Foreigners in Panama: The Laws

by | Feb 11, 2022 | Panama | 1 comment

Panama is a multi-cultural melting pot. Her history is deeply intertwined with Colombia, and we find many Colombians have made this lovely country their home. More recently, political crises in Central and South America have drawn unprecedented numbers of immigrants fleeing unfavorable conditions to Panama; European and North American expats flock to Panama for its tax advantages and low cost of living compared to their homelands. The immigration process is transparent, fair, and easy, though some aspects of the law will change from August 2021.

Panama is also a country where race or origin doesn’t seem to matter. Even as a white person, I was accosted in Scotland for being a foreigner while waiting for a takeout. As an expat in Panama, I am accepted in society and valued, not treated differently.

Some companies might take advantage of my nearly non-existing Spanish skills and relative ignorance (we here at TCI are helping our members to know what to do and what to avoid) by charging gringo prices or faltering on promises, but that’s a Latin America thing.

The Laws in Panama for Foreigners

Venezuelan Deported after Causing Accident DUI by Pixabay
Venezuelan Deported after Causing Accident DUI by Pixabay

Panama Immigration made a tough ruling in May 2021 after an expat caused an accident while driving under the influence.

The immigration note read:


Panama, May 8, 2021. Through resolution number 10161 of May 7, 2021, the general director of the National Immigration Service, Samira Gozaine, did not admit the request for processing of the Venezuelan citizen Yudimar Sabina Díaz Sánchez, for having incurred acts that threaten public order and security.

Diaz Sanchez, is the person who was involved in an incident last Sunday, April 25 of this year, in Calzada de Amador, when she was driving a car and caused a collision, presumably under the influence of alcohol.

The immigration authority orders the closing and filing of the file of Yudimar Sabina Díaz Sánchez.

Face Deportation if Joining Protests in Panama by Pixabay
Face Deportation if Joining Protests in Panama by Pixabay

As she is in an irregular migratory condition, she will be deported from the national territory by the National Migration Service.

I am not sure what “irregular migratory condition” means. Perhaps she was here with an expired visa? The law is swift here in Panama, and immigration doesn’t fool around.



A Certain Sentiment

Certain groups in Parliament are calling for even tougher laws regarding foreigners with notions to deport anyone who may offend a Panamanian.

Respect Panama by Ultimate Photo Mixer
Respect Panama by Ultimate Photo Mixer

That’s a slippery slope. But in 2019, the National Immigration Service of Panama warned that foreign residency holders may face deportation if they joined protests.

Somewhere along the Mexican border to the US, a lonely sign stands. Some meme guru changed it to read “Panama” and posted it online. Isn’t it true for every country we visit?

The message to immigrants, expat or otherwise, is clear: Behave, obey the law, or leave.

A friend, also an expat, gave me this piece of advice recently: “Stay out of politics!”.

Let’s remember, as expats, we’re guests. If we don’t like it, we can – no, we probably should live elsewhere. Obey the law of the country, don’t protest it.

Respect the people and their law, and life will be peaceful. Vale?

Are you aware of the local law and how breaking the rules may affect your immigration status? The TCI Alliance team is here to help other expats navigate the jungle of foreign living. Don’t get caught by surprise! Sign up for free.

by: LP Wirth