What is the change? Panama has made changes to its immigration law, including reducing the amount of time visa-waived tourists can remain in the country and shortening the validity period for temporary IDs that are provided while immigration petitions are pending.

What does the change mean? Visa-waived tourists, including U.S. and Canadian nationals, will be permitted to remain in Panama for no more than 90 days as a tourist. Temporary ID cards that are issued once applications for temporary or permanent residence have been filed will be limited to a six-month validity period.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing.
  • Who is affected: Visa-waived nationals in Panama for tourism or permitted business purposes and foreign nationals in Panama who have filed petitions for temporary or permanent residence.
  • Impact on processing times: No significant impact, though in some cases foreign nationals may need to apply for a new temporary ID if their petition for residence takes more than six months to process.

Background: The changes were among those contained in Executive Decree 590, which was published Jan. 10.

The 90-day period for foreign nationals in Panama on visa waivers marks a reduction from the previous length of stay of 180 days. Authorities at ports of entry may grant shorter stays in some cases, but if no specific term is granted, then the permitted length of stay is 90 days. Nationals who require a stamped visa, including nationals of the Dominican Republic and Cuba, will generally be provided visas that are valid for 30 days and renewable up to a total of 90 days.

Foreign nationals are permitted limited business activities when visiting Panama on a visa waiver, including assisting in business meetings and participating in interviews. They are not permitted to conduct work activities, however, including conducting business or work that involves having a desk, secretary or assistant in the office they are visiting.

The six-month validity for temporary ID cards is a reduction in validity, down from the previous validity period of 12 months. Executive Decree 590 also included provisions to assign additional security officers to the Panamanian consulate in Cuba to help with due diligence during visa processing.

separate directive recently took effect in Panama changing entry visa requirements for restricted nationals.

BAL Analysis: Visa-waived nationals should take note of the new length of stay requirements and be sure not to overstay their time in Panama. The change in validity period for temporary ID cards is of particular note for foreign nationals seeking to work at a company under a 10- or 15-percent quota requirement because petitions in these cases can take four or five months to process.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Panama. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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