As many have may seen in recent Panama news media carried interviews with Panama officials, Panama is tightening its borders and border hopping will end (My wording implied from the broadcasts, I have seen).
I have received specific questions related to U.S. citizens no longer being able to cross over into Costa Rica and return to Panama in 3 days. I sent the questions to the Embassy for comment and am posting the Embassy’s current response, until they have more information.
We here at the Embassy have reached out to immigration to obtain details about the news pasted below regarding the implementation of immigration regulations. According to the Duty Chief at Migracion-Paso Canoas, the PNM Immigration Director is enforcing these migratory requirements across Panama. This means that if an Immigration Official determines that a foreigner is using tourism status to reside in Panama, the entry will not be allowed. The Duty Chief gave examples of this situation, indicating that persons who exit Panama before the 6th month approaches and re-enter after three days, which is a clear sign that the individual is residing in Panama under a tourist status, will not be allowed re-entry.
In summary, these regulations were already in the books but now it seems the immigration authorities throughout Panama are going to be stricter about enforcement. That said, we have yet to receive a complaint from a U.S. citizen actually denied entry at the border for the reason outlined above.
Personally I think Panama is doing the right thing. Perpetual visa renewing residents need to end in my opinion. If you have made the decision that you want to retire and live in Panama, then work on getting a pensiondo card.
Panama cannot handle the huge number of people that want to live here and work here and leave every 6 months to renew their visa. A large number of Venezuelans learned this the hard way when they visited Costa Rica and were not allowed to return.