Owning property and residing in Panama: Foreigners in Panama have the same title and property rights guaranteed by the constitution both under the law and in practice as do citizens. Panama law and processes are often very similar to that of the U.S. No doubt this is as a result of the influence the United States has had on Panama for nearly a century. Tourist visas are now commonly given for six months. After that time, if a tourist wants to stay longer, he must leave for a short period of time. This can be merely a visit to Costa Rica. A foreigner who makes Panama his principal place of residence can get residency. One who does not may also be able to qualify for residency by means of starting a business or making an investment in Panama.
When you compare Panama to its neighbors, you'll see that it has more amenities than traditional retirement spots like Mexico and Costa Rica--but costs and crime rates are much lower. In Panama there is less red tape and less interference from local authorities. In fact, the government of Panama actually encourages foreigners to invest and live here.
A safe, stable government: You may expect to find a rough and unstable government, shabby, squalor conditions and anti-American sentiment. But the truth is almost the exact opposite. Panama is safest, most stable place in Central America. For many years, the Panamanian government has focused on getting foreigners to put money into the country's economy. The government realizes that foreign investment will help the country as a whole...and so it has passed more than 40 laws protecting foreigners' investment rights, including the Investments Stability Law (Law No. 54), which guarantees all foreign and national investors equal rights. Major companies in Panama include Federal Express, DHL, Price Costco, Dell Computer, Telefonica, Kansas City Southern Railways, Continental and American Airlines, ICA (construction), Evergreen and Warranty Company of the Americas. Plus you'll find just about every American franchise you can imagine on the streets of Panama City.
That said, the Panamanian government has serious problems with incompetence, waste and corruption.
In addition to Law 54, the government is offering other incentives for foreigners to spend time here, invest here...or even live in Panama. For example:
Plus, Panama uses the U.S. dollar as its legal tender, which insulates its economy from global shocks. During the Asian monetary crisis of 1998, Panama became one of the healthiest economies in Latin America. And during the U.S. banking melt-down of 2008, Panamanian banks remained solid due to their conservative financial policies.
The world's best incentives for retirees: Without a doubt, Panama's "law for pensioned or retired persons" is the best deal going for retirees the world over. Qualifying for the Pensionado visa is relatively simple. You must:
The above requirements change from time to time, especially the amounts, so check with your lawyer for the latest numbers and requirements.
Once you qualify, you get significant discounts on just about everything in Panama, from doctor's visits to transportation, restaurant tabs to utility bills.
Here's a small sampling of the discounts you'll receive:
FOR MORE INFORMATION on Panama's Pensionado program, contact Greg Geurin, in the Panama City International Living office: 17 Avenida Jose Gabriel Duque, La Cresta, Panama; tel. (507) 264-2204; e-mail: Panama@InternationalLiving.com
The world's best offshore bank haven: Panama has the most modern and successful international banking center in Latin America (and the second largest in the world, after Switzerland), with more than 120 banks from 35 countries, including Citibank, HSBC, Dresdner, Bank of Tokyo, Bank of Boston, and International Commercial Bank of China. As one of the world's top offshore banking centers, Panama has limited exchange controls and restrictions on the movement of money in or out of the country. It is also legal and simple to form anonymous corporations. Some say that Panama may very well be the best tax haven on Earth, with the solid banking and corporate book secrecy laws in the world, written into the country's constitution. Non-resident Panamanian corporations and foundations do not pay tax on any of their income--interest income and capital gains income included. Nor do they have any reporting requirements to the Panamanian government.
Mountains...beaches...and a First World metropolis: From cities to beaches...mountains to tropical islands, Panama offers geographical diversity few places can match. Panama City is probably the least expensive First-World cosmopolitan city. In fact, it's a top choice of many if you're looking for inexpensive city living. Here you'll find world-class restaurants, every imaginable luxury, hundreds of multinational businesses...all at about half the price you'd pay in Miami, or any other U.S. city for that matter.
Outside Panama City, this country offers some of the finest natural attractions in the world...
Yet, despite all of these attractions, Panama is still a relatively undiscovered haven. To put this in perspective: Panama gets about as many American tourists in a year as Disneyland sees in three days!
A 25% discount on your cost of living: Panama isn't a dirt-cheap destination...but it is certainly affordable. You can expect to spend about 25% to 75% less to live here than in the United States, depending whether you live in Panama City or the interior (everything outside of Panama City). A nice rented 2000 square foot house will cost from $1500 per month in Panama City to as little as $500 in the interior. Groceries, for example, will cost about 20% less than in the States. You can go to the movies for $5.00...$3 on Wednesdays. A new car will cost just about the same here as it does in the United States. A new computer about $700. Electronics, such as televisions and VCRs, are about the same price as in the United States. Doctor visits are downright cheap. A typical dentist visit will cost only $35, for a cleaning and check-up.
Word on Panama is slowly getting out: In the past few months alone, there have been newspaper and magazine articles on Panama from all over the world. This country is finally starting to get the press coverage it deserved several years ago. "Panama is the most beautiful treat in the world and almost undiscovered," claimed a recent article in Harper's Bazaar. "Known mostly for its canal, Panama is, in fact, an undiscovered tourist paradise," stated a recent travel article in the Boston Globe. The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Modern Maturity, and National Geographic have also featured long travel articles this year praising the undiscovered delights the country has to offer.
Panama has received recognition from various agencies around the world:
Many of the world's best companies have already invested here: In addition to passing legislation to attract foreign businesses, the Panamanian government has privatized most of its former state enterprises. Many big-name companies from around the world have realized the potential of this country, and have moved in:
The point is, lots of big companies with lots of money have a lot at stake in Panama. It's not the kind of place that's going to simply disappear from the map. These companies realize that this is a sound investment in a quickly growing, peaceful country. (Panama, in fact, has no military).
Most of the above information has been condensed from articles in International Living Magazine, whose website is at http://www.internationalliving.com/panama/ .
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