U.S. State Dept. Confirms 90 Day Panama Visas




For six months or more there has been a lot of justified confusion, even anger, over a drastic change in the length of time for visas allowed for foreigners visiting Panama.

Up until then a foreigner's visa allowed 90 days in the country. Abruptly, for reasons never fully explained, the Panamanian government dropped it to only 30 days. That produced major criticism from Panamanian real estate and tourism promoters, as well as annoyance for visiting Americans and other nationalities. When International Living dropped Panama from first to fourth in its annual list of best places to live, a demotion that got a lot of media coverage, the visa change was cited as one of the reasons.

Now the U.S. State Department has issued a consular statement setting out the official requirements for visas to visit Panama. It confirms that the Panamanian government now issues visas for a full 90 days. (Meanwhile, Panamanians and others nervously are awaiting a revision of immigration, visa and related laws soon to be decreed by President Martin Torrijos).

Based on American laws, U.S. citizens traveling by air to and from Panama must present a valid U.S. passport when entering or re-entering the United States. (Before the 9-11 terror attacks, Americans needed only a valid U.S. state drivers license or other picture ID to visit Panama). Sea travelers also must have a valid U.S. passport (or other original proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a certified U.S. birth certificate with a government-issued photo ID) to enter or re-enter the U.S.

After months of uncertainty, as of last November, 2007, tourists were allowed to stay in Panama for a full 90 days. If persons want to stay longer, an extension for up to 60 days (for a total of 150 days in country) from the Panamanian Migration Office is required, at that office's discretion.

Panamanian law requires that travelers must either purchase a tourist card from the airline serving Panama or purchase one upon arrival at Tocumen Airport or other ports of entry. Alternatively, a visa can be obtained from the Panamanian embassy or its consulate before traveling to Panama.

You can get information from the Embassy of Panama, 2862 McGill Terrace, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009, tel. (202) 483-1407, or the Panamanian consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Juan, San Diego, San Francisco or Tampa.