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Panama’s Pensionado Visa Discounts And Perks

“Kathleen, this year I attended your Panama Conference and decided to become a Panama resident. I am in the last process of becoming a resident of Panama, just waiting the six months for the final stamp in my passport.

“What is the best way to buy U.S. shares from Panama, from a cost and tax perspective? I have a bank account with HSBC premier.”

–John W., United States

The best way is through a U.S. online brokerage, such as Schwab or Ameritrade.

If you want the account held offshore, you may be able to go through HSBC Premier, or you could try www.JGAM.com. However, these two options would really work for investing in non-U.S. stocks only. If your objective, as you suggest, is to trade U.S. shares, you’ll need, again, to work through a U.S. online brokerage house.

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“Kathleen, I’m sold! I’m really going to make the big move to Panama! My son, also an experienced traveler and supportive of my plan, is watching carefully over my shoulder from across the country, making sure that I don’t do something foolish. He has voiced concern that Panama’s pensionado program for seniors might not be all it’s cracked up to be. What are your feelings on that score? Is there some degree of bait and switch?

“I’m making my second trip in March, just to confirm that it’s the right thing for me and that I’m not losing my marbles! But in my heart, I know what the answer is.

“Thank you for sharing your vast experiences. I’ve enjoyed your book and Panama Letter. Happy New Year to all your team.”

–Libby H., United States

Never fear. Panama’s pensionado program is, in fact, at least all it’s cracked up to be, perhaps more. The qualifications for obtaining a pensionado residency permit in Panama are straightforward. This is one residency option in this country that grants permanent residency immediately, not after a waiting period or so many renewals of temporary residency. Obtain this visa, and you’re done.

Regarding the pensionado benefits and discounts, those are, indeed, everything they’re cracked up to be. We know many pensionado retirees here in Panama who are all very pleased with all the perks their status ensures. One reader we met with who had obtained pensionado status told us, “I get my discount everywhere, for everything. The only place I haven’t been able to get it yet is for my gin and tonics at the bar on the corner…and I’m working on that.”

Note that most of the pensionado discounts are available to any legal resident of this country who meets the age requirements (55 for women and 60 for me). That is, you don’t have to be a foreign retiree to qualify for these savings…simply a resident, including a Panamanian resident.

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