Gathering and Preparing Documents for Residency
We decided that we would return to Panama in March to look for a home and we wanted to begin our residency process at the same time. In the case of our residency we were applying for a Pensionado Visa based on my spouses Government of Canada Pension. I’m not going to get into the semantics of what this Visa “gives” you other than indefinite residency once you’re approved. The rules and laws change so often in Panama and I don’t want to mislead anyone. One thing we did find out was that we were not permitted to bring a vehicle into the country duty-free anymore. Some of the information that we had was out of date.
We required the following documents:
A police check each from our national police agency the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We visited our local headquarters and it took about half an hour to complete and we walked out with papers in hand;
An original marriage certificate – I requested a new one from our Provincial Government at our local registry as I had no clue where ours was in our storage. This also took less than a week to come back; and
Confirmation of pension letter from the Department of National Defence this took less than a week for us to receive. A telephone call resulted in them sending three original copies for us.
The next step is to get the documents authenticated. As Canada did not sign the Hague Convention we do not have an Apostille process but rather follow the original process. We lived in Western Canada, nowhere near any embassies or consulates. Getting the documents authenticated and approved required stamps from both the Canadian Government and the Panamanian Embassy or Consulate. At first we discussed taking a trip to Ottawa to get it all done and not wait the weeks or months it would take through the mail service or by courier. After some research I found a company in Ottawa that could complete the process for us for a fee and we could put everything in their hands. From the start this company was professional and helpful. They had different fee structures for different needs and kept us informed via email through each step our documentation was going through. The process from the first contact took just over a week and we found that we received very good value for the fees charged.
Return to Panama to Purchase a Home and Begin the Residency Process
We waited to take our trip back to Panama until after Carnaval. We had everything ready to go but we probably would have no place to stay or would have been able to get any business completed. We booked our trip for 15 days to give us time to get our residency application started and find a house.
Most information that you will find about retiring or moving to a foreign country will tell you to rent in your chosen area for at least six months. We didn’t follow those rules because we didn’t want to put any of our limited resources towards paying rent. It is probably a good idea to follow the rent for six month rule and there are several people in our new community who would have gained some valuable insight if they had spent more time renting and not leaped into buying.