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Message from U.S. Embassy re Immigration


Bonnie

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4 hours ago, TwoSailors said:

Thanks Bonnie,

One point regarding: 

There will be no deportation or any other repercussion.  After two years when the tourist goes to present the documentation to legalize his residence, will be fined for the remaining months not previously charged or the total number of months overstayed if not previously caught, but, will be able to present a Panamanian police record instead of the FBI record.

So this is all retroactive to the date of the first Panama stamp in ones passport? You would think there would be a grace period?

I'm not sure I understand you, but I read the two-years-in-country as beginning the last time you entered, not necessarily the first. Presumably, you could have made some prior border hops before beginning the two-year stay. Am I missing your point?

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12 minutes ago, Bonnie said:

I'm not sure I understand you, but I read the two-years-in-country as beginning the last time you entered, not necessarily the first. Presumably, you could have made some prior border hops before beginning the two-year stay. Am I missing your point?

 In order to use a Panamanian Police record check I believe an applicant may leave the country during the 2 year period as long as they didn't stay out for longer than 30 days.

That's the way it worked for Crisol de Razas and the extensions of residencies granted under that program.

By the way, overstaying a visa is not a crime in most countries. In the U.S. it's a misdemeanour.

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I still do not understand.  When I leave the country utilizing any method, I will have to pay $1500 because I border hopped for 2 years?  If I choose to apply for any residency, is this penalty payable at that time?  If this is so, this seems like a trap to me.

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According to the U.S. Embassy: " 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." The Embassy could be wrong, of course, but that's all we have to go by at the moment.

 

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33 minutes ago, Bonnie said:

applies to those people that stay in Panama two years, without exiting

Correct Bonnie, the actual Decree says that.

However I know from J's experience that in practice, the DIJ has been providing Police checks and the SNM has been accepting them from people who had exited for less than 30 days in total.

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6 hours ago, Bonnie said:

I'm not sure I understand you, but I read the two-years-in-country as beginning the last time you entered, not necessarily the first. Presumably, you could have made some prior border hops before beginning the two-year stay. Am I missing your point?

Ah...the last entry into the country. That makes more sense. You got it!

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On 3/23/2017 at 0:29 PM, TwoSailors said:

As part of our cost for our Pensionado Visa, the registration of our marriage License is included.

We as well submitted apostilled copied of our marriage license when we got our initial Pensionado Visa.  When we applied for our E Cedula  we read the document  and it  said clear as a bell we are classified as single.  When we asked our attorney he said...yes single.  To be confirmed as "married" there must be a Civil Registration.  Bud was fortunate to have done that himself ( I presume) our attorney wants $500 for it !

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On 3/29/2017 at 9:54 AM, Bonnie said:

Exactly. It appears that one can stay in Panama indefinitely on a tourist visa so long as he/she pays the $50 a month fine when demanded. No deportation. Clean record. I fail to see how this doesn't defeat the entire purpose of the decree.

One more thing, though, that shouldn't be overlooked. If you choose this route, you may be able to stay, but you will not be entitled to drive after 90 days as you cannot leave the country for two years to "reset" your tourist visa.

Stay 2 years continuously and pay a fine of $50 X 24 ( 2 years) = $1200.00 plus you would be driving illegally after 90 days.  If caught your car could be impounded.  That makes no sense.  File for residency and get a driver's license.  If the FBI  finger prints are the only snafu then ...yup it's a problem.   A costly problem if you elect the stay the 2 yr and pay the fine option.

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6 minutes ago, Brundageba said:

Stay 2 years continuously and pay a fine of $50 X 24 ( 2 years) = $1200.00 plus you would be driving illegally after 90 days.  If caught your car could be impounded.  That makes no sense.  File for residency and get a driver's license.  If the FBI  finger prints are the only snafu then ...yup it's a problem.   A costly problem if you elect the stay the 2 yr and pay the fine option.

Would be $50 X 18 (months) = $900, no? Since you get the initial 6 months as a tourist. Still costly if you get caught driving though.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Within the last couple of weeks I sent the following  to the U.S. Embassy seeking guidance for U.S. expats in interpreting various segments of the new Immigration Decree:

Stephanie, a week ago I sent two questions to ACS that have arisen out of the Embassy email about changes in the visa process. People are bugging me daily about these two issues as well as a third one which I've added below. Any chance of the Embassy getting some clarification soon?
 
The questions 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.
 
Thanks,
Bonnie
 
This morning I received this response:

Bonnie,

As we noted in our MASCOT to all U.S. citizens on March 15, 2017 that I’ve included below for your reference , based on the guidance we received from Panamanian immigration officials, in the vast majority of cases and what is being implemented right now, the U.S. citizen needs to leave Panama for a minimum of 30 days before re-entering Panama again as a tourist.  Since Panamanian officials implementing the law on the ground have discretion in their decision-making, we can’t give definitive answers to individual cases.  We encourage any U.S. citizen with specific questions about their own cases to call Panamanian immigration authorities directly at 507-1800 for guidance.

Best,

Thao Anh

It looks like the March 15 message is all the help we're going to get from the Embassy. The March 15 message is above, as is the e-mail about Price Peterson and Senor Diego Obaldia having received some additional some additional clarification directly from Migracion.

 

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As I said, the March 15 MASCOT is all we're get from the Embassy after three separate e-mails from me. Individuals are responsible for seeking interpretation from Panama Migracion.

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6 minutes ago, MarieElaine said:

What if a person has been here 2 years and was border hopping during the time the migracion service allowed this type of renewal?  Will these folks be penalized for abiding by the "discretionary" rules?

Those people have the option of regularizing their immigration status or leaving the country for thirty days. I'm not sure either choice is a penalty.

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