We’re in Panama City to officially begin the application process for our residency visa. Our attorney told us to bring copies of our passports, copies of the last entry stamp in our passports. Copies of a bill or contract that shows proof of our address in Boquete and five passport photos along with cash to pay for application. No problema….
She seems to have been very thorough except for one tiny little detail…. We must have a multi entry visa before leaving Panama when our visa application is in process! Which we knew , what we did not know is… This visa takes two business days to process..Gasp !! This little bit if information somehow didn’t get explained to us when I very clearly asked about leaving the country when the application is “in process”, which she very clearly answered, “YES you can leave as soon as it is “in Process”. If we had left panama we would have been fined $ 4,000.00! Deep breath…. Okay… So, my mistake was not asking extremely specific questions . When I asked if we could leave after our application was officially ‘in process’ I should have asked ‘WHEN” we could leave. Ugggggg! Oh Boy! Gotta chalk this one up to yet another lesson learned. Be more specific Holly.
We should have known better to plan things so tightly. This is Panama after all, right. Things just seem to get done much differently than one would expect. It would have been so nice to have had a list of important things and this whole entire process has been such a trial and error for us. You would think this was the first Residency Visa ever to be applied for. I mean come on! When someone asks about leaving during the application process why not include in your answer,”Be aware, you must not leave the country until the multi entry visa is processed which takes TWO days!” Uggggg! And our attorney specializes in immigration law. Well, I cant put the blame all on her, I am the one who didn’t ask the right questions. As a matter of fact, even besides our mistake of planning to leave the country, we couldn’t even return to Boquete if we wanted to until Tuesday because the immigration will have our passports. So no matter what, even besides the snafoo on the trip back to the states, had we planned only to be here in Panama City for Thursday & Friday, we would have been in for a big surprise because we wont have or passports back until Tuesday. So, We sit, time to start the fun of canceling all the hotels, the rental car, the airline itinerary, and oh yes…letting all our friends and family know the bad news.
We have already arranged the shipping company to meet us at our storage in San Jose, to pack our container. Right this minute we are thinking about sticking with that part of our plan. We might just have to get to Ca on Wed, meet with the shippers on Thursday and fly home on Friday. But, nothing is set in stone at the moment. We are relaxing and recovering from our crazy morning, I’m pretty sure Scott is fast asleep, a nap will cure everything. In a little bit we will regroup and strategize about what to do. There must be an upside to this dilemma, I just haven’t seen it quite yet. But, don’t you worry, I’ll figure out why its a good thing and get right back to ya….For now my mantra is ….Breath…Tranquilo….Breathe….Tranquilo…..Ahhhh feeling better already! Whew…what an Adventure! PFFFFFFT…
It’s about time for us to do our first border run. We arrived here on May 28 and as I’ve written before, everyone who arrives in Panama automatically gets a 180 days tourist visa stamped on their passport. This would normally be more than enough time for most actual “tourists” to be in Panama. But if you decide to stay and make this place your home then there’s a bit of a complication If you decide not only to stay, but to buy a car and enjoy the privilege of driving that car. You see, the brilliant folks who make the rules here decided to allow a foreign drivers license to be legal for only 90 days of those 180 days. So, even though our actual “tourist” visa is still valid, our drivers licenses are about to expire. As soon as our paperwork is in process for our permanent residency visa we will no longer have this issue. But for now, we are off to the border of Costa Rica to stamp out of Panama and hopefully, turn around and stamp right back in. It should be that easy but…
Unfortunately, there is a very recent rumor going around the local forums about a change, not in the law exactly, but in the immigration officers and what they are lately requiring for foreigners to re-enter Panama. We’ve taken notes from many different people who live here and have had lots of first hand experience. It seems that the same thread that we hear is that the requirements all depend upon how the particular guy at the particular gate at that particular moment feels and what he/she decides to require on the day you are passing through. The requirements seem to vary. But basically we should need a valid Passport with at least six months remaining on it, all the proper documents filled out (the ones we get there) they want to see either a bank statement showing you have at least $500.00 (or cash of that amount on your person, we aren’t clear if we each need to have this amount or only one of us?), some sort of proof of how we will be returning to our country of origin, since we are supposed to be on a “tourist” visa. (a bus ticket or proof of an airline ticket out of the country) . The latest rumor we are hearing about is that they are requiring that when you leave Panama you must stay two or three nights in Costa Rica before being allowed back into Panama! HUH? This is a very new rumor, this week and we are watching the comments on the forums closely, no one has actually “confirmed” this to be true. As a matter of fact there is a U.S. attorney who lives in Bocas and hosts her own forum dedicated to laws for expats in Panama, she just posted a comment today about this and says she has not found any such new laws requiring tourists to stay out of the country for a period before being let back in.
Our plan is to go this Friday, after school to the Rio Serrano boarder outside of Vocan, which is not the main border. The one that most people seem to go to is called Paso Canoas , just outside of David. The one we’re planning to try is about thirty minutes further than the one in David but we hear it is much less crowded with busses and much faster. We think It will be about a two hour drive. We figured we would go on Friday then if indeed we end up being forced to stay in Costa Rica for a couple of nights we wont miss any School on Monday. So we will pack a change of clothes and our swim suits and make the most of whatever happens! We will arm ourselves with all the possible requirements, copies of our passports (as well as our actual passports), our registration for our cars (another document we have been told they might accept instead of an airline ticket) We will take along $500.00 (taking $500.00 each just doesn’t feel too safe!) and we may just take the advice of a friend and just book a flight online and bring a copy of the itinerary and confirmation number and cancel the flight after we get back home. Many times you can just reserve a flight that you then never confirm and the airline will not hold it for you.
It should be an interesting experience and we cant say that we will know what to expect next time because you just never know what new requirements they made come up with! But if all goes well with our application for permanent residency, this should be our first and last time that we need to do this. Who knows, its an Adventure, that’s for sure!