SP87

What Happens If You Stay Your Full 180 Days?

22 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

Has anyone found out what happens if you stay your full 180 days IF you entered BEFORE these new laws and rules were created?

 

Example: a person who entered the country let's say December 28th 2016 and stays here until their 179th day. What are their rules for reentry? 30 days out and they can come back? - the only info I've been able to find is if someone stays until their "5th month"

thanks!

Edited by SP87
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Posted (edited)

 

I haven't heard anything since the publication of the below exchange with the Embassy.

 

 

Posted March 23 · Report post

On 3/16/2017 at 4:22 PM, Bonnie said:

I have written the Embassy asking them to seek clarification from Panama Immigration.

Here is the response I got from the Embassy:

HI Bonnie- Unfortunately, we don’t have answers to your three specific questions below.  The answers in the Q&A information we provided were  provided to us by Panamanian Immigration but for further, more specific questions people will need to reach out directly to Panamanian immigration or local lawyers .  Should you get further questions, you can refer people directly to Panamanian Immigration (507-1800 or their website at: http://www.migracion.gob.pa) and/or recommend that they seek legal Panamanian counsel.   Here is the link to a list of lawyers that other U.S. Citizens have used in the past from the Embassy website: http://photos.state.gov/libraries/panama/11567/americancitizens/2016-attorneys-in-the-panama-consular-district-updated-nov2016.pdf

 

The three questions I posed are as follows:

(1) According to the Embassy memo, "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"

How can a person stay for two years without violating the requirement that persons on a tourist visa have to leave every 180 days? If the fine is paid every 180 days, it defeats the purpose of requiring tourists to leave the country after 180 days. It appears that Venezuelans, Colombians, Nicaraguans, as well as U.S. citizens, could choose to simply pay the fine for two years rather than leave every 180 days. That would defeat the purpose of the law, it seems. Too, wouldn't a person be at risk for deportation after 180 days? Surely he cannot just say when his credentials are checked, "I'm staying in Panama for two years so as not to have to comply with FBI requirements, so I don't have to leave."

Example: John Smith, a U.S. citizen, is in Panama on a tourist visa. He reads the above-referenced memo and, having encountered difficulty getting an FBI report for one reason or another, decides to stay for two years so as to eligible instead for a Panamanian law enforcement check. He is fine on his tourist visa for 180 days (and on his U.S. driver's license for 90). On day 181 or thereafter, he is stopped at a checkpoint, his credentials checked, and deemed to be in violation of the 180 day requirement. Does he then go pay a fine, thereby becoming eligible for an additional 180 days? Absent being discovered as beyond the 180 day allowed stay, can he (or any other nationality) go to Immigration on day 181, pay the fine, and stay for another 180 days in apparent contradiction of the purpose of the law?

(2) The following is from  a newspaper article:

"The president explained that 'we cannot afford for the six-month tourist permit to be used to cross the border and then return, and stay here as if you  were a permanent resident.' "

On Friday, Javier Carrillo, the director of the National  Migration Service, said  that foreigners living in Panama as tourists must at the end of five months leave the country for at least  a month if they want to re-enter Panamanian territory. Carrillo said that the new measure “is for those who have more than five months in the country  as tourists and leave for  nothing more than to re-enter. Now they have to be out of the country for  at least 30 days."

The President and Director Carrilo seem to be contradicting each other. Can someone on a tourist visa stay in the country for five months or six months?

(3) While one can get a temporary visa upon applying for residency, it is unclear at what point in the process a temporary visa is issued. Is it upon first visiting a lawyer and starting the visa process, or is it at the time all the required paperwork is submitted to the government? The concern here, of course, is that 180 days may not be sufficient to fulfill some of the requirements, particularly the FBI report.

 

Edited by Bonnie
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Posted (edited)

 The problem is that Panama has not made any clear cut rules, it is all very wishy washy. The best way at this point is to hear about others experiences crossing the border, either by land or air. People have been attacked trying to tell their experiences, and that has shied people away from telling their stories. Maybe if this stops we can gain some insight.   It has been said before 5 months have passed to stay out 30 days and you will be let back in, but if you reach your 6th month staying out for 30 days won't let you back in. If that is the case when can you come back, 6 months, a year? No one knows. It has also been said that if you have been border hopping for 2 years, you can't come back in. If so, how long before you can come back? It has also been said that if you are in the process of applying for residency to show a letter or paperwork from your lawyer and you will be let back in, but will you really be able to, is this good enough? Hopefully some will come forward and tell their experiences so others can benefit. If you have been border hopping for awhile at this point if I were to do a border hop, I would treat it as if I wouldn't be allowed back in just in case. Have someone caring for your pets, let your landlord know you may not be able to come back, maybe go so far as packing up all of your things or selling them. 

Edited by Sheila
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Excellent post, Sheila.

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For the record no one has been denied or detained flying into Panama. 

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1 hour ago, TwoSailors said:

For the record no one has been denied or detained flying into Panama. 

Source?

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7 hours ago, Sheila said:

 The problem is that Panama has not made any clear cut rules, it is all very wishy washy. The best way at this point is to hear about others experiences crossing the border, either by land or air. People have been attacked trying to tell their experiences, and that has shied people away from telling their stories. Maybe if this stops we can gain some insight.   It has been said before 5 months have passed to stay out 30 days and you will be let back in, but if you reach your 6th month staying out for 30 days won't let you back in. If that is the case when can you come back, 6 months, a year? No one knows. It has also been said that if you have been border hopping for 2 years, you can't come back in. If so, how long before you can come back? It has also been said that if you are in the process of applying for residency to show a letter or paperwork from your lawyer and you will be let back in, but will you really be able to, is this good enough? Hopefully some will come forward and tell their experiences so others can benefit. If you have been border hopping for awhile at this point if I were to do a border hop, I would treat it as if I wouldn't be allowed back in just in case. Have someone caring for your pets, let your landlord know you may not be able to come back, maybe go so far as packing up all of your things or selling them. 

Although I am a proponent of "ask the man who owns one", the variety of experiences of which I have read many lead me to believe that no two crossings are the same.  Return ticket, $500 cash, 3 day exit required, all these things are applied or not seemingly at random. The only sure thing is that the border guard du jour has absolute authority regardless of their understanding of the law.

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13 minutes ago, JimAndNena said:

Although I am a proponent of "ask the man who owns one", the variety of experiences of which I have read many lead me to believe that no two crossings are the same.  Return ticket, $500 cash, 3 day exit required, all these things are applied or not seemingly at random. The only sure thing is that the border guard du jour has absolute authority regardless of their understanding of the law.

So true. Now however it's more than a matter of this guy had to show $500 and the next guy didn't. People have been denied entry and it would be helpful to hear the stories to see if anything that could be helpful to others emerges. 

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15 hours ago, Bonnie said:

Source?

The US Ambassador at the town hall meeting that was here in Boquete. He also stated" Should a US citizen have an issue with re entry into Panama via the airport to contact the Embassy at 317-5000, as it is manned 24/7.

At least that's what I understood him  to say. 

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I was there too, but that was weeks ago and very early in the game. A lot could have transpired since then, but efforts to get more info from the Embassy have failed. I will try again.

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Bonnie, it would be nice if they were able to tell you if they have had any issues with people having to call them from the airport. 

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Perhaps someone could call the 24/7 number and ask.  My guess would be they keep a log and might share the information with the wardens?

But then I think, this is government, what are the odds of that working?

jim

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It's a way off, but I have booked the sharp new lawyer in town, Martin SantaMaria to speak to us about immigration at the Tuesday meeting. He and his entire office staff will come on June 27th. Put it on your calendar and tell your friends who are having immigration questions.

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I called the number and was put in touch with a lady that oversees entry problems. She said that as long as your 180 days stamp is not expired you should have no problem re- entering at Tocuman. She also said no US citizen has been denied re entry as far as she was aware of.

Should there be a problem the correct number to call is 317-5200 which connects you with Security and then ask for the Duty Officer.

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8 minutes ago, TwoSailors said:

I called the number and was put in touch with a lady that oversees entry problems. She said that as long as your 180 days stamp is not expired you should have no problem re- entering at Tocuman. She also said no US citizen has been denied re entry as far as she was aware of.

Should there be a problem the correct number to call is 317-5200 which connects you with Security and then ask for the Duty Officer.

It's more a matter of how long you need to stay out rather than if you let your stamp expire. The information that people are wanting is if you leave at 5 months can you come back in if you stay out for two weeks or 30 days or 3 days? Also if you leave at your 6th month before it expires are you going to be let back in after 30 days, or do you need to stay out for 6 months or longer? Also does it matter how many border hops you have done in the past?

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Posted (edited)

40 minutes ago, TwoSailors said:

I called the number and was put in touch with a lady that oversees entry problems. She said that as long as your 180 days stamp is not expired you should have no problem re- entering at Tocuman. She also said no US citizen has been denied re entry as far as she was aware of.

Should there be a problem the correct number to call is 317-5200 which connects you with Security and then ask for the Duty Officer.

The language "as long as your 180 days stamp is not expired you should have no problem re-entering" concerns me, "should" being the operative word. I know that Michelle Walker's 180 days stamp had not expired when she was denied reentry at Paso Canoas. My fear is that the border officials may not all be in agreement about  interpretation of the decree, and that fear is exacerbated when I can't get answers in writing. If I were here on a tourist visa I wouldn't know what to do.

I have no record of the 317-5200 Security number that TwoSailors refers to. I wonder why you call "Security" to be referred to the "Duty Officer" (whatever that is.) The information I received from the Embassy is to call 317-5030 during the day and 317-5000 for emergencies. The emergency number is the most important to have with you should there be a problem after hours at the border or airport or when there is no one available at the main number. And now we have a third number.

27 minutes ago, Sheila said:

It's more a matter of how long you need to stay out rather than if you let your stamp expire. The information that people are wanting is if you leave at 5 months can you come back in if you stay out for two weeks or 30 days or 3 days? Also if you leave at your 6th month before it expires are you going to be let back in after 30 days, or do you need to stay out for 6 months or longer? Also does it matter how many border hops you have done in the past?

Well-stated, Sheila. I don't understand why it's so difficult for the Panamanian government to answer these questions. I don't believe the Embassy knows the answers, but I certainly hope personnel there are pressing for them.

I wrote the Embassy again yesterday but have received no response.

Edited by Bonnie
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President Varela has stated that “we cannot afford for the six-month tourist permit to be used to cross the border and then return, and stay here as if you  were a permanent resident”. He said that on March 18.

It seems to me that everything since early March has been Immigration trying to figure out how to implement a visa policy which accomplishes that.  Yes, the 30 days out of the country rule was stated by Javier Carrillo, the director of Immigration, but that was also several weeks ago.

As unsatisfying as it is, I think the focus ought to be on what Panama is trying to accomplish.  I rather doubt that Panama is particularly motivated to provide a lot of clarity as to how to circumvent their stated goal. 

We can speculate that the reason for the new enforcement policy is the flood of non-Panamanians from South America fleeing poor conditions.  There certainly is resentment against foreigners coming to Panama, competing with Panamanians for employment, and staying here indefinitely on a tourist visa.  There is currently a lot of political pressure on the Panamanian government to do something about that.

Panama encourages tourism.  It wants to encourage business travel to Panama, as well.  Being in Panama for extended periods is not the concern.  It is the drain on social services, not the least of which is health care, by the people who live in Panama as if they are permanent residents but are not. And, undoubtedly, there is some resentment of foreigners in general moving into cities and neighborhoods throughout the country which also contributes to that political pressure.

I have enormous sympathy for those who live in Panama on a tourist visa, especially those in this area who have made housing decisions, opened businesses, and made an enormous effort to relocate from far abroad.  They are almost universally not the burden that Varela says "we (Panama) cannot afford."

But devising a policy accomplishes Panama's goal without casting too wide of a net is nearly impossible. It has caught those who are contributing greatly to the country.  It has snared those who employ Panamanians.  It is devastating to those who can't (for very good reasons) obtain the documents necessary to apply successfully for permanent residency.  For US citizens, it has caught those who no longer have suitable fingerprints that the FBI can accept in order to run the required background check to apply for a permanent visa.

If the "30 days out of the country" rule if you're approaching the end of a 180 day tourist visa is the current policy at the border is truly a permanent and consistent rule (which I doubt), then it probably will eliminate those who can't afford to be gone from Panama for 30 days every six months. The intention may be that those people who can't afford it will be the ones who are competing for jobs and social services with Panamanian citizens and legal permanent residents.  Obviously, the effect is far more broad and draconian than that.

The bottom line is still the same.  Panama does not want foreigners living here indefinitely on a tourist visa.   It would be very surprising to me if the Panamanian government wants to really clarify how anyone can still continue to do so at this time.  That's the new reality in Panama.

Until it changes, of course...

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1 hour ago, Uncle Doug said:

President Varela has stated that “we cannot afford for the six-month tourist permit to be used to cross the border and then return, and stay here as if you  were a permanent resident”. He said that on March 18.

It seems to me that everything since early March has been Immigration trying to figure out how to implement a visa policy which accomplishes that.  Yes, the 30 days out of the country rule was stated by Javier Carrillo, the director of Immigration, but that was also several weeks ago.

As unsatisfying as it is, I think the focus ought to be on what Panama is trying to accomplish.  I rather doubt that Panama is particularly motivated to provide a lot of clarity as to how to circumvent their stated goal. 

We can speculate that the reason for the new enforcement policy is the flood of non-Panamanians from South America fleeing poor conditions.  There certainly is resentment against foreigners coming to Panama, competing with Panamanians for employment, and staying here indefinitely on a tourist visa.  There is currently a lot of political pressure on the Panamanian government to do something about that.

Panama encourages tourism.  It wants to encourage business travel to Panama, as well.  Being in Panama for extended periods is not the concern.  It is the drain on social services, not the least of which is health care, by the people who live in Panama as if they are permanent residents but are not. And, undoubtedly, there is some resentment of foreigners in general moving into cities and neighborhoods throughout the country which also contributes to that political pressure.

I have enormous sympathy for those who live in Panama on a tourist visa, especially those in this area who have made housing decisions, opened businesses, and made an enormous effort to relocate from far abroad.  They are almost universally not the burden that Varela says "we (Panama) cannot afford."

But devising a policy accomplishes Panama's goal without casting too wide of a net is nearly impossible. It has caught those who are contributing greatly to the country.  It has snared those who employ Panamanians.  It is devastating to those who can't (for very good reasons) obtain the documents necessary to apply successfully for permanent residency.  For US citizens, it has caught those who no longer have suitable fingerprints that the FBI can accept in order to run the required background check to apply for a permanent visa.

If the "30 days out of the country" rule if you're approaching the end of a 180 day tourist visa is the current policy at the border is truly a permanent and consistent rule (which I doubt), then it probably will eliminate those who can't afford to be gone from Panama for 30 days every six months. The intention may be that those people who can't afford it will be the ones who are competing for jobs and social services with Panamanian citizens and legal permanent residents.  Obviously, the effect is far more broad and draconian than that.

The bottom line is still the same.  Panama does not want foreigners living here indefinitely on a tourist visa.   It would be very surprising to me if the Panamanian government wants to really clarify how anyone can still continue to do so at this time.  That's the new reality in Panama.

Until it changes, of course...

Yes, but the point of this thread is not to go over the merits of why Panama is implementing these new changes or if you are a bad person or not because you have border hopped, it is to try to help those that need to cross the border  and to gain insight into the new policies and what people need to do. This is not only affecting "border hoppers", it is also affecting the "regular tourists". I read on another forum about a couple of tourists that had flown into Panama City and then crossed through Paso Canoas into Costa Rica to spend a few days there before returning to Panama to fly out. They were reportedly denied re-entry into Panama. 

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3 hours ago, Sheila said:

It's more a matter of how long you need to stay out rather than if you let your stamp expire. The information that people are wanting is if you leave at 5 months can you come back in if you stay out for two weeks or 30 days or 3 days? Also if you leave at your 6th month before it expires are you going to be let back in after 30 days, or do you need to stay out for 6 months or longer? Also does it matter how many border hops you have done in the past?

Quite honestly, I think folks are barking up the wrong tree here by expecting the U.S. Embassy to provide answers. I do believe you would get your best information by going directly to the Migracion offices in David.

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Yep, just go bark up the other tree! Same results!

Barking up the wrong tree is an idiomatic expression in English, which is used to suggest a mistaken emphasis in a specific context. The phrase is an allusion to the mistake made by dogs when they believe they have chased a prey up a tree, but the game may have escaped by leaping from one tree to another.
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On 4/18/2017 at 3:09 PM, SP87 said:

Has anyone found out what happens if you stay your full 180 days IF you entered BEFORE these new laws and rules were created?

 

Example: a person who entered the country let's say December 28th 2016 and stays here until their 179th day. What are their rules for reentry? 30 days out and they can come back? - the only info I've been able to find is if someone stays until their "5th month"

thanks!

If you have no previous stamps in and out of Panama, and you have a return ticket home in less than 180 days, and you can explain in Spanish that you are returning home at that time, I would GUESS that you would be allowed to enter.  jim

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1 hour ago, Keith Woolford said:

Quite honestly, I think folks are barking up the wrong tree here by expecting the U.S. Embassy to provide answers. I do believe you would get your best information by going directly to the Migracion offices in David.

I was surprised the Embassy became involved at all as they repeatedly say that they're not in the business of interpreting Panamanian law. But when they issued the first message to U.S. expats interpreting the law, they inserted themselves into the fray, IMO, and have some duty to follow up. Also, Embassy personnel have contacts within Panamanian governmental departments, which puts them in a much better position to seek answers than most expats.

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