I have had a little more time to think about the new Tourist Visa changes since yesterday and now that my initial shock has passed, I am trying to look at it objectively. The Panama Guide has an interview with Lic. Tomas Garcia Tobar, the National Sub Director of Panama’s Department of Immigration regarding the recent change in requirements for tourist visas. It presents a better understanding of what the intent for the change is.
If you step back and think about it, the term Tourist Visa, pretty well says what the visaś purpose is. The new change allows a person to obtain a 30 day visa and then that person may extend it once for a maximum of 60 more days for a maximum time in Panama of 90 days. Whether the extension is 30 or 60 is determined by Panama on a case by case situation.
I, for one, think that 30 days time in a country is ample time for most tourists. Certainly 90 days should accommodate everyone. If a person expects to spend a large percentage of their life in Panama, then there should be no reason that they should not apply for one of the other visa programs.
Being a person who moved to Panama to live, I am pleased to see that the intent is to keep those that should not be here from staying indefinitely. There has been too much news of pedophiles, tax evaders, criminals etc. coming and staying in Panama and you find out about them after something bad has happened in Panama. This should also remove some sleazy project developers from coming to Panama, running up prices, taking advantage of naive gringos and even Panamanians, then after making their millions living in other parts of the world and not spending that money here.
As with anything of this nature happening, sometimes good people are affected negatively. Panama has a lot of good people living within Panama, earning money and contributing real dollars to the Panama economy, and they may be here on a tourist visa. This is similar to many of the illegal aliens living in the US that have been good for the economy, but none the less are there under the radar.
Well, Panama has improved its radar and is doing something to gain control of a real problem. The US could take a lesson from Panama. Now you can take a pessimistic view of the change and think the world is coming to an end and this change is a good reason to take Panama off your list of retirement locations. However, I think if you are the right type of person, this just might be a new reason to put Panama higher on the list of candidates.
The one thing I do not believe that Panama has done well, has to been to give ample notice to those already here that this change was coming. It should have prepared its border agents in the immigration office to communicate the limits of the visa, to those entering Panama, in a clear but non-belligerent fashion. This is a time when a little intelligent PR would go along way to make what many may take as a negative and present it in a positive light.
My feeling after sleeping on it, is that this is a good change. I want the people that come to Panama to live, to be assets to Panama and not detriments. Well those are my thoughts. I am sure there are other opinions that may differ from mine.