How to Enter Panama

Do I need a passport or visa to enter?

U.S. citizens traveling by air, road, or sea must present a valid passport when entering or departing Panama. U.S. citizens departing or re-entering the United States must likewise present a valid passport. Complete information on how to obtain a U.S. passport is available on the Passport Information page at travel.state.gov or by calling 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778).

Panamanian law requires that U.S. citizen travelers present a passport that has a remaining validity of at least three months or a passport with a Panamanian visa, and the visa has a remaining validity of at least six months.

If your passport does not have the required validity, you will not be allowed to leave the airport or enter Panama, and you will be returned to your point of departure in the U.S. on the next flight with available seating.

Upon arriving in Panama tourists must present a return trip ticket or fare back to their home country or next destination. Panama also requires a completed international boarding card which is provided by the airline and submitted by the traveler at the point of immigration. In addition to this, no less than five-hundred balboas ($500.00) in cash or its equivalent must be presented as proof of financial solvency. In addition to cash, travelers can show a credit card (with most recent credit card statement), bank reference, letter of employment, or traveler’s check. Please be aware that immigration officials on the Panama-Costa Rica border are making tourist entry requirements more strict. Travelers planning to enter/exit along the Panama-Costa Rica border should be prepared to present all required documents to immigration officials.

Travelers should be aware that Panamanian immigration law provides for the denial of entry or transit to any person who has a criminal conviction. According to Panamanian law, it is irrelevant whether the crime was committed on Panamanian soil or in a foreign country. Individuals denied entry or transit will be returned to their last point of embarkation. For further information, contact the Government of Panama at their website under ‘Contactenos’.

As of April 2010, U.S. tourists arriving by air or road are permitted to stay in Panama for 180 days without obtaining a formal visa. U.S. citizens entering Panama by commercial flight as tourists will be charged a $5.00 tourist fee when they purchase their travel ticket. To obtain a multiple entry visa, if, for example, you plan to stay more than 180 days or plan to engage in non-tourism activities such as university study, please contact the Panamanian Embassy or a Panamanian Consulate in the U.S. before traveling.

U.S. citizens transiting the Panama Canal as vessel passengers do not need to obtain a visa or pay any fees if they are not disembarking. If you are disembarking, the Servicio Nacional de Migracion will issue you an initial permit of twelve hours for a $5.00 fee. This initial permit can be extended for 72 hours without an extra fee (you may want to consider requesting the 72 hours upon disembarking to avoid visiting the Servicio Nacional de Migracion if your visa extends past the initial 12 hour permit). U.S. citizens arriving in Panama via private plane may obtain a pre-stamped visa from a Panamanian Embassy or Consulate in the U.S.

The Servicio Nacional de Migracion is currently enforcing an entry permit fee of $110 for sea travelers piloting their own boats or yachts and arriving as tourists. This fee permits entry into Panama for a period of three months, which can be extended for up to two years through an approved application with the immigration authorities in Panama. U.S. citizens navigating private craft through the Canal should contact the Panama Canal Authority at (011) 507-272-4570 or consult the Panama Canal Authority web site to make an appointment.

Further information on visas other than tourist visas may be obtained from the Embassy of Panama or its consulates in the United States. The Panamanian Embassy is located at 2862 McGill Terrace NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel. (202) 483-1407. For travelers who wish to remain in Panama beyond the 180 days permitted to tourists, a “change of migratory status visa” should be requested through a Panamanian lawyer before the expiration of the 180 days in country. An initial fee of $250.00 must be paid for the “change of migratory status visa.” Please note that the approval of the change in migratory status is at the discretion of the Panamanian Immigration Office.

More information on visa types and the necessary steps to take in Panama is available at the National Migration website. Or visit the Consular Services tab of the Embassy of Panama website for additional visa information.

Minors (children under 18) who are citizens (including dual-citizens) or legal residents of Panama are required to present both parents’ identification documents, birth certificates, and notarized consent from both parents (in Spanish) in order to exit the country if not accompanied by both parents. Any child born in Panama automatically obtains Panamanian citizenship.

This documentation is required at all sea and air ports as well as at all border crossing points.

Even if minors are not documented as Panamanian citizens and are documented as U.S. citizens, they may be denied departure without the consent letter and birth certificate. If your consent documents are notarized in the United States, they still need to be authenticated in the U.S. with an Apostille stamp before being accepted at immigration entry and departure points.

Electronic scans of documents that have been emailed, or faxes of the documents, will not be accepted, only the original documents. You must therefore bring them with you from the U.S. if your children are accompanying you to Panama. Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Panama. Panamanian immigration does not require an HIV/AIDS test, but Panamanian law does allow for deportation upon discovery by immigration. U.S. Embassy Panama is not aware of any U.S. citizens who have been deported due to HIV/AIDS. Should you have questions, you may wish to inquire directly with the Embassy of Panama before you travel.

Special Travel Circumstances in Panama

Anyone not bearing identification at all times, including tourists from the United States, may be held and will be penalized by the Panamanian authorities.

U.S. tourists need to provide an original, valid passport at entry in Panama. While in Panama, U.S tourists should carry either their original passport or an original, valid photo I.D. such as driver’s license with a photocopy of the bio-data page in their U.S. passport and a photocopy of the page in their passport that contains the entry stamp to Panama.

The U.S. Embassy in Panama regularly receives calls from persons who have been contacted regarding fraudulent requests for bail funds. These calls are from international money-wiring fraud rings targeting older U.S. citizens in the United States.

The typical scenario is that a family member – parent, aunt, or grandparent – receives a call regarding an emergency involving a son, nephew, or grandchild allegedly in Panama. The call is sometimes from a third party (such as an attorney), sometimes from someone claiming to be the actual family member in trouble. Sometimes the "emergency" is because of a traffic accident, an arrest, an immigration violation, or other ruse.

In all instances, the victim needs approximately $3,000 to solve their problem with the local authorities, be it an attorney, the police, a hospital, or immigration. Once the money is sent, more is requested. The family member is sometimes falsely told that the U.S. Embassy is involved on behalf of the victim and is given a phone number to contact “Embassy personnel” for information on wiring funds. In other cases they are told not to contact the U.S. Embassy because it will make their situation worse.

In all cases, the victim is told that sharing the information with law enforcement could have negative implications for their loved ones. These calls are fraudulent and no Embassy personnel are involved. Anyone who receives such a call is advised to first contact their loved one at their usual number in the United States. In most instances, the alleged victim has been reachable by normal means. Please notify the Embassy as well as local authorities or the FBI about such schemes.

The U.S. Embassy in Panama has received numerous property dispute complaints. The complaints include lost property, broken contracts, demands for additional payments, accusations of fraud and corruption, and occasionally threats of violence. There are two root causes for a large proportion of the complaints – title issues and a weak judiciary.

The majority of land in Panama and almost all land outside of Panama City is not titled. The lack of clear title leads to competing claims to property and frequently to lawsuits. The judicial system’s capacity to resolve contractual and property disputes is weak and open to corruption. U.S. Citizens should exercise more due diligence in purchasing real estate than they would normally do in the United States.

Engaging a reputable attorney and licensed real estate broker is strongly recommended. U.S. Citizens considering purchasing property in Panama may wish to contact the American Chamber of Commerce in Panama City at www.panamcham.com for further guidance.

In case of a death abroad, contact the US Embassy and request a death certificate. The Embassy can also aid in helping the next of kin retrieve the belongings of the deceased and help in assisting you organize the funeral arrangements or transport the remains back to the United States.

Disclaimer

You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.

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