Message for U.S. Citizens:Information on Panamanian Immigration Regulations

Following is the latest ACS message

U.S. Embassy in Panama

Message for U.S. Citizens

March 15, 2017


The U.S. Embassy in Panama would like to inform all U.S. Citizens in Panama that on March 6th 2017, the Panamanian Immigration Authority (Servicio Nacional de Migracion-SNM) announced new guidance for Panamanian immigration officials on the enforcement of pre-existing regulations.  According to the SNM, immigration officials have been instructed to be stricter about the enforcement of the regulation that foreigners entering Panama with tourist status prove that they are in fact entering Panama as tourists and not residing in Panama.  Since the announcement, the Consular Section has received many questions from U.S. citizens about this new guidance.  Below are the most frequently asked questions along with the responses the Consular Section received from the SNM.  Should you have further questions, please reach out to the SNM directly via phone at 507-1800 or visit their website at:


In order to re-enter Panama on tourist status, does a U.S. Citizen need to return to their country of origin (the country from which they came into Panama) or can they return from a third-country (example: Costa Rica)?

Answer:  In the new guidance SNM does not specify if the tourist needs to return his/her country of origin. What is being implemented is that, in most cases, the person needs to leave Panama for a minimum of 30 days before reentering as a tourist.

In order for a person to re-enter Panama on tourist status, what is the minimum amount of time the person needs to spend outside of Panama?

Answer: The new requirement that is being implemented by SNM in reference to time spent out of Panama is a minimum of 30 days before applying for admission, in most cases.

In order for a person to re-enter Panama on mariner visa status, what is the minimum amount of time the person needs to spend outside of Panama.

Answer: According to SNM, mariner visas are valid for 90 days and must be renewed on the 90th day, or the day before, from the date of the previous mariner visa stamp.  Mariner visas can only be renewed once before the visa- holder needs to exit Panama. The amount of time the person with the mariner visa needs to stay outside of Panama is not specified by SNM.

If entering Panama on tourist status, does the method of entry need to match the method of exit (i.e. can a U.S. Citizen enter Panama on a plane and use as proof of exit evidence that they own a boat in Panama and plan to exit via boat)?

Answer: The method of entry and exit into and out of Panama does not have to be the same so long as the entries and departures are met legally by using established Ports of Entry – land, maritime or air and admitted by a Panamanian immigration officer.

Do U.S. Citizens with legal Panamanian residency status also require a roundtrip ticket when entering Panama?

Answer: No.  A foreigner with legal residence in Panama does not need to show proof of exit from Panama.

Is a person applying for Panamanian residency required to stay in Panama for the entire duration of time required to complete the residency process? If so, what happens if the process takes more than the allotted six months for tourist status.


Answer: If the person has an ID that shows that his/her residency is in process, the person is fine to leave and return to Panama.  If there is no ID, then the person should exit as a tourist (i.e., before the sixth month approaches).


How long does the FBI Identification Record process, required for purposes of obtaining residency in Panama, take? Can this process be expedited?


Answer: For information on the FBI identification record process, individuals may visit  According to the FBI website, the current turnaround estimate for these records is 12 to 14 weeks plus the amount of time the results may take to arrive in the mail.  Currently there is no option to receive the response electronically. For questions on this topic, individuals may call (304) 625-5590 or write an email to


Tourists are only allowed to drive in Panama for 90 days.  Is there an exception for this given that tourists are allowed to stay in Panama for 180 days?


Answer: According to the Transit authority ( Artículo 110) foreigners that enter Panama as tourists are not permitted to obtain Panamanian drivers’ licenses and are only allowed to drive with a foreign license for 90 days.  There are no exceptions to this rule.


Can SNM waive the FBI Identification Record process if a person does not exit Panama for two years? If so, would there be an exception to the 180 day stay limit for tourists for a person trying to obtain this waiver?


Answer: If a person stays in Panama for more than two years then the FBI requirement does not apply.  The waiver of the FBI requirement applies to those people that stay in Panama two years, without exiting.  In these cases, a fine is paid by the person for overstaying their tourist visa and the person is only required to present a PNM police record rather than the FBI check.


For further information about Panama:

  • See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Panama Country Specific Information.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler-Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Contact the U.S. Embassy in Panama, located at Building 783, Demetrio Basilio Lakas Avenue Clayton, Panama, at +507-317-5030, 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Friday.  After-hours emergency number for U.S. citizens is +507-317-5000.
  • Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

15 thoughts on “Message for U.S. Citizens:Information on Panamanian Immigration Regulations

  1. It will be interesting to see how they handle foreign business people traveling back and forth to Panama numerous times in a 6 month period.

  2. One more question: does the new 90 limit only apply to those who entered the country after it was enacted? In other words, do people who entered before it was enacted still have a tourist visa of 180 days or has the visa been retroactivly shortened to 90 days from date of entry?

  3. This is terrible news. Hubby and I were hoping to move to Panama later this year after we went on one of those ‘move to panama’ tours. But we don’t have any lifetime income as yet so don’t qualify for pensionado (not for another 8 years). We were assured we would be Ok to come back and forth as a tourist, leaving every 90 days, by the immigration lawyer we met. We don’t qualify for the Friendly Nations either. I now don’t see any way that we can hope to live in Panama any more. Dreams dashed 🙁

  4. Rules and laws change in Panama. Any information an immigration attorney, or anyone else gives you, is good for that day, at that moment that they give it to you. No one can control law changes in Panama. Previously, tourists who were in Panama 180 days were allowed to leave for 3-4 days then get stamped back in to Panama to start another tourist stay for 180 days. But too many people abused this system doing it year after year so Panama put an end to it and now, as of March 6th, requires 30 days out of the country once you have been in Panama as a tourist for 180 days.

    There is some false information in this communication from the US Embassy. If you are in between getting your temporary Visa and your permanent Visa, you cannot leave the country unless you have a multi-entry Visa stamp in your passport. If you do leave the country while you are in the process of getting your Visa, there will be a $2,000 fine to re-enter Panama.

  5. I am nearing the end of my 180 day tourist visa, but my flight out of PTY is scheduled for my 182nd day in country. I’ve been told I can pay a $50.00 fine in the migration office at Tocumen on my way out. That cuts it close for my comfort zone. Can I pay my fee a few days before I leave? I read in an old old 2005 post that I would be able to stay in the country for 8 days after I pay the fine. Also, since my 181st day is on a SATURDAY – I suppose I’m not able to pay the fine until I actually cross over…..

  6. My visa is good for a 180 days , but my license is only good for 90 days . How long do I have to leave the country for before I can drive again?

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