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Monday, June 24 2019 @ 01:59 PM UTC

Renewing Your Tourist Visa – Part 1

Immigration IssuesSo you need to renew your Tourist Visa?

I just went through this bureaucratic procedure for my wife and thought I would share with PG readers my experience.
A couple of disclaimers. First, this is a story about renewing a Tourist Visa for an additional 90 days. There are other types of visas and you can get longer extensions, but I don’t know anything about those. So please don’t email me to ask me questions. I am not a lawyer. Nor am I a visa expert.

Second, the experience was reasonably pleasant (compared to the horrific experience I had registering my car). However, it – as any experience in bureaucracy anywhere requires patience. Not counting making the copies and getting passport photos, the entire process took us just over 1 hour.

(That said, I can’t imagine what getting a visa extension would be like in the States. Nor do I ever want to find out.)

OK. You’ve got a few weeks left on your Tourist Visa and you’re loving Panama so much that you’d like to stay another 90 days so you can check out some more real estate, surf Santa Catalina, start another business, or just hang out and eat more sancocho.

What do you do?

Prepare the following:
- A written request for a visa extension – in Spanish. If you have a Panamanian friend with a cedula who will ‘take responsbility’ for you, so much the better.
- A copy of your friend’s cedula (if you have such a person)
- A copy of your passport and the page showing your last entry into the Republica
- A copy of your return flight ticket
- Proof of your financial solvency (a bank statement works)
- If you have someone vouching for you, you will also need a copy of their electric, water or phone bill; if you don’t, proof of where you are living
- A copy of your tourist card
- Two passport-sized photos

Once you have all those head down to the Immigracion (it has a super-official title but I don’t know what it is) office located on Avenida Cuba, a few blocks down from the Loteria Nacional. Upon entering said building, you will make a left and walk all the way down the hall to a large waiting room.

Find the column in front of the windows and take a number. There is an LCD display behind the counter counting numbers, but you need to pay very close attention to the men and women calling out your number.

When your number is called, go up to the counter and tell the person that you would like a Tourist Visa Extension. They will ask to see all of your documents.

If you need further copies, there is a woman on one side of the waiting room making copis for a dime each. If not, walk outside and walk across the street to the small coffee-food stand. They also have a copier. And the very strong coffee costs 35 cents a cup.

Back inside, at the desk, the person will ask you to fill out an application. It is in Spanish. It asks who your responsible party is in Panama. It asks the reason why you would like to stay. Don’t write, because I’m a reporter for the Panama Guide.

Once your documents are accepted, you will have to walk to the Caja (the cashier) on the other side of the room and pay $1 for the extension. The cashier will give you a receipt. Take it back to to the person helping you.

Once he or she has gone through your papers and made sure everything is in order, they will tell you to come back.

We were told to come back in one week.

And that will be part two of this little narrative.

BTW, if you’re not sure about all the documents asked for, there is a sign in the waiting room that lists everything in English and Spanish. You can go into the room and copy the list before you wait in line.

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