John and I just completed one of the primary tasks of those who wish to live here and enjoy the financial discounts offered by Panama to retirees: the Jubilado Card.
I may be naming this card wrong; I may not get the names of the departments right. You’ll just have to bear with me as I make no claim to journalistic accuracy. Hell, I’m no reporter, just an average gal going along for the ride.
But this was a huge accomplishment and one that most expats go through. Some people get this handled before they even land here permanently. Others begin it right away. Us? Well….it took us a little longer. We didn’t feel the need to get the card right away. Don’t know why. Maybe it was because we already receive the “jubilado discounts” wherever we go without the card. (god, do we look that old?)
Either way, we dragged our feet and we took our time finding our attorney. Finally, last May we were meeting with Eric Quintero in Alto, Boquete. Great guy, active in the Boquete life, with two kids in local colleges. Once in his office we discovered we were missing a document. So, what else is new?
Yeah, just because the Panamanian consulate in San Diego (the office that provides all the “apostiles” for all the necessary documents for our U.S. geographic area) told us our list was complete and we were ready to file in Panama, does NOT mean they were correct. Once again, the left hand is not communicating with the right hand. Bottom line, we waited a few months until we were scheduled to travel back to California to get that one last eensy, teensy document stamped, signed and delivered.
Once we put everything into our lawyer’s hands last September (remember, we landed here in February a year ago), he was ready to ship it to Panama City. He warned us it could be up to 6 months to one year for the cards to be ready, although four months is not unheard of. He told us if he didn’t hear anything at the four-month-mark, he would call the department in charge in Panama City.
Sure enough, right at the four months’ time, Eric called and asked the status of our package. He was told the package was approved and ready for pick up after one month’s time! Unheard of. And why no one called him to tell him? (Duh, it’s Panama! And get this: Eric submitted our package at the same time as another client. Duplicate packages, both complete and ready to submit by Eric’s standards. The other guy’s package was not yet ready and our’s was ready after one month! Go figure….)
Either way, it was now January of this year. John and I decided to wait until we were heading for the states anyway to be in PC to pick up our cards. Eric also advised us to get our Panamanian driver’s licenses the same time, as it would save us a day’s hassle in David. In anticipation of all this, we scheduled 3 days in PC before we headed for the States.
At the recommendation of our friends, we hired a cab driver who is apparently very much “in the know” on how to obtain all of these items. Where to go, which departments to walk into, conversing with the bureaucrats, etc. His name is Luis Arcé, and people! I cannot say enough nice things about him. Speaks English, cares about his customers, knows how to cut through red tape, etc.
There were glitches in our paperwork we never would have sorted through without him. (things like administrators copying our file number incorrectly and then putting the wrong number on all our paperwork!) There were places we had to go we NEVER would have found without him — “Oh, that stamp you need for the driver’s license? Yeah, that’s not here anymore, it’s now located at this location.”. He found it and drove us there.
Other issues: “yeah, your jubilado paperwork would have been ready, but the guy who is going to issue the final stamp just went to lunch. He’ll be back in an hour.” Remember, all of this is in Spanish. If it were left up to us, we’d still be there trying to understand them! But when he told us about the final-stamp-guy going to lunch, he said “Let’s kill the next hour and do the same. I know this great place to eat….all the locals go there.”. So we did.
THEN, when we went to the equivalent of the DMV, they told us we needed a blood test. Luis knew where to take us. When we got back to the DMV, over 40 busdrivers had come in to get their annual updates! We were going to either have to wait out these busdrivers, or come back the next morning to complete the process. Luis knew what to do: he had a chat with the receptionist and before we knew it, we were being hustled past all 40 bus drivers and to the head of the line. AWESOME, people, just awesome!
Okay, I’m not supposed to show this; in fact, just after I took this shot, a security guard came over to me and shook his finger in my face. But here’s a shot of the interior of the DMV. Look closely: all the men in pale blue shirts are the bus drivers who were there for the day. In this shot, I can count nine of them:
This process: getting our jubilado, getting our Panamanian Driver’s licenses took us two days. Without him, we figured it would have taken us four to five days. Worth his weight in gold! Speaking of gold, here is a pic of Luis and John. If you look carefully, John is getting his “gold” out to pay Luis:
Luis Arcé is the man to hire when you have to go to Panama City and do all of this. His rates were fair, and we then later hired him to drive us around as we looked for furniture. And get this: John and I found two chairs we liked. We paid for them, took off for the States and Luis handled the rest for us: getting the chairs and their paperwork delivered to Boquete for us. So he’s a concierge as well. He told us “If you know what you and want where it is located, I can get it for you, take it to Fletes Chevales and get it shipped to you.” Here’s a pic of one of the chairs:
What a guy, eh? The chairs were in Boquete two weeks later when we returned, wrapped carefully, all invoices attached, perfect.
So, the next time you need help in Panama City, call Luis at 6536-1179.
I receive no commission Luis for recommending him and I would never expect to. I just love the guy because he’s honest and extremely hard working. I told him I would write about him and he was thrilled to hear about it. He would love to quit his third job as a bell man at a main hotel and would love to survive on taxi and concierge services for people.
Maybe this little article in this silly little blog will help him do just that.