So many people are choosing Panama real estate for their vacation homes, and some are deciding to live in their Panama beachfront home year round. Perhaps that’s due to the paradisaical surroundings. Panama is a slow paced country but it has an active immigration office!


Panama offers a variety of visa options for those interested in permanent residency including a retiree visa, reforestation visa, work permit visa, business investor visa, and self economic solvency visa. Besides permanent residencies, there are temporary residence visas including tourist and student visas. Details on the entire visa application process can be found in several websites, and in books such as Miriam Butterman’s Living Abroad in Panama. If you have further questions, you can always contact a reputable Panamanian lawyer.

The key to understanding Panamanian law is to stay on top of the latest news because the immigration process is ever evolving. Notarize all legal documents for the government and if you want to speed up the process of obtaining a visa, the most efficient way to do so is with the assistance of a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of immigration.


Most people can put all their household goods in one 20 or 40 foot container. This can be loaded right in front of your house in the States and brought to the front of your house in Panama. There are no import taxes on importation of your household goods up to $10,000 worth.  The contents of a typical 3-bedroom home shipped to Panama from Chicago in a 20 foot container costs approximately $3,854 if the customer packs and loads everything themselves. ——If the customer packs their own possessions but has the moving company pack furniture and load everything, the cost is about $4,954. If the customer has the moving company pack and load everything, the cost is approximately $5,804.

Your car can be put in your container or shipped separately. Whether you are a Retiree or not, taxes will apply for your car. For customs entry and processing your goods and car once you arrive, you must hire a customs broker who will get things out for you and arrange shipping to your home, but most people say the charge is reasonable.

If you’d rather not ship your possessions, you can buy them in Panama. For furniture, there are big box stores a plenty in David, including Furniture City and the Costco-owned PriceSmart. Banyan Leaf in Panama City is great for Oriental and Western furniture. For appliances, Panafoto and Raenco are the often recommended. Do-It Center and Novey Center are comparable to Home Depot.


There are two excellent companies dedicated receiving and sending your mail: Air Box Express and Mail Boxes Etc. Airbox Express delivers directly to your home. Mail Boxes receives them at the offices and you can go pick them up. They give you your own PO Box address in Miami. They bring your mail from Miami for a starting fee of about $25 a month.

Driver’s Licenses

Present a valid driver’s license from your own country to the “Autoridad del Transito” (Transportation Authority) in order to obtain an equivalent Panamanian Driver’s License without the need to present any written or practical tests. In order to do this, you must have some type of immigration visa in Panama (work, pensionado, reforestation, etc.).

Without a valid driver’s license from your own country, applicants must provide the following: —Passport, other state/government I.D. (not required, but recommended), —authorization from the Direction of Migration and Naturalization,— blood type (tests can be done in facility across the street from Driver’s License Bureau).  Applicants must also take a written test about the driving manual and traffic rules, listen to a driving & traffic lecture, and pay a small fee.


No Panama vacation home is complete without your pet! All animals coming into Panama must have an in-house” quarantine for 40 days, where the animal is allowed to stay with its owner at his/her home. In order to do this, you must send a letter to the Panama Department of Health requesting to do so. This must be done at least 2 weeks prior to the arrival of the animal.

If you want to do it yourself, you must get a licensed vet to fill out a state health certificate  indicating the animal has had a complete check up and is disease free within 10 days of the animal entering Panama, and has had a Rabies vaccination more than 30 days but less than 180 days prior to arrival in Panama. Then, after the vet fills out the state health certificate, take the certificate to a USDA Animal Health Office, and have it certified there as well.Take the completed health certificate  to a Panamanian Embassy or Consulate in the U.S. so that it will be authenticated and stamped accordingly ($30 fee). Then, bring the certificate (and the animal, of course) to the airport and give the certificate to the airport vet. You will then be issued new papers allowing your pet to remain with you on in-house quarantine for 40 days ($130 fee).

There are pet location services that will streamline the process for pet owners, making it worry free, if a bit expensive.— International pet travel companies such as Happy Tails Travel, Pet Ride, and Jet-A-Pet charge as much as $800+ in additional fees (per pet) with some discount (usually 20%) on additional pets [Jet-A-Pet quoted $1747 to move a large dog from Chicago to Panama, this includes all paperwork and documentation and a $400 administration fee].

Most U.S. commercial airlines allow small pets as carry-on baggage either for free or for a $25-$50 fee. As for airlines that travel from Panama City to David, the fees vary. Copa Airlines charges a $50 fee for carry-on pets and Air Panama charges $2.50 to check a small crated animal, and $5.00 to check a large crated animal.

NOTE: Airport vets are only  on duty Monday-Friday, 9AM to 5PM (but not from 12PM-1PM) and Saturday 9AM to 12PM, closed on Sunday. If the vet isn’t there when you arrive, the animal is impounded at the airport until the vet returns.

For more about moving to Panama, feel free to contac us.