30 Nov Visa Waiver for Panamá and the entire Central America
Panamá EmbassyManila, PhilippinesTo Whom It May Concern,I am a Filipina about to cross the border by bus from Costa Rica to Panamá.I have a valid US visa and I have used it more than once. Do I still need to apply for a Panamanian visa or tourist card?Adi________________________________________________________________
From: Panama Embassy <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date:11/05/2015
Subject: Re: Filipina with US Visa
Dear Adi,This is to confirm receipt of your e-mail.There is no need to secure a Panamá visa for Filipinos who holds a valid US B1/B2 Tourist visa (used at least once), to enter Panama. For your reference, please see the enclosed files.Regards,Consulate General of the Republic of PanamáManila, Philippines
The following is an excerpt from the attached document:
Starting July 21, 2009 there is in effect a new Law regarding tourist visas for entering the Republic of Panama. Executive Decree #248 states that:
“Those who hold a valid passport, with at least 3 months of validity left, and a valid visa from ONE of the following countries: USA, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia or any of the member countries of the European Union, which has been used at least one time to enter those countries, may enter the Republic of Panama by purchasing a Tourist Card, regardless of their nationality.”
For more clarification you will qualify for this decree if you comply with all of these requirements:
- Have a valid passport with minimum of three months of validity left.
- Have a valid visa (meaning that it is not expired) from ONE of these countries: USA, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia or any of the member countries of the European Union
- You must have used this visa to enter the country. For example, if you have a United States visa, you must have entered the U.S. with that visa in order to qualify for the waiver.
*Immigration officials are accepting as valid the entrance of the holders of a United States permanent resident card under this law.
*For further information of the law decree please click here. (CONSULATE -Formularios-Executive Decree #248.pdf)
On November 2015, I happily crossed the border from Sixaola, Costa Rica to Guabito, Panamá successfully with only the following documents on hand:
- Valid Philippine Passport
- Valid USA Visa with a stamp to show it has been used at least once
- Printed copy of an onward flight ticket from Panama
- $4 Entry fee
Some of my friends who had more powerful passports (Swiss and USA) did not think they needed an onward ticket from Panamá because they had a flight ticket from San Jose, Costa Rica to Europe. They were unfortunately DENIED entry.
Also, it is apparently safer to show an onward flight ticket from Panamá, than to have a bus or boat ticket. Although I have met some travelers who have shown only a bus ticket back to Costa Rica or a boat ticket to Colombia and have been granted a 180 day visa on arrival as well.
I traveled with about a dozen other people through Caribe Shuttle from Puerto Viejo ($30). They did not ask any of us for financial documents that showed $500 in savings, nor did they ask to see a credit card. There’s a 50/50 chance that all of the requirements will be asked so it’s best to have them on hand anyway to avoid delays and unnecessary hassles.
I have also heard that this visa waiver is applicable to all Central American countries, including Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize and Honduras. I have entered Nicaragua successfully and was indeed asked to show my USA Visa and submit a photocopy of it.
So if you hold a third world passport like I do, it’s always best to email or call each country’s consulate to find out if the visa waiver applies to avoid the unnecessary stress and headache of compiling too many documents that wont be needed in the first place.
I will be updating this blog as I am able to confirm or gather more info on the visa waiver.