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working part time

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curbappealmeals
2/24/2019 14:34 EST

My husband and I are considering moving to Panama.

We are both currently self employed and do not have pensions or any other retirement benefits. We are also not old enough to collect social security (both in our 50's).

We have some savings and will also sell our house, cars, etc before we leave. This will likely not be enough money to fully retire.

Therefore, we would like to move someplace where we can work part time in the hospitality industry.
I am a chef and he has kitchen skills.

We would prefer to not be in a large city.

We are beginners as far as the Spanish language is concerned.

We are in the early planning stages (first few weeks).
Any advice on this is greatly appreciated.

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jonoyakker
2/24/2019 16:32 EST

I came here 6 years ago to build a business that I had little experience with, had little Spanish, and I had little experience with the Latin American culture. It was a huge challenge but the business is thriving now. If I can do it you can too. But you have to do lots of things right.

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PanamaJackie
2/24/2019 16:41 EST

Congratulations on exploring the opportunities in Panama.

There are a couple of things you need to understand about working in Panama.

1. You will need to get a Residency Visa and a work permit before you can work in Panama. The Friendly Nations Visa is the best and most affordable Visa which leads to a work permit.

2. The process for getting a Visa and a Work Permit can easily take 6-7 months, maybe longer, so you'll need to have enough savings to support yourself while you are waiting to be able to legally work in Panama. A 12 month reserve would be best.

3. Wages are not very high in Panama. Your income in Panama will not be what you are making now. You need to factor that in to the budget.

4. For any jobs handling food, you will also need a health certificate which is easy to get at the local public hospital ( about $15)

Instead of working at a restaurant, you might consider doing a catering business or making meals-to-go which you sell at local markets. I know expats who are doing both of these businesses and doing quite well.

Glad to answer any other questions you have. Ask below, send a PM or email me at

Come see Panama BEFORE you sell everything and move here.

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PedasiPundit
2/24/2019 16:42 EST

First - Panamanian wages are significantly less than what you might expect. Outside the big cities, most Panamanian make $20 PER DAY! Moving here and expecting to work could be difficult. You might possibly have a different experience, but to work you would have to get a Visa that would entitle you to a "Work Permit." I would recommend that you make an exploratory trip before committing. Perhaps take a "Retirement Tour" with
Retire In Panama Tours
Oscar Peña and Rod Larrivee
1-786-323-7113 (USA number)

Both Oscar and Rod know Panama and would be able to give you excellent advice.

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tmamato2001
2/24/2019 20:44 EST

Certainly not true about the wages. 20 bucks a day is a disgrace maybe not in a remote are. Pay that near PC you will not get help in the future. The thing about this site that i dislike the most, there are so many folks that have been stuck is a remote place and just dont know. You need to stop giving B/S advice if you just dont know. It is annoying and misleading for those thinking of coming to Panama. You all know that Pedasi is not ready for regular family living. There is minimal shopping and no healthcare. Please do not mislead folks that might have young children and need to be near health care or retirees needing health care as well. It is just not right or fair!

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tmamato2001
2/24/2019 20:44 EST

Certainly not true about the wages. 20 bucks a day is a disgrace maybe not in a remote are. Pay that near PC you will not get help in the future. The thing about this site that i dislike the most, there are so many folks that have been stuck is a remote place and just dont know. You need to stop giving B/S advice if you just dont know. It is annoying and misleading for those thinking of coming to Panama. You all know that Pedasi is not ready for regular family living. There is minimal shopping and no healthcare. Please do not mislead folks that might have young children and need to be near health care or retirees needing health care as well. It is just not right or fair!

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volcan357
2/24/2019 21:32 EST

Some people seem to be obsessed with the idea that someone needs to live close to a hospital or they might die. My parents raised 4 healthy kids on a farm in Pennsylvania and we never thought about healthcare. My dad was too tight to ever take any of us to a doctor. I will be 78 years old in about a month and I am thinking of moving to the DR. When I choose my location in the DR I will give zero consideration to how close I am to healthcare. I mean absolutely zero. For me a location where I have to drive two hours once a week to go shopping or to buy my groceries is no problem whatsoever. Electricity and internet are the two big considerations and new technology is going to bring those services to remote locations in the near future. Pedasi is ready for regular family living. It is not ready for people who are paranoid about being close to a large hospital so some doctor can cut you open at a moment's notice. If you were raised as a kid in the country then the further out the the country you are the safer you feel. And the closer to a big city you are the less secure you feel. It is a matter of perception and not exactly a matter of reality.

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SunsetSteve
2/25/2019 07:33 EST

volcan - exactly right, for most folks.

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marta231655
2/25/2019 09:12 EST

Sorry I would greatly not recommend moving to Panama, you do not know spanish, want to work in hospitality and do not want to be in a big city.
I do not think you will even be able to get a visa unless you can open the right account with enough money

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jonoyakker
2/25/2019 09:35 EST

Marta, they wrote that they do have some savings. As I said before, I did it, so they could too but it was not easy, to say the least. You need to do a lot of things right to start a biz under those exact conditions. Many have failed. Also, there are many signs that a global recession is coming, I hate to say.

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SAY
2/25/2019 10:59 EST

People who handle food also need to attend classes

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tmamato2001
2/25/2019 18:23 EST

My wife is lying in the ICU at Punta Pacifica with a stroke. I believe she would have been gone if not close enough to the Johns Hopkins affiliate hospital. Anyone that tells you different is full of crap. If you want to put yourself in jeopardy that is your choice but please do not put your family there. Shame on anyone that would give that advice. The healthcare here in Panama is really good but you need to be near enough to save your family's life. The other thing is for you to have the right medicak insurance policy so that you can use the private hospitals. The public hospitals are also good but the healthcare at Johns Hopkins is amazing. I have nothing else to say since my wife is still struggling to survive so i am here with her 22 hours a day! If you have any questions please do not hesitate to send a private message. I will not send any more messages so the jerk that sent the last message can see.!

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labori2019
2/25/2019 19:18 EST

Tmamato2001
Sending prayers your way. I hope that she makes a full and quick recovery.
Best Regards

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Julsfem
2/25/2019 19:22 EST

Tmamato2001
So sorry to hear about your wife’s condition, prayers for her!
God Bless you and your family!

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golric
2/25/2019 19:33 EST

@ curbappealsmeals

Have you visited pty? Panama City is not a huge place like for example NY or Miami or Chicago.

It is a small city with lot of traffic. I would recommend that before you decide to sell your house, cars etc you come and check pty and rent for at least 6 months although I always recommend to anyone that asked to rent for 2 years.
The first year is usually the honeymoon stage the second year you will have more information to make a decision of what is best for both of you.

Just my two cents. Wish you good luck. Cheers.

@Marta hope your wife is doing better. And yes Hospital Pacifica is one of the best also Hospital San Fernando.
I agree that being close to a medical center is a good decision especially as we are no longer "spring chicken" and some have pre-existing conditions.

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curbappealmeals
2/25/2019 20:09 EST

Thanks everyone.
We do have some savings to work with. We do plan to start learning Spanish right away.
We were not thinking of starting a business, but who knows what will happen once we've been there for a while. We would prefer to just work part time at first.
We have no children, so the decisions on where we move will be made by the two of us based on our needs.
We would like to be a reasonable driving distance to a larger city for doctors, supplies, entertainment.
We have not visited yet but absolutely will do so before we sell everything. As I said, we are in the beginning phase researching a few different places.
I am a professional chef, professionally trained and ServSafe certified. I have formal training in Italian and French cuisine and I currently own a food truck. If I paperwork or this training/school, do I still need to take classes in order to cook in Panama?

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PanamaJackie
2/25/2019 20:24 EST

tmamato2001

I agree with you 100% - you need to live close to a hospital and it is much better to have insurance if you can afford it.

Wishing your wife a speedy recovery. She's at the best hospital in Panama so I know she will be fine.

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tmamato2001
2/25/2019 22:07 EST

Thanks PJ, and she is only 61

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tmamato2001
2/25/2019 22:11 EST

Thanks for your prayers and blessings!

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volcan357
2/25/2019 22:41 EST

I am sympathetic to anyone who has serious medical problems and obviously if you do you would want to be close to a good hospital. However that doesn't mean that every place that is not close to a good hospital is unsuitable for a retiree or for a family with children. Not everyone has serious medical problems nor is everyone worried about being close to medical facilities. I was in intensive care in a hospital in David for several months and luckily I recovered. In spite of that I don't worry about being close to a hospital. Everybody is different in what is important to them. Most people recovering from a stroke will need some kind of physical therapy. I had a physical therepist come to my house everyday for a two month period. She charged me $20 a visit which is cheap compared to the USA. So that is one advantage of being in Panama. I went from being in a wheelchair to being able to cut trails in my woods with a machete. So physical therapy is very important.

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curbappealmeals
2/25/2019 23:18 EST

I’m sorry to hear about your wife and I hope she makes a full recovery.

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jonoyakker
2/26/2019 04:04 EST

OK, I was thinking you wanted to start your own operation...But as an employee, you have 2 major obstacles. The first is that unless you are at the top of your trade, you will be competing with employees who are paid peanuts. The second is the language barrier and it's a bigger than you think unless you have a talent for languages. You should know that the Spanish here is really bad (Google it) especially in the interior. As for major cities you have only 2 choices-PC or David. And yes, to cook, you will need to take classes (1 day I'm fairly certain) If I were you, I wouldn't limit my search to Panama-there might be better options for you. There ARE opportunities for starting niche businesses here because Panamanians don't tend to think outside the box. But if you are successful, they will try to copy you (and likely not do a great job at it)

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jonoyakker
2/26/2019 04:14 EST

If private hospital care were really important to me, I wouldn't live in Panama. There are other countries with better support, at considerably lower expense. From personal experience, Colombia is one of them.

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tmamato2001
2/26/2019 07:15 EST

Pacifica Salud is a Johns Hopkins extension. On the list of best 100 hospitals world wide it ranks #3. The one in Panama City is a trauma center. Dr. Guadalupe Castillo is Johns Hopkins ambassador for North America and South America for urgent care specializing in head and brain injuries. I am sure Colombia has some good private hospitals but they do not have one on the top 100 list. Too bad there is only one John Hopkins in Panama!

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jonoyakker
2/26/2019 08:03 EST

You are confusing Johns Hopkins Baltimore...Punta Pacifa Panama ranks 5829 in the world. http://hospitals.webometrics.info/en/Latin_America/Panama

There are 19 hospitals in Colombia that rank higher: http://hospitals.webometrics.info/en/Latin_America/Colombia

The hospitals in Colombia are probably 1/2 to 1/3 the cost.

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ssaunders88
2/26/2019 10:24 EST

Hi Curbaooeal - Panama jackie offers some very sound advice and you should visit first and spend a month. Insofar as getting work - wages very low - and better to try your own business - however - for it to succeed,you'll need to live in Panama City - you will need the critical mass and the city is not fairy nice - clean, convenient and not polluted... but, that said - check it out for yourself
all the best!

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jonoyakker
2/26/2019 13:05 EST

I absolutely disagree that a business needs to be located in a big city to succeed. Being in a tourist town works for me.

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volcan357
2/26/2019 22:32 EST

I agree it doesn't need to be in a big city but working in Panama is not so easy. I have thought about it myself. I have not tried it in spite of several advantages I have which includes fluency in Spanish, Panamanian citizenship and lots of construction experience in Panama. Also experience in dealing with government red tape which is a pain. For somebody new here it is even harder. Most foreigners get into something related to tourism. The other day I had a conversation with a women about getting a licence for a hotel or hostel and for a restaurant and what is needed to get a startup loan from the bank. If I wasn't fluent in Spanish I wouldn't have been able to have the conversation. I don't think you need to take cooking classes to run a restaurant. You need a health certificate and a business licence from what I understand. On another subject medical care in Colombia is better than in Panama. The physical therapist I used is Panamanian but she was educated in Colombia. She has by the way a very low opinion of medical training in Panama. She sent her daughter to be trained as a dentist to a school in Guadalajara, Mexico. Her daughter is now back in Chiriqui and does oral surgery at a dental clinic in Bugaba.

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ssaunders88
2/28/2019 10:57 EST

Hi Jono - I agree that when doing a business plan to assess the viability - you may need to be in a big city - it depends on the: a) the product and services you are offering, b) the size of your target market, (customer base) and 3) cost analysis. Sure, if you want to open a cafe - say in Boquette - that might more profitable than opening one in Panama City - as the rents and other operating costs will be lower - so - it's not a 'one size fits all' - it depends on the services or products. If you operate a business on line - you can manage it with a laptop sitting on the beach.. either way - you need to research it first and spend your time BEFORE you spend your money... (I understand there are several restrictions for foreigners doing business in Panama = such as - no retail unless you work with a local partner... to name one.. but,.if you are consulting - for businesses, a large city may be a better option.. One must also consider, the state of the economy and those external forces that can impact your business, where you have no control. Depends on the business and services - do the numbers first and see if it stacks-up

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SAY
2/28/2019 14:41 EST

Volcan

The required classes are not cooking classes: they are food handling classes. My friend who is a chef and attended culinary school in the US was required to take. An expat who opened a restaurant. was required to take them, along with his staff

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volcan357
2/28/2019 18:43 EST

How can you say no retail for a foreigner? Over half of the retail businesses in Volcan where I live are owned and operated by the Chinese.

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SAY
2/28/2019 20:11 EST

The Chinese were here during the building of the canal. I would think that there are a lot of Panamanian born Chinese.

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PedasiPundit
2/28/2019 21:06 EST

Because they are Panamanian Citizens!

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dogbone
3/1/2019 12:40 EST

I would advise that, if you need to work, Panama is NOT the place for you.

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jonoyakker
3/1/2019 14:03 EST

El Valle needs a Mexican restaurant.

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ptyexpat
3/1/2019 21:00 EST

Jonoyakker
Do you have any recommendations for a weekend getaway retreat in El Valle? Just something quiet to unwind and sample the daily rhythm of the community.

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jonoyakker
3/1/2019 21:30 EST

For quiet, you will want to be off the main street, for sure. I suppose that I would recommend Hostel Cariguana or Cabanas Potosi. I know the owners. Moving upscale, the Golden Frog is very cute and beautiful. Tourism will be busy for the next month and then start slowing down, with May always being a slow, quiet month. As your visit gets close, PM me and I will let you know locations for expat happy hours. You will want to visit Butterfly Haven and we can meet over a beer too.

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SunsetSteve
3/2/2019 07:03 EST

As a one-time visitor to EV, I can highly recommend the Golden Frog Inn. A delightful place with a small pool and beautiful gardens and views of the surrounding mountains (walls of the crater).

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cinparadise
3/2/2019 07:48 EST

Jonoyakker,

You wrote:

"El Valle needs a Mexican restaurant."

Every town/city/village outside of Panama City needs a Mexican restaurant!

Especially Texmex!

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SAY
3/8/2019 17:19 EST

I would like to give you a scenario that may help you.

I have a Panamanian friend who is opening a small restaurant and will have 2 other Panamanian employees. He wants to hire an American chef who also has experience in setting up restaurants,
My friend went the Minister of Trabajo (whatever the correct title is). The minister told him that since the chef has specialized training and that at least 3/4 of the employees are Panamanian, there should be no problem in giving this American chef a work permit. The restaurant would apply for a work permit on behalf of the chef. The chef does NOT need a Friendly Nations visa.

Extract from this whatever you need. Remember that there are many ways to obtain a work permit

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PanamaJackie
3/8/2019 17:39 EST

SAY,

Your friend with the restaurant needs to go to immigration to ask them how long can a foreigner live in Panama if they do not have a residency Visa.

Immigration will tell them that a foreigner can stay 90 days if they are driving or 180 days if they are not driving.

No doubt the Ministry of Labor, was not given all the details and assumed the foreigner has a residency Visa which allows them to get a work permit.


A work permit cannot be issued to anyone who does not already have a residency Visa.. With a Pensionado Visa, you can never get a work permit and are not supposed to work in Panama ( though some do it illegally)

But with some of the other residency Visas you can get a work permit.. With the Friendly Nations Visa, the work permit is indefinite. But with some of the other Visas, the work permit is only good for 1-2 years and you have to pay $500 every time to renew it.

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StanleySankey
3/9/2019 18:59 EST

SAY

The visa the ministerio de trabajo was most likely referring to is the Marrakech Treaty Visa

3. Temporary Visitor via Marrakech Treaty for Small Companies

It is only good for 5 years then you need to leave, also the minimum salary of $1000 will probably preclude being outside of Panama City as they usually won't pay that much in the interior. In the city they do but your costs will be very much higher.

My wife is also a professional chef 4yrs culinary training at the Universidad interamericana de Panamá then she went on to get Cordon Bleu certified and she can't get an offer above $750/month in the interior but will easily get double or triple that in the city.

--------------------------
Temporary Visitor via Marrakech Treaty (this treaty is for temporary workers intending to live in Panama for a maximum of 5 years). The Marrakech Treaty created the World Trade Organization. This Panama visa is only available for companies employing between 3 to 10 employees earning at least the minimum wage. Only one foreigner is allowed who must be paid a minimum of $1,000 a month.

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