The following is a report from Noonsite.com which will certainly have a large impacts on cruisers heading to Panama:
Panama Immigration are tightening up on the rules for visiting yachts.
On March 6, Ronaldo Menoza Tapia – Regional Manager of Immigration service in Colon – sent a circular requesting a tightening up of the visa process, whereby when boats arrive in Panama they are stamped into the country, and then have 72 hours to obtain a visa in one of the main ports.
Note that the 2 Immigration Offices at Porvenir and Portobelo are only Branch Offices under the Immigration Office in Colon. This means that they are unable to issue visas, and can only issue “entry to the country” stamps.
In Colon (Cristobal) or Balboa, in order to obtain a visa, skippers must provide:
- Responsibility letter from the yacht or the agent
- Crew list stamped by the immigration officer
- Boat registration
- Copies of all crew passports
- Copy of the Panama cruising permit
- Copy of the Panama Autoridad Maritima port captain check-in form
- 2 passport photos for each crew member
Incredibly, visas will now cost yacht crew $110.00 each!
Immigration claim that this charge has been has been on the books since 2008 when it was made Law, however the rules have been disregarded up until now. Oddly crew on commercial ships do not require a visa, and individuals arriving by plane still only have to pay the $15 tourist card charge. Why yacht crew have been singled out for this huge price hike is currrently a mystery, and we will post further news as and when we receive it.
It should be noted that in Panama, each Immigration office handles matters their own way and whilst Panama Immigration seem to be trying to make the rules more consistent, the Colon office in particular is well known for being somewhat more “difficult” than other places.
Noonsite has heard from a number of yachts who have contacted agents in advance of transit and have been quoted these new immigration fees. However, it seems not all yachts have actually been required to pay the mentioned high visa fee. As always, Panama remains inconsistent.
For the complete story, go to www.noonsite.com.