you can languidly discover which of its 100’s of beaches suits you best without having to fight for room to lay out your towel. In fact, more likely than not, you will have the beach all to yourself. You won’t have to wait in long lines to get into restaurants or parks either because Panama is as yet, largely undiscovered; although, word is getting out. Illustrious publications such as Harper’s Bazaar, New York Times, Boston Globe and National Geographic have all proclaimed Panama “Beautiful” “…an undiscovered tourist paradise.” But with praise such as this, it won’t be long before others are donning their Cooper Tone and Panama hats in search of bluer waters, greener rain forests and faster white water rapids.

To learn more about Panama and its possibilities; check out some of these links:

Panama Info

US State Dept. Background Notes on Panama.

Trust Services

Article by Anne Alexander Sieder


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