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Wednesday, July 30 2014 @ 05:15 PM EDT

FAQ: Do I Need A Passport to Visit Panama?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked QuestionsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received today via email: "If one does not have a passport what other means is necessary in order for a U.S. Citizen from the United States need to visit Panama?"

I Think You Need A Passport: I might be wrong, but I think a valid US passport is necessary to enter Panama, right? The following information comes from the Panama specific page of the US State Department website:

  • ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS: U.S. citizens traveling by air to and from Panama must present a valid passport when entering or re-entering the United States. Sea travelers must have a valid U.S. passport (or other original proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a certified U.S. birth certificate with a government-issued photo ID). Complete information for American citizens is available on the Passport Information page at travel.state.gov or by calling 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) for information on applying for a passport.

  • Panamanian law requires that travelers present a passport valid for at least three months, and must either purchase a tourist card at the airport in Panama before clearing customs, or obtain a multiple entry visa from a Panamanian embassy or consulate before traveling to Panama. Further information may be obtained from the Embassy of Panama, 2862 McGill Terrace NW, Washington, DC 20009, tel. (202) 483-1407, or the Panamanian consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, San Juan or Tampa.

  • As of August 26, 2008, U.S. tourists are allowed to stay in Panama for 90 days, without extension. If they want to stay longer, a “change of migratory status visa” should be requested through a Panamanian lawyer before the expiration of the 90 days in country. An initial fee of $250.00 must be paid for the “change of migratory status visa.” Please note that the approval of the change in migratory status falls under the Panamanian Immigration Office’s discretion.

  • More information on visa types and the necessary steps to take in Panama is available at the National Migration website.

  • U.S. citizens transiting the Panama Canal as passengers who do not plan on disembarking from the ship do not need to obtain visas, report to customs, or pay any fees. If citizens plan to disembark, they need to obtain a tourist card from the cruise line or a visa at a Panamanian embassy or consulate prior to traveling. If they are piloting private craft or planes, then they need to have a pre-stamped visa from a Panamanian Embassy or consulate, as do persons crossing into Panama by land. U.S. citizens piloting private craft through the canal should contact the Panama Canal Authority at (011) 507-272-4567, (011) 507-272-4200, (011) 507-272-1111 or consult the Canal Authority web site to make an appointment.

  • Minors who are citizens (including dual-citizens) or legal residents of Panama are required to present birth certificates and notarized consent from both parents (in Spanish) in order to exit the country if not accompanied by both parents. This documentation is required at all land, sea, and air ports. Even if minors are not documented as Panamanian citizens and are documented as American citizens, they may be denied departure.

  • Visit the Consular Services tab of the Embassy of Panama website for the most current visa information.

  • Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Panama. Panamanian immigration does not require an HIV/AIDS test, but Panamanian law does allow for deportation upon discovery by immigration. Embassy Panama is not aware of any American citizens who have been deported due to HIV/AIDS. Should you have questions, you may wish to inquire directly with the Embassy of Panama before you travel.

  • Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.

So, If You're Flying In, You Need A Passport: There are obviously allowances made for tourists arriving on cruise ships, or passing through the Panama Canal with no intention of disembarking. However, if you're planning on spending any serious time at all in Panama it's worth the time, expense, and hassle to get yourself a passport. Hope this helps.

Copyright 2011 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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