WHERE VACATIONS START!
This question may be polemic for some, or taken out of context by others but I am intrigued.
Since Panama is enforcing more strict immigration rules in an effort to eliminate the perennial tourist and habitual border hopper and encourage expats to become permanent residents of Panama, I have learned of several expats from Canada, US and Russia who are opting out of Panama and moving to other countries.
I know that Panama's ongoing immigration changes can be discouraging to some, but it really shouldn't as Panama has a wide variety of Visas that give you residency, not limited to Friendly Nations, Pensionado or Investment. There are even medical visas that allow you to stay one or two years for medical care, so the options are there and my question is:
Why would someone who has been established in Panama for a number of years not become a resident?
Why start over somewhere new, knowing that one cannot be a tourist in a nation forever and that eventually that new country will require residency as well?
Panama is an outlier the nearby countries and the also the most populous countries of N and S America that requires attorneys for residency. There are easier and cheaper paths. Mexico and Colombia for example. I know of a few cases where folks would be great pensionados here but because of bureaucracy, faded fingerprints, rigid requirements, etc look elsewhere. Million dollar retirement, can't use it for residency. Stupid! The attorneys benefit, the pueblo doesn't.
I think right now the pueblo is totally hating on foreigners because of the massive influx of Colombians and Venezuelans and the feelings are to tighten the screws on immigration, however, the Pueblo will realize that without tourist and immigrants Panama will go back 20 yrs.
With that said, I get what you say about requiring a lawyer, bureaucracy, expensive costs, etc. but many of the expats I am talking about have been in Panama for a long time, with some sort of an investment and now are leaving the country in large numbers, not exclusively from Chiriquí but from other parts too.
Panama has the $$$ which many other countries lack and some sort of political stability which other countries lack, although IDK for how much longer
I lived and worked in Nigeria, Spain, St. Lucia (Caribbean). No lawyers required for immigration. I have not found a law that requires a lawyer for immigration in Panamá. However it is immigration that oblige it in comcubination with the greedy lawyers. You show me the immigration law !!!! Of course you need notarised and legalised apostles documents.
The formerl Crisol de razas was possible without lawyers.
I think the focus on illegal foreign began with the political change over after Martinelli's administration. All the projects gave Panamanians work so the foreigners took all the jobs left open. Now that the government has changed parties, and some projects have completed, those folks are looking for work and finding the old jobs filled.
We met numerous folks working in restaurants, hotels, etc from Venezuela, and Colombia. There were food kioskos everywhere run by Colombians. The common reaction when jobs are scarce is to question why foreigners are working when nationals are not.
You are 100% right on this. Lots of Panamanians were working in different construction projects and expansion of the Panama Canal, some projects were completed before and during the first few months of the new administration and some were left abandoned with not much more replacing it. Also lots of construction projects were finished and thereby thousands of Panamanians were back in the job market just as the immigration of the Venezuelans skyrocketed. These new immigrants had taken lower paying jobs the Panamanians did not want and often times took them for an even lower salary despite the fact many of them were overqualified for those jobs and offered better customer service. Employers took advantage of this and hired these workers off the books saving in taxes, benefits and severance pay.
It backfired because a lot of first necessity items increased their cost, many small businesses owned by foreigners opened and housing prices escalated. The impact was felt hugely by the Panamanians who are now overwhelmed by the excess amounts of foreigners.
Crime increased, and they spread to the inner provinces including Chiriquí, some of these foreigners started scamming nationals, practicing prostitution and indeed selling services such as beauty and mechanics for much less than the nationals would, and yes, often times providing better quality of work or better service, which bought on other issues. Real Estate rental market was impacted with higher rents hard to afford for the nationals, illegal pensions or hostas surfaced all over and so on.....
The result, a generalized dislike for the foreigners and foreign owned businesses who cater to the foreign market. Specialized food stores, restaurants, services, are being looked at as a portal to generate income that will leave the country and not benefit the economic growth. Coincidently today I saw a report about Las Tablas and how they are afraid they will lose their deep folkloric roots with the influx of businesses owned by foreigners such as Chinese, Colombians and Venezuelans, they were complaining about Arepas being sold in a deeply rooted typical town such as Las Tablas and that Santeños are being displaced of jobs in businesses that would otherwise be owned by Panamanians and that would cater to their typical way of living. Same feeling is shared by some Boqueteños who are offended by some establishments that have English menus or cater only to English speaking patrons or how the prices in Boquete have skyrocketed and even cleaning ladies do not want to work for nationals but rather work for gringos that pay double the going rate.
Back when we applied for our residency, 5 years ago, the attorney told us then that this would not last forever.
Real estate is the only category I can think of where prices might be inflated by foreign ownership. But, it also has a lot to do with typical resort town pricing. I don't see much difference in pricing for food and merchandise between Boquete and other locations in Panama that do not have a large foreign presence. I do see quite a difference in product availability targeted specifically to foreigners and the associated premium price for these imported goods.
Payment of employees is always a touchy subject. There seems to be a caste system underpinning within the Panamanian economy that a large number of middle class Panamanians want to perpetuate. We prefer to look at cost of basic goods and then do the right thing on wages for our employees. So, I guess we're guilty on that charge.
To be fair, practically every administration since Endara has tinkered with immigration laws. I remember 30, 60, 90, and 180 day tourist visas. I remember filling out visa cards on the airplane while descending into PTY.
Panama has only had a real government from 1989, 6 presidents.
I for one, have been ready to embark on a new adventure for quite some time...And until recently with the advent of the F.N:V. I was never qualified under any other visa option....Except via marriage, which I decided against several times and am glad that I did.........Apart from that the cost of that F.N:V. is rediculous........Its gotta be one of the most expensive visa programs in the world......I was married to a Swiss girl years ago, and I got her residency visa in the States for about $200 in six weeks........Now thats the way it should be.......pass a language and a history test, demonstrate your holdings and financial status, and voila.......youre a legal resident......Why not? The only way I am interested in permanent residency here is if its easy, cost effective and straight forward, and not another "get rich quick" scheme by Pana lawyers..........I will continue to come and go as I always have...I have no problem leaving every so many months for a month at least.......I want to do that anyway until I have everything in place and all loose ends tied up to be able to leave the country for good.........Panama has its charms and advantages but I simply have lost interest.........Outside of gorgeous rivers and some pretty impressive waves, there is really not much for me here.......The culture does not particularly charm me, nor the music, nor the food.....But there are nice people here and I have my Pana friends and they are always welcome to come and visit whereever I may be.........But in the long term it wont be here..........