Site Meter
Send Us An Email
Panama Guide

Welcome to Panama Guide
Monday, July 16 2018 @ 08:36 AM EDT

View Printable Version

5,000 Foreigners Processed, 600 Work Permits Handed Out

Immigration IssuesThe Ministry of Labor issued about 600 work permits to the more than 5,000 foreigners who participated in the "melting pot" immigration event, which was extended by 48 hours. According to Samuel Vargas, the Director of Employment for the Ministry of Labor, said Colombians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans were the once who most requested the document that will allow them to legally work in Panama for two years. The official said any foreigner who wishes to apply for permission can do so in their offices, but they are evaluating whether or not they can issue the work permits under the same parameters established for the special "melting pot" events. The event was scheduled to start on 18 June and run through Friday 22 June, but as of this afternoon it had not yet completed. (Siglo)

Editor's Comment: Over the weekend I spoke to both the Director of Immigration, Javier Carrillo, and the Minister of Labor Alma Cortez. By Friday evening they still had not processed everyone who had showed up, and Carrillo said they would keep working until all of the foreigners had been processed. That's exactly what they did. But then the people from the Banco Nacional closed down their booth and left. Since no one could pay the money for the work permits, the Ministry of Labor people also left, but they told everyone to come back on Monday morning. So the entire event was "extended" through today in order to continue processing everyone who showed up. In fact, KUDOS to both Immigration and the Ministry of Labor personnel who worked 24 hours a day for a week to process all of these people. Some 5,000 foreigners are now legal, and (apparently) more than 600 of them got their work permits. Good for them. And for the record, these people don't go against the 10% limitation on hiring a foreigner in your company, once they've got their immigration permit and a work permit. It's just like hiring a Panamanian in that case. The 10% thing is a different special program, with different requirements and parameters, so don't confuse the two.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Concern Growing Among Those In Line At The "Melting Pot" Immigration Fair

Immigration IssuesBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - This week Panama's National Immigration Service is holding their 9th "Melting Pot" event. Foreigners living in Panama can present their documents and "normalize" their immigration status in the country. Those who apply, meet the requirements, and are approved are given a card good for two years allowing them to stay in Panama legally, from an immigration point of view. In addition they can also apply for a work permit through the Ministry of Labor. These applications are also being processed at the same "Melting Pot" fair event simultaneously.

This is generally a very good deal for most foreigners because it allows them to live here in Panama and to work legally, on the books, without fear of being deported or taken advantage of by unscrupulous business owners. It's also a good deal for the government of Panama because they are charging about $1,300 per head or more to process the paperwork. So if they process 5,000 foreigners this week, the government of Panama will be receiving more than $6.5 million dollars in fees.

In addition those approved will be given a work permit so they can apply for jobs and work legally in the country. This means they will be paying into the Social Security system, and they will also pay income taxes. This system takes people who are already here in Panama and working in the "gray" labor market and it brings them into the light, where the larger formalized system can get a slice of what they are making. The Panamanian economy is facing a labor shortage, so these fairs provide a trickle of new and legally registered manpower - people who can be hired to work "on the books" by local business owners.

In the past couple of years the administration of Ricardo Martinelli has conducted these events around the country, with the greatest effort focused on Panama City. This is the ninth such event, and it looks to be one of the biggest or best attended.

This morning I was contacted by some of the people who have been in line both inside and outside of the Roberto Duran arena for days. They expressed their concern over the slow progress. Many have been waiting in line since last weekend, and have gone without sleep or creature comforts. They are uncomfortable and cranky. They are afraid immigration officials might eventually tell them to leave and then not take care of them. And when people get tired and cranky, tempers flare. Believe it or not I have a following among the Spanish speaking expatriate community in Panama as well, and these people were hoping I could find out what's going on.

This morning I spoke with the Director of Immigration Javier Carrillo, and I asked him to address these concerns. Carrillo said "we are there working 24 hours a day. We're doing everything we can, and I can't ask my people to work 36 hours a day because obviously that would be impossible."

Carrillo said they have been somewhat surprised and overwhelmed by the number of people who have shown up to "normalize" their immigration status in the country at this particular event. "As of midday yesterday so far we have attended more than 1,500 people. We have had more of a response this time than we expected."

With regards to the slow progress and people having to wait in line for days, Carrillo said "that's part of the sacrifice they will have to make, the same way that my staff is working hard to take care of them, they will have to be willing to make some sacrifices as well. They are inside the arena, under a roof and not exposed to the elements, it's air conditioned, and there are chairs where they can sit and wait. We are working as hard as we can, and they will have to be patient."

Some people were complaining about a lack of vendors selling food, and Carrillo said "there are two concessionaires inside of the arena who have a contract to sell food, so no one is starving." He explained these were not contracts or concessions let by Immigration, but they are people who have already obtained contracts to sell food at all events held at the arena, so to a certain extent he does not have any control over what they do. I checked again after the interview and was told that yes, in fact there are two food vendors with stands inside of the arena. However these people are apparently also somewhat overwhelmed as well, and while both the Immigration officials and the foreigners are there 24 hours, the food vendors are not. I was told as of this morning they had just returned and were getting set up, ready to get started and open for business.

The people waiting in line were also concerned they might be turned away, and their paperwork would not be processed, because of the long lines and the numbers of people waiting. Carrillo said "anyone who arrives before 7:00 pm on Friday evening will be taken care of. I don't care if we have to work all day Saturday, all day Sunday, and all day Monday. My staff will keep working 24 hours a day until we have processed everyone who has turned out for this event, as long as they meet the requirements and if they have arrived before the end of the fair." So, no one is going to be turned away. Apparently at this point the Immigration officials are sort of making an "official list" - just registering the names and passport numbers of the people who are waiting, giving them a slip of paper, and telling them to "come back tomorrow." The bottom line is, as long as you're registered and on that list, you'll be taken care of.

So, That's The Deal: If you know someone who's waiting in line just tell them to be patient. It's slow going, but progress is being made.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Slow Progress, Long Lines At The "Melting Pot" Immigration Fair

Immigration IssuesThe National Immigration Service (NMS) granted 356 temporary residence cards to foreigners living in Panama during the 9th version of the 'melting pot' fair which began last Monday and will run until Friday 22 June. Meanwhile, outside of the Arena Roberto Duran foreigners from various countries have been waiting to be served since last Saturday. Some of them say the procedure is taking too long and progress is slow, although the officials are working 24 hours a day. According to a report from Immigration so far they have normalized the status of 228 Colombians, 40 Venezuelans, 33 Nicaraguans, 30 Indians and 9 Dominicans. (Siglo)

Editor's Comment: There are about three thousand people at the Roberto Duran arena, just sitting around, waiting to be taken care of. If they've only gotten through 356 in two days, then I don't see how they are going to be able to take care of everyone between now and Friday. They were expecting at least 5,000 total.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Ninth "Melting Pot" Immigration Fair Started Today

Immigration IssuesToday the "Melting Pot" Immigration fair started, and will run daily until Friday 22 June and will serve more than 5,000 foreigners who are in Panama. Thousands of people have flocked to the Roberto Duran arena to be granted one of these special permissions from the National Immigration Service, some sleeping outside the doors since last Friday on inflatable mattresses or tents, wanting to be first in line. More than 400 officials from the National Immigration Service will be working at the event who will be serving the public from 9:00 am until 7:00 pm. Some of the requirements - foreigners must have been in the country for at least a year. Entry stamps in their passports should not be more than six months apart. They should not have already started some sort of legalization process through Immigration under another program. And, they must apply in person. (Dia a Dia)

Editor's Comment: There were about 650 people waiting in line over the weekend. If they expect to attend more than 5,000 people during the week, that would be about 1,000 per day. There are notary public services available on site as well for those who have to make documents official. Through this program you can get "legal" for two years, and get a work permit. The government is using these fairs to get people who are already here and working anyway to become "legal" in the system, so they can pay into the Social Security system, pay income taxes, etc. The permits are only good for two years so they can yank it at any time.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

"Can I Have My Cake And Eat It Too?" Question About Pensionado Status

Immigration IssuesBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received this morning via email: "Hi Don. I have made two trips to Panama over the past year, now I want to cut the cord and find a home in Chiriqui province, probably Boquete. I also hope to establish a business in Panama. Over the past year I have been assembling the required documents for authentication by the Panama Consulate in San Diego. My hope was to obtain Pensionado status. Now I have just been made aware of Executive Order 343 which seems to offer long term status without need for re-newal. My question is, would I have to forfeit the benefits associated with Pensionado status if I apply under 343? (Sort of not "having my cake and eating it to?) Your comments or suggestions would be greatly. BM."

Editor's Comment: First of all, you should consult with a qualified attorney who specializes in immigration issues, such as the guys at the Panama Relocation Attorneys or Panama Offshore Services. The details of what will be issued under the new Executive Order 343 are still being worked out, while the Pensionado status visa is a well established program that's codified in law. I think from experience every foreigner who becomes a Permanent Resident in Panama can only do so under one program. Meaning, if you obtain a Permanent Residency status under Executive Order 343, then you won't qualify for the Pensionado visa. So no, you probably can't have your cake and eat it too. But the bottom line remains, consult with a well known and established professional. Good luck.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Lawyer Says Immigration "Melting Pot" Has No Legal Basis

Immigration IssuesThe Ninth Regularization Process called 'Melting Pot' has not only created discontent among the more than 11,000 foreigners who would have to pay up to $2,602 to obtain a temporary permit, but lawyers have also come forward to question the measure. Such is the case of the lawyer Ernesto Cedeño Alvarado, who believes that both the "melting pot' program, to be held from 18 to 22 June 2012, and the granting of work permits, has no legal basis. According to Cedeno, the process is being interpreted the wrong way because the government is permitting foreigners who normalize their status in the country extraordinarily to have greater privileges, and they are not required to comply with the requirements asked of others. He said at the same time they are demanding that foreigners pay an additional $500 to obtain a work permit.

This condition was also questioned by the lawyer, because he thinks it violates Articles 17 and 73 of the Labor Code, which states that any employer may hire foreign workers who have ten years of residence in the country, and the prohibition against hiring foreign workers that can reduce the working conditions for Panamanian workers.

Immigration Announces Ninth Conference - Although there is discontent, Javier Carrillo, the Director of the National Immigration Service, announced they are evaluating the two year time frame for the expiration date of the permits for foreigners who are being normalized this time. The Ninth day of "melting pot" regularization will be held from 18 to 22 June at the Arena Roberto Duran, from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. (Siglo)

Editor's Comment: The lawyer is right, of course. This administration is doing all kinds of things with Immigration that are not covered under current Panamanian law. You know how they are allowing tourists to stay in the country for six months? That's contrary to the current law on the books, but they are doing it anyway. There's no law that allows for these "melting pot" normalization fairs, but they're doing it anyway. And when Carrillo said they are "evaluating" the two year expiration date, what he was trying to say is that they might make it longer, like three of four years. The bottom line is that Panama as a nation needs more manpower, and this is how they are slowly letting more foreigners in to get work permits. I asked about the requirements for someone else, and basically was told "just show up, submit the documents, pay the bill, and they will get approved." In short if you're not wanted as a criminal in either your home country or Panama, then you're pretty much good to go. But, don't say that too loudly, OK? We want to do this slowly...

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Next "Melting Pot" Visa Fair To Be Held Next Week (Get Your Work Permit)

Immigration IssuesStarting on Monday, 18 June and running until Friday, 22 June 2012, will be the Ninth "Melting Pot of Races" event held by the National Immigration Service at the Roberto Duran arena, said the Director of Immigration Javier Carrillo. He said the doors of the arena will be open from 9:00 am until 7:00 pm during the five days of the event. The activity is aimed at foreigners who have been in Panama for more than one year and who want to legalize their immigration status for a period of two years. Carrillo said they would be given a card from Immigration, while the Ministry of Labor will issue a work permit. Notaries from Panama City will also participate to provide the documentation required for foreigners to apply for the process. There will also be authorities from the government of Colombia present as well as Interpol to provide police reports and background checks.

Applicants must have a year or more in Panama. They cannot have already started some other process of legalization to remain in Panama. And, they will have to pay the amounts allocated for immigration services - $767 for citizens from countries with a visa suppression agreement, $1,272 for countries without a visa suppression agreement, and $2,602 for restricted nationalities. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Panama is trying to get as many people as possible to sign up for this program. It's aimed at people who are currently in the country on a tourist visa who are working illegally. They want you to sign up, get a card, and get your work permit so you can work legally in the country. Then you can pay income taxes and social security, work "on the books" and all that. Unemployment in urban areas is down to less than 2% for the most part, and in some sectors there are more jobs than people with a pulse to fill them.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Changes Announced To Obtaining The Appointments For U.S. Visas

Immigration IssuesThe Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Panama wishes to inform applicants for non-immigrant visas to the United States that there will be reduced appointment availability in June and July 2012. We encourage all applicants with travel plans after September to schedule appointments in months after June and July. Our new appointment system allows scheduling up to six months in advance, so applicants can now secure appointments through the end of 2012. This will help us to reserve June and July appointment slots for applicants with more immediate travel plans. We recommend that all visa applicants schedule appointments approximately two-three months before their planned trips. Therefore, applicants with quinceañera plans for December or January can safely schedule appointments for September or later.

The new appointment system also allows applicants with more immediate travel plans to elect an option to inform them if earlier appointments become available after theirs are scheduled. We encourage anyone with short-term travel plans to sign up for this option when scheduling their appointments. Although we are still able to accommodate a small number of emergency appointments per day, these are generally reserved for life or death emergencies, urgent medical treatment in the United States, last-minute business travel, or students. Requests for emergency appointments must be made online following the instructions at http://www.ustraveldocs.com/pa/pa-niv-expeditedappointment.asp. (US Embassy Panama City Press Release)

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Controversy Over Tourist Minister's US Tourist Visa Resurfaces

Immigration IssuesThe controversy over the lifting of the visa to enter the United States (U.S.) of Solomon Shamah, the Director of Tourism in Panama, returns to the spotlight. On Thursday of last week president Ricardo Martinelli said via his Twitter account that Shamah was in America. However, sources consulted by this newspaper reiterated that the revocation of the minister's visa continues. "In any case, he only has an official has a visa that allows him to enter on a diplomatic passport," they added. In May last year, EU officials said they had withdrawn Shamah's visa due to possible links to drug trafficking. This newspaper called Shamah yesterday but his phone was off. He consistently avoids answering direct questions about his visa. He says it is a personal matter.

Official sources have confirmed to this newspaper that other officials of the Martinelli administration, or close to it, had had their visas to enter the United States revoked, and the reversal (of these decisions) is being studied based on the laws of that country, which attempts to put foreign officials who are linked to corruption at a distance, or those who have benefited from this in their countries. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: It was stupid to bring this issue back to the headlines by sort of "bragging" that Shamah was in the United States. It's apparently true that the government of the United States decided to revoke Shamah's tourist visa, for whatever reason. And it's also true that Shamah can still enter the United States on an official government passport as an official representative of the Martinelli administration. However it's also true that representatives of the US State Department will not comment about these things because an individual's tourist visa to visit the United States (or lack thereof) is, in fact, a private and personal matter. Just ask Ernesto Perez Balladares. There are probably dozens, if not hundreds or maybe even thousands of Panamanians who can't get a visa to visit the United States as a tourist. This is what the government does when they have enough information to have a "suspicion" that someone might be linked to criminal activity, but not enough to prosecute. No Mickey Mouse for you, buddy. And, all of this is even more true in our new and modern post 9/11 world. In Latin America most people lose their tourist visas due to issues related to drug trafficking, money laundering, human trafficking, or weapons smuggling. But, add the 9/11 factor and there are others have lost their visas due to shadows of links to terrorist activities or groups. Anyway, no matter what, having a Minister of Tourism without a tourist visa to enter the United States is an embarrassment to the Ricardo Martinelli administration - no matter what - but the president decided a long time ago to express loyalty and to stick with Shamah, even if he can't get a tourist visa.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Immigration Has Deported 95 Foreigners Thus Far in 2012

Immigration IssuesIn the first four months of the year, 95 foreigners have been deported to their country of origin, of which 49 were Nicaraguans, 28 Colombians, 5 Dominicans, and 13 of other nationalities. Among the grounds for deportation were - having an impediment barring someone from returning to Panama, false documents, and a lack of sufficient funds. All of the foreigners had been detained in operations conducted by inspectors of the National Immigration Service. (Siglo)

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks