Panama tourist visa

Panama Tourist Visa Cut in Half from 180 to 90 Days

The length of a Panama tourist visa will be cut in half from 180 to 90 days, according to the National Immigration Service. Bad news for perpetual tourists in Panama.

According to a new resolution, from October 1 2021, tourists can now only stay in Panama for 90 days at a time.

The Servicio Nacional de Migracion (National Immigration Service) published Resolution 22068 today. The resolution aims to create clear wording defining what a foreign tourist is.

It talks of a foreign tourist being an occasional visitor to Panama, without the desire to establish any type of residence in the country. Someone coming for recreation, shopping, medical tourism, visiting friends/family, business, and so on. A tourist is someone who can afford their stay in Panama without working.

To that end, from October 1, Panama will refuse to allow tourists to stay in the country for any more than 90 days at the most.

The 90 days will kick in from their moment of arrival and, if you’re a tourist, you’ll need to show a ticket out of the country within that amount of time.

Tourists staying in Panama for less than 90 days can apply for an extension to their visas. The resolution makes clear, though, that any extension cannot mean they stay for over 90 days. For example, if you’re in Panama for 80 days, you can apply for another 10 to make up the 90.

The resolution also says tourists inside Panama can change their status by applying for residency if they fit any of the categories.

Right now, the law says you can stay for 180 days. One interesting caveat to that is, tourists can only drive vehicles on their foreign licenses for 90 days at a time. The new resolution puts the rules in line with each other.

It’s unclear how long you need to leave Panama for after your 90 days are up. And for perpetual tourists, that’s the big question.

Will you be allowed to bounce in and out of Panama every 90 days or not? If so, it’s not too much of a big deal.

You’ll just have to leave every three months instead of six. An inconvenience, sure, but no different to how it is next door in Costa Rica, for example.

Some unconfirmed reports on social media say 30 days – meaning you can’t border hop over to Costa Rica and return. You’ll have to stay out of Panama for a month before reentering for another 90 days. Please note the word unconfirmed here, before you panic.

The resolution doesn’t say anything about how long you need to leave Panama for. There’s not one word about that. It could very well be up to the discretion of the immigration agent with your passport in their hand. Most likely it will be.

Without knowing the exact details of why Panama is making this change, we can read between the lines and surmise they’re no longer interested in having people stay long-term without any type of legal residency.

It’s not the first change they’ve made this year affecting expats or people wanting to move to Panama.

In May, Panama introduced a digital nomad visa, allowing nine-month stays in the country for remote workers who fit the requirements. It also amended its Friendly Nations Visa program to cut out some loopholes, which makes it harder for many.

The main thing to take away from all this right now, is that Panama is serious about who’s staying in their country. It’s clear they want to create a definite line between tourists and expats.

Make of that what you will.

James Dyde is the editor of centralamerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.