IMPORTANT UPDATE 2: Here is the Director of Immigration of Panama on record regarding the new restrictions: “”Es para los que tienen más de cinco meses en el país como turistas y salen nada más que para volver a entrar. Ahora tienen que estar 30 días fuera del país” Here is my translation into English: “It is for those that have five or more months in the country as tourists, and leave only to reenter. Now they have to be 30 days outside the country.” Here is the full article. It is unclear if the “five months” means that you can leave 4 months, 29 days and then continue to come back as a tourist, or if it is 5 cumulative months in a year, etc. But I would not want to risk permanent tourism anymore based on these restrictions.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: I spoke with someone from the American Citizen Services Section at the embassy, and while she wasn’t 100% sure, she thinks this only applies to someone who has been here at the end of their 6 months. If they for instance, came to Panama for a week, then went to Costa Rica for a couple of days, then wanted to come back, they would be allowed in. If I have any more concrete information I will share it.
I mentioned in an earlier article than Panama is in the process of cracking down on permanent tourists, and they are moving much quicker than imagined. According the guidance given to the US Embassy, immigration officials will require tourists who leave the country to stay a minimum of 30 days outside of the country before reentering. This basically kills the idea of living in Panama on permanent tourist status. Rather than have me explain it, here is the email sent out by the US embassy so you can see the details of what’s going on with immigration in Panama
The U.S. Embassy in Panama would like to inform all U.S. Citizens in Panama that on March 6th 2017, the Panamanian Immigration Authority (Servicio Nacional de Migracion-SNM) announced new guidance for Panamanian immigration officials on the enforcement of pre-existing regulations. According to the SNM, immigration officials have been instructed to be stricter about the enforcement of the regulation that foreigners entering Panama with tourist status prove that they are in fact entering Panama as tourists and not residing in Panama. Since the announcement, the Consular Section has received many questions from U.S. citizens about this new guidance. Below are the most frequently asked questions along with the responses the Consular Section received from the SNM. Should you have further questions, please reach out to the SNM directly via phone at507-1800 or visit their website at: http://www.migracion.gob.pa
In order to re-enter Panama on tourist status, does a U.S. Citizen need to return to their country of origin (the country from which they came into Panama) or can they return from a third-country (example: Costa Rica)?
Answer: In the new guidance SNM does not specify if the tourist needs to return his/her country of origin. What is being implemented is that, in most cases, the person needs to leave Panama for a minimum of 30 days before reentering as a tourist.
In order for a person to re-enter Panama on tourist status, what is the minimum amount of time the person needs to spend outside of Panama?
Answer: The new requirement that is being implemented by SNM in reference to time spent out of Panama is a minimum of 30 days before applying for admission, in most cases.
In order for a person to re-enter Panama on mariner visa status, what is the minimum amount of time the person needs to spend outside of Panama.
Answer: According to SNM, mariner visas are valid for 90 days and must be renewed on the 90th day, or the day before, from the date of the previous mariner visa stamp. Mariner visas can only be renewed once before the visa- holder needs to exit Panama. The amount of time the person with the mariner visa needs to stay outside of Panama is not specified by SNM.
If entering Panama on tourist status, does the method of entry need to match the method of exit (i.e. can a U.S. Citizen enter Panama on a plane and use as proof of exit evidence that they own a boat in Panama and plan to exit via boat)?
Answer: The method of entry and exit into and out of Panama does not have to be the same so long as the entries and departures are met legally by using established Ports of Entry – land, maritime or air and admitted by a Panamanian immigration officer.
Do U.S. Citizens with legal Panamanian residency status also require a roundtrip ticket when entering Panama?
Answer: No. A foreigner with legal residence in Panama does not need to show proof of exit from Panama.
Is a person applying for Panamanian residency required to stay in Panama for the entire duration of time required to complete the residency process? If so, what happens if the process takes more than the allotted six months for tourist status.
Answer: If the person has an ID that shows that his/her residency is in process, the person is fine to leave and return to Panama. If there is no ID, then the person should exit as a tourist (i.e., before the sixth month approaches).
How long does the FBI Identification Record process, required for purposes of obtaining residency in Panama, take? Can this process be expedited?
Answer: For information on the FBI identification record process, individuals may visit https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks. According to the FBI website, the current turnaround estimate for these records is 12 to 14 weeks plus the amount of time the results may take to arrive in the mail. Currently there is no option to receive the response electronically. For questions on this topic, individuals may call (304) 625-5590 or write an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Tourists are only allowed to drive in Panama for 90 days. Is there an exception for this given that tourists are allowed to stay in Panama for 180 days?
Answer: According to the Transit authority (http://www.transito.gob.pa/sites/default/files/reglamento_decreto_640..pdf) foreigners that enter Panama as tourists are not permitted to obtain Panamanian drivers’ licenses and are only allowed to drive with a foreign license for 90 days. There are no exceptions to this rule.
Can SNM waive the FBI Identification Record process if a person does not exit Panama for two years? If so, would there be an exception to the 180 day stay limit for tourists for a person trying to obtain this waiver?
Answer: If a person stays in Panama for more than two years then the FBI requirement does not apply. The waiver of the FBI requirement applies to those people that stay in Panama two years, without exiting. In these cases, a fine is paid by the person for overstaying their tourist visa and the person is only required to present a PNM police record rather than the FBI check.