What is Going On With Immigration?

There have been news articles and a lot of talk about recent happenings at Panama immigration, and how this might affect people here as tourists. One of the news articles is HERE and another is HERE.

From what I understand, the problem has been with people from Venezuela fleeing their troubled country and coming here to work, but without legal status in Panama. There has also been this loophole in the rules. You are allowed to stay in Panama for 180 days as a tourist, but if you leave the country for some unwritten amount of time, usually three days, you can reenter Panama and get another 180 days. Some people from Venezuela tried to do this recently and were not permitted to come back into Panama. So far, as far as I know, no one else has been denied entry back into Panama. But there seems to be a trend towards tightening up border security and enforcing immigration laws, so it is quite possible that anyone who lives here as a tourist doing “border runs” won’t be able to continue this.

I checked Chiriqui Chatter since Mr. Williams in our embassy warden. Click the link to read his post, and I am also sharing here the response from the US Embassy.

We here at the Embassy have reached out to immigration to obtain details about the news pasted below regarding the implementation of immigration regulations. According to the Duty Chief at Migracion-Paso Canoas, the PNM Immigration Director is enforcing these migratory requirements across Panama. This means that if an Immigration Official determines that a foreigner is using tourism status to reside in Panama, the entry will not be allowed. The Duty Chief gave examples of this situation, indicating that persons who exit Panama before the 6th month approaches and re-enter after three days, which is a clear sign that the individual is residing in Panama under a tourist status, will not be allowed re-entry.

In summary, these regulations were already in the books but now it seems the immigration authorities throughout Panama are going to be stricter about enforcement. That said, we have yet to receive a complaint from a U.S. citizen actually denied entry at the border for the reason outlined above.

Someone posted the latest information that the Canadian Embassy received from Panama immigration and it is essentially the same.

Tourists may only remain in Panama for a maximum of 180 days. If you wish to remain in the country after that time, you must change your residency status. If you attempt to renew your stay in Panama by travelling out of the country for a short period of time with the intention of returning to Panama as a tourist, immigration authorities may deny you re-entry, as they are implementing stricter border controls. Consult Immigration Panama for more information.

It seems to me that anyone living here as a tourist would be advised to either get legal or consider moving elsewhere. There is no guarantee that the border hopping and perpetual tourist thing is going to work for much longer.

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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7 Responses to What is Going On With Immigration?

  1. oldsalt1942 says:

    The “Border Hoppers” irritate me. People who “scam the system” anywhere irritate me. There are, literally, millions of U.S. citizens who “snowbird” in Mexico. There system is much more stringent than it is here. You can stay in Mexico as a tourist for six months. Then you have to leave and you CAN’T COME BACK FOR SIX MONTHS. They should do the same thing here.


  2. I think this is going to happen in Nicaragua, too. I know many perpetual tourists, living and working in Nicaragua without attempting to get legal residency. It is getting more difficult to border hop. It only makes sense to me because without stricter enforcement of the law, it is difficult to track the criminals. Does Panama have a quota for immigrants?
    I have a considerable increase of hits on my blog lately for my posts about working in Nicaragua. I fear many people from the states are looking for a way to get out! But, I always stress that it has to be done legally. Too many foreigners living here illegally, running businesses, and not paying taxes puts a large financial stress on the country.


    • Here it seems to be people from Venezuela escaping the terrible conditions there but yes, there are also many people from the US and other countries living here without legal status. I haven’t heard about a quota for immigrants, but I know it’s hard to work here because they don’t allow foreigners to take jobs that can be done by Panamanians.


  3. Ed Berg says:

    Kris, Thanks for keepping us up to date on this itsue. To adress another topic, we recently spent a short time in David and only then found out it is the hottest city in Panama. I don’t recall you mentioning this in recent posts. I know many people enjoy the heat, but for me and my wife it was really miserable. I would expect that this temperature extrame would be important information about a city. Thanks again for all the info on other topics.


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