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Panama Immigration: If going to Panama, find out first the best place to clear in.

By Sue Richards last modified Jun 26, 2012 11:22 AM

Published: 2012-06-26 11:22:23
Countries: Panama

Since 6 March of this year, when Ronaldo Menoza Tapia – Regional Manager of Immigration service in Colon - sent a circular requesting a tightening up of the visa process for yachts visiting Panama, the structure and charging of visa fees has been in simple terms, a total mess.

If you are planning on visiting Panama, be sure to first find out from fellow cruisers, or by looking at the latest information on noonsite, where best to clear into the country to avoid ridiculously high visa charges. This charge is not consistent and varies from place to place and officer to officer.

For a history of the Pamama Immigration saga see here
For latest updates from cruisers on clearing in see here

Our latest report comes from a cruiser who just cleared in at Colon yesterday. Previously, all reports noonsite had received from this port were that no immigration fees were being charged in Colon, however, for one poor cruiser this was not the case. See below:

Fellow cruisers,

The situation is still erractic in Colon.

I was just charged US$105.00 for a visa today on arrival in Colon. Apparently some people are charged, some are not. I was charged by the Servicio Nacional de Migración $100.00 for a marino visa pleasure yacht and $5.00 for registry fee. This is the most expensive stamp that I've ever seen.

I arrived directly at Shelter Bay Marina because I had some mechanical problems, otherwise I would have stopped in Portobello. The Port Authority and immigration officers at the marina received me and did the initial paperwork right here, but I couldn't avoid going downtown to get a cruising permit and the visa. The surprise part is that I would have to pay for the visa.

I couldn't find written anywhere the amount you are supposed to pay. At the immigration office it is written on their check list to pay the fee, but they don't clearly state the value. $105.00 is in line with the value they were charging earlier on this year. I questioned the value and the fact that some places don't charge it but I was told that it is the law and that other places are not doing it properly.

I've talked to some people here in the marina that arrived a couple days before me that said that they were not charged.

I suggest others to avoid clearing in Colon, if possible. I was told by a Canadian couple that I met at the Port Authority building that Portobello, half a day sailing from here, is issuing visas at no charge. Please watch out to avoid unexpected expenses.