Great news for citizens of India in our April 2018 immigration update!
April 4, 2018: the National Immigration Service of Panama rescinded the Authorised Visa to enter Panama as a tourist. Executive Decree 1113 establishes Indian nationals can apply for a stamped tourist visa. The Security Council of Panama does not need to review each application for a stamped visa.
As of June 1, Indian citizens may receive a multiple entry-exit visa for Panama for up to three (3) years. They must fulfill the requirements of the Consulate and Immigration Department and pass the necessary filters. For this purpose, Panama will assign employees of the Immgiration Department and the Ministry of Security to both of the Consulates in India. These additional employees will review and approve the stamped visa applications.
As mentioned, Panama has 2 Consulates in India: one in New Delhi and another in Mumbai. The contact details for Mumbai are available here: https://www.mire.gob.pa/index.php/es/asia/india/9144-mumbai. And here are the details for New Delhi: https://www.mire.gob.pa/index.php/en/india-direccion-y-horario
The costs of the stamped visa application are: US $50.00. (Payment does not guarantee that the application will be approved).
Once in Panama, it will be possible to apply for a residency permit. You still must fulfill the necessary requirements for immigration – such as economic solvency, investment options or 2nd passport application. Check the requirements before you arrive in Panama. Make sure you have all the necessary documentation with you, or plan a second trip to Panama to apply for the residency. You may want to check it out before you decide to move here.
We also have a new form available on our website, which will help us provide you with the information you need for your investment visa application.
Back in September, 2017, Panama already rescinded for Chinese citizens the requirement for Authorised Visas. Chinese citizens may now travel to Panama merely with a stamped visa also. As of last week, Panama is receiving flights directly from China into Tocumen International Airport.
Other restricted nationalities
April 2018 immigration update: other authorised visas news
For other restricted nationalities that usually require an Authorised visa, if they have residency in Europe, they do not require an Authorised Visa. However, their Schengen Visa or residency for Europe must be valid for no less than one year from the date they arrive in Panama (i.e. the visa needs to be valid for at least another year). Countries which require an Authorised Visa for Panama are those such as Cuba, Albania, Bahrein, Jordan, etc. (See the complete list here: http://www.atp.gob.pa/requisitos-de-entrada-panama).
Who needs a consent letter?
A consent letter is needed for under age children –
- travelling alone, or with
- one parent/guardian
- a group (such as sports/arts/competitions)
If you are travelling abroad (from Panama) with a child who was born in Panama (even if they are travelling on a foreign passport, and not their Panamanian passport) or you have residency in Panama, then you should go through the process (online as of the 1st of April, 2018) of getting a consent letter from the other parent/guardian of the child. This is especially important if you are travelling with a child that is not your own (nephew, neice, friend’s child).
As of April 1st, the system will change, so I will provide details of how to proceed at the moment (before April 1st) at the bottom of this article, and at the beginning I will deal with the new system that will come into play shortly.
You do not need a consent letter if both parents are travelling together with the child/children. In this case, at immigration you need to have at hand: passports, birth certificate (for the child/minor), and a little patience while they review/compare the passports with the birth certificate.
If they have a “cédula infantil”, you can replace the birth certificate with a copy of the cédula (both sides – because on the reverse are the names of the parents), and you need to also carry the original cédula infantil. They will probably keep the photocopy.
When do you need it?
My experience has been that the only time I need this letter is leaving Panama, not once I am internationally travelling. I usually make, however, two letters, because it is my experience that they KEEP the birth certificate and letter each time I leave the country. So, I make sure I have a second one with me for the rest of the trip, just in case. In Panama, this is a legal requirement: if you don’t have it, you will miss your flight.
Also, I would suggest, if you have a foreign birth certificate, that you make numerous notarized copies of it, so that you don’t give them your original each time. For a Panamanian child, the cost of a birth certificate is $3.00 and can usually be obtained from El Rey. Otherwise, you need to get it from the Electoral Tribunal.
What do you need for the online consent letter?
You need to include with the online application the following documents (NOTE PDF format, maximum 10MB)
- Child’s passport or cédula
- Passport or cédula for EACH parent/guardian
- Passport of the third party that is travelling with the client, if they are not travelling with a parent/guardian
Instructions for how to proceed:
First, you need to sign into the portal: Migración en Línea and then go to “solicitudes”. This will look like this:
And, as you can guess, you need to click on the image of the parents and child for travelling abroad and the online consent letter.
This will open you up to the instructions, which state (in Spanish, of course):
Pulse el botón “LLENAR SOLICITUD” que aparece abajo en esta página. a. Coloque toda la información que se solicita en el formulario. b. Debe adjuntar a su solicitud todos los documentos requeridos escaneados en formato PDF con un tamaño máximo de 10MB.
El sistema le emitirá al completar el formulario un documento con el Número de Solicitud.
Con el Número de Solicitud impreso debe proceder a notariar dicho documento.
What this says is: Push below on the button that says “LLENAR SOLICITUD” (complete application), and complete the information requested in the form. Then attach to the application the documents requested in PDF format, with a maximum size of 10MB.
The system will then issue a completed form which has a Request Number. With this printed request number, you should go to the notary office to get it notarized.
Step one of the form is quite easy and straight forward. You complete the details of the minor: name(s), last name(s), nationality, cédula or passport number, and gender. Then in the second section, you complete the details of the trip or holiday: destination, type of transport (air, sea or land), date they will leave the country, date they return to the country, person who will be accompanying them, and your email address.
Then simply press “siguiente” / Next.
Here, you complete the details of the father and mother (or guardians). Once again, this is pretty simple: name(s), surname(s), nationality, cédula or passport number, relationship with the child (father, mother, guardian) and your gender (male/female). And then simply press Next/siguiente.
Upload your PDF file documents, and then press “send/ENVIAR”. At that stage, you should get a document to print out with “Número de Solicitud”, which is your Request Number. You take this print out to the Notary, and they will go online and verify the information submitted, and then notarise it. This is then what you need for the airport (they may, or may not, ask for it, but you should have it with you).
Who needs to go to the Notary office?
- Minor – travelling alone, with friends, a group or another family member: both parents
- Minor travelling with one parent/guardian – the consenting parent – the one authorizing the other to travel alone with the child.
What should you take to the Notary office?
- The form/print out from the system
- The passport(s)/cédula(s) for each person
In case you need more information:
Contact Joan Villanueva in our office, or maybe just watch this video from Immigration regarding this process (and don’t worry that you can’t understand the words, they are pretty self-explanatory):
I’m leaving before April 1st – what do I do?
In that case, you should prepare the usual consent letter, have it signed by the parent/guardian that is NOT travelling, get it notarised, and take it to the airport with you (and don’t forget the birth certificate).
Common Relocation Questions: Panama
We often hear relocation questions from clients who are moving to Panama for the first time and getting settled in to their new homes. I share a couple of them here to help you get an idea of what is easy and what is hard when you are relocating.
Bank account – Driver’s License – Utilities
Relocation Questions: Opening a bank account
I went to a local Panamanian Bank the other day, having just arrived in Panama. They would not allow me to open anything because I didn’t have a banking reference letter or a letter from an employer here in Panama. Can I open a bank account without a banking reference?
Panamanian banks, even before the Panama Papers, made it difficult for foreigners to open bank accounts here. Ideally, you want to be introduced to the bank by someone (your lawyer, your employer, a business associate). If you are applying for residency, let the bank know: this will make it easier to open the account. If you already have residency, make sure you take your immigration card or cédula with you.
Know Your Client: KYC
Banks here are required to complete their “Know Your Client” procedures, and all banks have a compliance officer that reviews and approves accounts. This is not the customer service representative that you meet. You will not meet the compliance person (that would hinder the purpose of having compliance). So, you need to have all the papers that they need to tick the boxes. Those papers include:
- Your passport
- 2nd ID of some kind
- Utility bill – that shows you have a place in Panama
- Professional reference – preferrably two – from lawyers, accountants, insurance brokers, realtors. No more than 3 months old.
- Banking references – no more than 3 months old; a relationship longer than 2 years (ideally)
And then you need patience: sit down and complete all the bank forms. Follow up on the account opening. Patience.
Can you open an account without a banking reference? Yes, if
- You are 18 years old or just recently became an adult
- Your employer refers you to the bank to open your payroll account
- A business associate or family member introduces you to the bank as a first time account holder. This one will only work in a couple of banks and in limited cases.
Relocation Questions: Driver’s License
I heard that my driver’s license is only valid for 90 days after I arrive in Panama, but my tourist visa is valid for 180 days? What can I do?
That is right: your foreign driver’s license is only valid for 90 days, but your tourist visa for 180 days. If you are living here on the tourist visa, and driving, then you either leave every 90 days or apply for residency. Panama does not offer a driver’s license to non-residents.
I am applying for my residency and would like to get my Panamanian driver’s license, what do I need to do?
Once you have your residency approved, you may apply for your driver’s license. You will need to have your foreign license (copy) certified by your Consulate. The Panamanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs then needs to stamp this copy, to make it valid for use here in Panama. The documents you need to take to Sertracen are:
- Your driver’s license + photocopy
- The copy stamped by the Consulate and Foreign Affairs
- Immigration Card – original + copy
- Passport – original + copy
- Blood test – blood type – laboratory approved by ATTT (if this is already printed on your driver’s license, not required)
- Do sight and hearing tests at Sertracen (wear your glasses and/or hearing aids, if applicable)
- Pay $40.00 at Sertracen – includes sight and hearing test
Be in good standing with ATTT – i.e. not have any tickets.
Another one of the relocation questions that we get is regarding utilities:
How hard is it to get your home connected to utilities: water, electricity, phone & internet?
This depends on where you are going to live in Panama:
Most water in Panama is provided by IDAAN, the national water institute. This applies to most small towns and urban areas. However, you need to check with people who live in the area how often the water gets cut off. You might want to buy a water tank to have a back-up system for your home. It is quite common in the rural areas, during the dry season, to only have water a couple of hours each day. Water is rationed, and you will want to have your personal tank for water storage.
In some remote areas, you will need to have your own well and filter system.
Most of the country of Panama is on an electrical grid and has electricity available, without having to go to solar power or diesel generators. However, I know of a couple of areas (Bocas del Toro, for example) that do not have electricity and where hotels or hostals rely on their own generators or solor power systems for their electricity.
You definitely need UPS batteries on all electronic equipment in Panama becuase of the electricity spikes. While theoretically the electric company is meant to replace electronics that get blown because of these spikes, the reality is that we don’t see this happening. Get prevention!
Phone & Internet:
There is phone and internet coverage in most of the country, although quality may be dodgy. I had clients in Bocas that struggled with phone coverage, because a hill blocked the cellphone tower. I have also been in parts of Chiriqui where you need to walk to the top of “that” hill in order to be able to make a phone call. But both of these locations where quite “off the grid”. You have a choice in Panama of Cable & Wireless (MasMóvil), Claro, Movistar and Digicel. Depending on which part of Panama (country) you are in, one provider may have better coverage than another.
For internet connection, there is limited fiber optics in some parts of Panama City. If you require high speed internet, you definitely want to check out availability. Speak with other expats regarding their experiences before deciding on a location. But if you are only looking for internet for personal use or limited office use, coverage is reliable in most areas. Please note: when there is a thunder storm we often have to restart our modem.
If you live in Panama City, and you are moving into an apartment, it should already have water connected. If it is a rental, it may already have the electricity connected, you need to check with the realtor. In Panama City you have numerous options for internet and phone, but you should check regarding the quality in your area. As I mentioned above, in some parts of Panama City, you will have fiber optics available.
Coronado & Beaches:
In Coronado, most of the apartment buildings have emergency water tanks, but you should check before you rent or buy. The electricity in Coronado has a wide coverage, but you may want a generator if you want 24-hour air-conditioning.
Pedasi & Las Tablas
You will want to make sure you have water storage tanks, as this area of Panama is known as the “dry belt”. There is water, but it will get rationed in the dry season. Internet: I am not sure of the quality, so you should ask expats that live in the area.
Boquete has a great supply of water, so this never seems to be a problem. You may suffer power outages due to rain storms, so if having electricity 24-hours a day is important to you, you will want to have a backup system. You should ask neighbours which internet provider is the best.
Please contact Joan Villanueva for more information regarding relocating to Panama.