Like I mentioned in my previous post, we made a couple trips to Panama City to obtain our visas and we now have them in hand! The process for us took about 2 months from the time I started acquiring the necessary paperwork.
Once I stopped working at the end of February a good portion of my time was dedicated to finding out what was required but where do I start. First of all, another fellow blogger (firstname.lastname@example.org), also Canadian, was a wealth of information and I want to thank her again for all the questions I sent to her and all the answers she provided me. I started out by sending an email to a lawyer from Panama City who came highly recommended. His response to me was immediate (not like some other lawyers I tried to correspond with) and sent me a lengthy PDF document with everything I needed to know about obtaining a Pensionado Visa in Panama. Here is the list of documents required.
1) Certified copy of birth certificate for myself – check.
2) Certified copy of birth certificate for my husband – check.
3) Certified copy of marriage certificate – check.
***NOTE: I was able to obtain all of these documents within a couple days by going online into the Vital Statistics website for Saskatchewan (which is where I was born and married).
4) Certified copy of letter from Investment/pension company (or notarized original copy) confirming that we meet the required amount of monthly income for life (the “for life” statement is very important as they will not accept a letter unless it states this) – currently, if you do not own a property in Panama – this amount is $1000.00 US for a single person and an additional $300.00 for each dependent – in our case this totalled $1300.00 US per month – check.
5) Certified copy (or notarized original copy) of letter from a recognized government institution stating that our investment company is in good standing with the government. This was a little tricky as we had no idea where to obtain such a letter. As it turns out, there is a company called Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC for short) who will do a search on the investment company you are currently dealing with and provide such a letter – check.
6) Certified copy (or notarized original copy) showing three months of withdrawals from our investment company and three months of deposits into our account. Again, I ran into a bit of a snag when trying to obtain this documentation as we only starting withdrawing from our investments in March and we were leaving the country April 15. In consulting with the lawyer, it was confirmed that we could do three months of withdrawals in advance to satisfy the Panamanian government requirements – check, check and check.
***NOTE: If you have a government pension, then steps five and six are not required.
7) Certified copy (or notarized original copy) of criminal check for myself – check.
8) Certified copy (or notarized original copy) of criminal check for my husband – check.
These documents were easily obtained by going to our local RCMP department and filling out a form. There was no charge for this service and it was completed within five working days. Also, note however, if you are an American Citizen, FBI fingerprints will be required.
The entire process of obtaining all the necessary documents for us took about a month (mostly because we have some delay in satisfying the requirements of step numbers 5 and 6) and the final document (IIROC) came in the day we were moving our contents out of our house in Cold Lake and into our son’s house in Edmonton. We still had to get them all notarized and sent to the Panamanian consulate for authentication before we flew to Panama on April 15th.
This is where a company called Authentication and Legalization Services Canada (ALS) came in extremely handy (thanks Karen for the referral). They are a company situated in Ottawa very close to the Panamanian Consulate who will look after getting the documents to the consulate, making sure they all get the necessary authentication stamp and then send them either back to us or directly to our lawyer in Panama. Being that we still had to make an appointment in Edmonton to get the documents notarized, we opted to have them send everything to our lawyer in Panama. Of course there was a fee attached to such a service, but in the end it was much cheaper for us to go this route than for us to fly ourselves to Ottawa and get the documents authenticated personally. The communication with ALS was top notch and the documents were received by our lawyer on April 22nd!
After our lawyer reviewed the documents to confirm that everything was in order, it was time to set up a time to go to the city and meet him personally (finally) and make our way to the Immigration office to get our visas!! So a date was set – May 7 – woot woot! We were not comfortable yet with driving in Panama City so had a couple that we had met and who also set us up with our initial rental (and upcoming rental) to take us into the city that day because they were headed that way for Spanish classes. This is the same lawyer that they use for their business so had no problem dropping us off – thanks so much to W and J.
We were warned that this is an all day affair and we were prepared. After arriving at the lawyers office and having to fill out a few more documents and getting a letter from a Panamanian doctor stating that we were healthy we were on our way to Immigration. Our lawyer drove us their personally and had his assistant meet us there. This was quite the process and after spending four hours in immigration and going to numerous different booths to get photos taken, fingerprints taken, documents stamped, etc etc we were on the final leg of this journey when we ran into a snag and would have to come back because it was getting late and would be closing – wouldn’t you know it …. lol. As it turns out, due to the election that took place on May 5 and a new president being elected – some of the rules had changed – but only slightly. There was one document that D had to sign in the lawyer’s office stating that he would “take care of me financially” while living in Panama that now had to be notarized. This was a new requirement that had just changed with the new government. Wouldn’t you know it – if we had went to immigration a week earlier we wouldn’t have encountered this problem – lol.
So the lawyer’s assistant said she would get this done the next day and we could return Friday for the final step of our immigration adventure – getting our picture taken and obtaining our card. And true to her word, we got a call the next day saying that everything was now in order and when could we return. We decided that Friday May 9 would work for us as we wanted to just get it completed and the sooner the better. So off to Panama City we went – this time with D in the driver’s seat and the girls with us to do a day of shopping at the Albrook Mall. The assistant met us at the mall and drove us directly to immigration and after waiting two hours for our turn, we were in and out in less than 10 minutes with temporary pensionado visas in hand!! Success!!! What an accomplishment – we were elated! The first, most important step in our opinion, to retiring in Panama was complete!!