A little Clarity in the Confusion about Visas

Panama immigration issued a decree a week ago that resulted in a lot of confusion. I posted about it here. It said quite clearly that tourists will now have visas for 90 days, instead of the previous 180 days and we all got nervous. What does this mean for people here as tourists?

There was confusion everywhere. US and Canadian citizens were being told that they still had 180 days. But, there were also stories about people boarding planes to Panama being told to change their return tickets to a date less than 90 days out. There were discussions on the usual forums and Facebook groups as people tried to figure out what is going on, but nobody had any definitive answers from the authorities.

Immigration must have gotten too many calls because yesterday a link was shared to this TV program where the director of immigration was explaining the recent changes.
Director de Migración aclara decreto sobre visas para turistas extranjeros

Any of you native Spanish speakers who have the time, please check this out and make sure I understood it correctly.

First, he talks about the part where people who have submitted applications for residency get 6 months instead of the previous 1 year. He said this puts the responsibility on immigration to process and respond to the applications in less than 6 months. I think they are already doing this, but this is a guarantee that they will continue to get it done quickly.

Then, the more important part. Panama has reciprocal agreements with many countries such as USA, Canada, UK, and Latin American countries. Their citizens can visit Panama for 180 days, and Panamanians can visit those countries for 180 days. Nothing has changed with this. Other countries who don’t have an agreement, those citizens must apply for a visa before they can come to Panama. These visas will now be only 90 days, not the 180 days they were before the decree. This is the only thing that is changed by the recent degree.

There is a Wikipedia page HERE that list the countries with reciprocal agreements. I noticed that on this page also, they mention that visas are now 90 days, not 180. But, below, they list the countries that do not require a visa. I think there is where we all got so confused! If we aren’t required to get a visa, then the length of the visa doesn’t affect us.

Whew! I think we have it straight now. But, TIP (this is Panama), and Spanish is not my first language so I give no guarantees that these are the absolute facts. Even if they are, everything is subject to change at any time.

About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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20 Responses to A little Clarity in the Confusion about Visas

  1. Robert&Helen Berding says:

    I saw the interview and it is crystal clear.


  2. Robert&Helen Berding says:

    Amongst the 180 days normal tourist Visa are the USA, Canada and many countries from the European Union.


  3. Thanks Kris. That makes this more comfortable. I won’t have to return to Canada until all the snow is gone. LOL.


  4. Becky Wisdom says:

    Hi Kris we would still have to boarder hop right?


    • Yes. As far as I can see, nothing has changed, nothing that affects any of us from the US, Canada, or the many other countries with a reciprocal agreement. Keep hopping! Or, become residents so you don’t have to worry about any of this.


  5. Susan Wiest says:

    Thank you so much for great information!


  6. Pingback: Panama Shortens Tourist Visa to 90 days | The Panama Adventure

  7. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris,
    One comment about the applications for residency, he stated that the government must respond in 6 months. But, the answer can be no, then the applicant must start all over with another 6 month card (and minus 50 bucks, balboas). If the government can’t get done on time, my guess would be the residency would be denied for any reason they chose. Resubmit the paperwork, get another carnet and press on. Probably less hassle than border hopping.

    The discussion raised by the interviewer on border hoppers centered on the immigration “flood” of Cubans and others we know about. The official also stated that the 180 day length of stay was based on reciprocity with the US and other countries. This is not true. The US states that a person may not establish permanent residence with a tourist visa. The loophole that resident tourists hop through every 6 months in Panama may be closing in the future which would be reciprocity with the U.S. If expats can not afford to become permanent residents in Panama, they should not be allowed to become permanent tourists. The old saw about spending lots of money in Panama does not ring true if they can’t afford residency.


    • Yes, i understood that about the application. They must process it but they don’t have to say yes, just give you an answer.
      I think other countries give you 180 days as a tourist but then you must leave for the rest of the year. Panama has that loophole where they let you back in right away. It would make sense if they changed that. People who can’t afford residency also can’t afford to bail themselves out if they get sick or in some predicament, not a good thing and there is also the matter of background checks.


  8. jim and nena says:

    The USA has no set length of stay as Panama advertises. The CBP officer is the sole determinant in setting the duration. The custom is 180 days but not guaranteed by any US Law. Their website does state that a permanent stay on a tourist visa (B2) is not allowed. There is Panama’s model for the next decree (maybe later this year).


    • Ahh ok, yes. Now I remember cyclists who we have hosted saying they had three months in the US. That’s not a lot if you are riding a bike from Alaska and have to reach the Mexico border within that time. Can you imagine if you could live in the US as a tourist? There would be permanent tourists everywhere! I guess there is enough of that here in Panama. I knew many just within my small circle of expat friends.


  9. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris,
    I was curious if you had posted about a border run previously. To my delight, I found this:

    The only term I can think of to describe it is a Texas idiom: goat rope. 🙂


  10. David abbott says:

    The last time I went to the border the customs official told me I had to stay “out of Panama” for 48 hours. Does that rule still stand. Thanks David


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