Retirement from Canada to Panama Part 2

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 Some of the information that we had was out of date.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.

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  1. Karen…
    What a great blog!
    You and your husband are a few years ahead of my wife and I who are looking at Panama and a few other location in Europe in about 5-6 years from now.

    I think my question may be more directed at your husband than at you as it is pension based and our careers have similar pension plans.

    I will be ending my career with the RCMP in about 5 years which will give me 32 + and am interested in taxation on our pension plans for non residents.

    Are your pension payments direct deposited into an account at destination and if so, in what currency and how significant is the exchange on the bottom line.

    The current global financial environment is a little difficult to navigate… if the pension is exchanged at the US exchange rate, 5% is manageable…I don’t expect to see things go back to what they were in the 70’s and 80’s at 25% … but who knows.
    We are also looking at Spain and Portugal but the Euro exchange is currently in the 30% ballpark … not great.

    I know its all relative if the cost of living is such that the exchange rate can be absorbed… but I am looking for input from someone who is living it!

    I hope I’m not asking to much.
    Thanks in advance

  2. Hi there I’m 33 years old and work for peel. I have two small kids and a husband.

    Were really tired of the winter weather here in Canada and always dreamed of living a different lifestyle than we are now. We have just started looking into panama and are very interested. My questions are work wise and kids. Since I work for peel police, do I have any benefit regards to finding a job with police? And is it a safe a good place for kids? Are there a lot of Canadians living there and is the process for moving to panama difficult??

    Thank you
    Silva and David.

  3. I too am looking at Panama for when i retire in 6 years…I’ll have a 35 year gov’t pension. I am more curious as to the actual cost of living, for a foreigner, in Panama. I realize it can vary depending on situations and life styles but was more looking for a ball park of monthly expenses and how you handle health care…thank you.

  4. Suzanne Dodge

    May 22, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Thanks soo much for sharing this info. We’re making the plunge next time is ticking very fast. Bet you’re glad you followed your heart now? I’m so excited can hardly wait…

    Thanks again…

  5. Thank you all for your comments.

    I’ve added some new information on my blog regarding “how to’s” and documentation for the Pensionado Visa.

  6. Hi Karen,

    Love your blog. We’re heading to Panama Aug.29 to do the exact same thing. We have plans to check out all the same areas as you did along with the David area and Boca Chica. We’re there for 2wks so will probably only spend a day in Panama City. I want to see the Canal.

    I know everyone says to rent first but I doubt we’ll do that as I don’t want to use funds for rent. Will just have to make sure of the area and the climate.

    So where did you finally end up and are you still happy with your choice?
    Thanks for all the info. It’s been great hearing your story.

    We’re also from Vancouver.

  7. Any info at all about processes involved to move to panama from Canada thank you

  8. I’m aCanadian but a permanent alien resident in US am retired and would like to know could one live on 4000.00 a mo.?how much approx would the move take in money?

  9. Dear ann.chalmers:

    My spouse and I live quite comfortably on less and I know others who live on even less than we do. But of course it all depends on what kind of lifestyle you choose to live and/or maintain.

  10. Is 3300 per month enough ?

  11. What is the final total, fees, etc. To get your residents papers for living
    in Panama. Also on average, what would all the living costs be, rent (we do not want to buy) groceries, entertainment, etc.
    Thanks so much for your time and response
    Michelle Loyer
    Wellington Ontario Canada

  12. Hi Karen,
    Appreciate very much your website. Thanks for sharing your information.
    I will move as a ‘pensionado’ to Panama soon. I will get my ‘carné’ 8th january 2015 then I will decide when and where to move, but:
    “…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…”
    Karen, who gave you this information?
    If I have to pay 18% duty on my 30’000$ car I will change my mind and sell it here in Europe.Could you tell me the office or person who decides this? Kind regards

  13. Great story. i am looking to do the same. I have friends from my airforce years in chile that live in Panama. wouldL;ike to be able to chat with you guys on skype if posible.
    email me if posible

  14. Daniel Larocque

    July 16, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    Hi, my wife and I are seriously planning on retiring in Panama. We are looking to rent instead of buying. Could anyone give me some prices on renting a condo unit. Also the Canadian dollar is low compare to the Panama currency.

  15. Hello Daniel:

    Your question is a little too broad, prices will vary depending on where you want to live. I suggest you begin with this Facebook page. You can peruse costs around the country and ask your question from people who will be only too happy to assist you.

  16. Charmane Brunelle

    August 26, 2016 at 2:19 am

    Hey Karen,

    Great to see you and Eric are doing well. Marc and I are planning a trip to Panama next year. Our five year plan is to move to South America with the two youngest, Panama being our first choice. We will let you know when we plan our trip so we can meet up if you guys are available. Say hi to Eric for us.

  17. Hi, very interesting and info worthy blog, thank you.
    I am a single pensioner, living in Ontario, who is wishing to move to the Panama soon.
    Do you have any suggestions of places to live?
    And any other advice…

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