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Old 27-06-2007, 12:35   #1
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Panama's new immigration law affects cruisers

Prior to May 22, 2007 Panama's immigration laws allowed visitors 90 days upon entry to Panama with an
extension of an additional 90 days, for a total of 180 days. Upon completion of 180 days one would be required to leave Panama for 72 hours, most cruisers crossing the border to Costa Rica for a few days then returning to start the process over again.

On May 22, 2007 the Panamanian congress signed into law a new Immigration Law.

The new law now grants visitors only 30 days upon entry into Panama with the possibility of one 60 day extension. Having so many questions and concerns I took a trip to Changanola and
spent the morning with the immigration supervisor and learned the following in regards to the new law.

Upon entry you will be granted 30 days. Two days prior to the expiration of your 30 days you will need to go to the immigration office with your application requesting a 60 day extension, two photo copies of your passport with entry stamp, two passport size photos, proof of financial independence (credit card, $300 cash or bank statement), and a copy of your cruising permit.

You will also need a Panamanian resident to sponsor you, and you will need a letter from the Panamanian resident, a copy of their ID and a copy of their utility bill showing their address. What the sponsor is doing is agreeing to take full legal and financial responsibility for you, including responsibility for your body should you die. As our time is due to expire we have looked high and low for a Panamanian sponsor with no success. With out this sponsor one will have to leave Panama every 30 days.

Once you have all your papers in order you go to the immigration office no sooner than two days prior to the expiration of your 30 days. At that time they will tell you that they are granting your 60 days or declining your request. If they decline your application you will be required to leave the country of Panama within your remaining two days left.

If you are granted the 60 day extension you're good to go for two more months.

In either case, prior to your original 30 days or your 60 day extension expiring you must leave the country of Panama and return to your country of residence, before you will be allowed to return to Panama. While the law specifically states you will be required to return to your country of residence before returning to Panama at this time the border officials at the Costa Rican border are allowing trips into Costa Rica and back. This is subject to change at any time.

Expect your first 30 days to be busy with paperwork and finding a Panamanian to sponsor you for your extension. Then be prepared to be busy making travel arrangements before your 60 days is up. Oh, in the past fines were charged for being over on your passport, the new law now states you will be jailed until deportation.

Many of the cruisers here in Bocas del Toro are looking at other options including return visits to the Colombian islands of San Andreas and Providencia and, like us, early departures out of Panama for Cartagena. We are all hoping the new immigration law will be repealed but until then...

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Old 27-06-2007, 13:51   #2
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*sigh*............. *crosses both Panama and Fiji off the extended cruising list*

Guess there's other places that want my money........

To incident I am prone...
Cast me out and watch me skip along.....
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Old 27-06-2007, 15:04   #3
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When we arrived to Panama this past April (before the law was changed) we had intentions of spending a year in Panama cruising the coastal waters and the San Blas Islands (remember, San Blas is part of Panama and falls under the new law). Because we can't afford to leave Panama every 30 days (nor do we want the hassle) we are now getting ready to depart Panama for Cartagena in August.

We can only hope for a quick change to this new law.

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Old 28-06-2007, 07:32   #4
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Never fear - there will soon be a thriving cottage industry that provides Panamanian residents as sponsors... for a fee of course.
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Old 28-06-2007, 08:04   #5
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Yes, of course it's a great beginning for a new industry. We even tried to get the 'sponsorship for hire' program started but a few things worked against us. Most Panamanians that could use the extra money don't necessarily have a utility bill to give you a copy of. Most Panamanians aren't willing to risk being financially and legally responsible for you during your stay even for a 'fee'.

By the way, anyone questioning the validity of Panama's new immigration law can go to the official web site for Panama's National Directorate of Immigration and Naturalization which explains the new immigration law by clicking this link </title> </head> <body leftmargin="0" topmargin="0" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" style="background: url('image/background_fill.gif') repeat-x #ffffff"> <table width="1000" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" align="center" height="100%"> <
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Old 28-06-2007, 13:56   #6
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Most Panamanians aren't willing to risk being financially and legally responsible for you during your stay even for a 'fee'.
I think that was part of the idea. Many people might do it for relatives but not for a stranger - even for a fee. The worldwide pressure is moving toward not allowing non residents to park any place for indeterminate periods of time. It's part of a general anti terrorist movement led by the worlds biggest big brother. Given that the most fluid international border on earth US / Canada has moved in that direction I doubt many other countries will want to think they don't have to do it too. This is not a situation that is going to get easier and I expect it will become more widespread over the next 2 to 5 years. The logistics of all of this will be daunting.
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Old 28-06-2007, 14:42   #7
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Truly, the terrorists have won.

Things like this always make me think of a quote, I belive it was Benjamin Franklin, or possibly another man named Richard Jackson, but don't quote me on that. It goes something like, "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." - Benjamin Franklin - Wikiquote
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Old 28-06-2007, 16:16   #8
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I feel we are seeing the end of offshore cruising as it used to be. A minor factor in our moving ashore was simply having had enough of all the red tape and associated costs. There is no doubt that as the number of boats grew exponentially from about 1980, so did the red tape/associated costs. It has only got worse since.
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Old 30-06-2007, 08:27   #9
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There is 'rumor' of a discussion with the Panamanian Immigration officials to revise the requirements for boaters on a foriegn flagged vessels. This came directly from the Immigration supervisor in Changanola, Panama when I spoke with her yesterday. Should any changes be made I'll be sure to post the update here.

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Old 04-07-2007, 03:28   #10
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have the regulations for residence applications and import of the boat changed along with the new restrictive immigration rulings?
jan bogart
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Old 04-07-2007, 17:37   #11
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Hi Jan,

No, the requirements for residency remains unchanged as the law only applies to tourists (tourist car/visa). No changes to bringing in the boat as well. When clearing into Panama a cruising permit will be issued and is good for three months. It will need to be renewed every three months with the port captain.

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Old 07-07-2007, 16:36   #12
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Another Update to Panama's Immigration for Boaters

While the Immigration law has not changed for tourists visiting Panama it has changed on Friday, July 6, 2007 to better accomodate cruisers. Boats entering Panama will clear all formalities as normal and Immigration will issue the captain and crew 30 days. At the end of 30 days the Captain and Crew will need to take a copy of their boat's documentation/registration, cruising permit, crew list and passport copies to the Port Authority for verification, the paperwork will then be stamped. Once stamped the captain and crew will take all the paperwork including their passport to Immigration where, after review, should be granted another 30 day stay for a cost of $10 per passport. This will need to be done every 30 days. While not as convenient as the prior law which allowed a 90 day stay this is a fair compromise since boaters shouldn't have to leave Panama every 30 days.

In the new law it does state that the Captain can stay in Panama as long as the boat will stay in Panama as long as it maintains a valid cruising permit. Checking in every 30 days is still going to be mandatory.

Further into the new law it also states that crew members will be granted 30 days upon entry and can follow the same procedures listed above. However it does state that crew members can remain in Panama and get 30 day extensions 'under special circumstances'. It is unclear at this time if crew members will have time restrictions or what 'special circumstances' mean.

s/v Bruadair

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