The new Migration Provisions in Panama
By: O. Del Río
The new migration law entered in force about eight months ago, which spirit is to rule “in amore restrictive manner” the entries and departures of foreigners and their stay in the country.
However, for the practical effects of its application, most of lawyers practicing or specialized in migration affairs agree in their opinion that there is confusion even as to the interpretation of the new provisions ruling migration in our country, as from the point of view of users (lawyers, foreigners, etc.) as well as of some officers with several years of service in the institution.
In example, with the aim to provide a more clear view of the changes made by the Decree Law No. 3 of February 22 of 2008, ruled by Executive Decree No. 320 of August 8 of 2008, we find that:
The Decree Law replaces the National Directorate of Migration for the National Migration Service.
The new provision classifies the foreigners entering Panamanian territory into four categories: non resident, temporary resident, permanent resident and foreigners under protection of Panama.
The category of non resident foreigners includes tourists, seafarers, passengers and crewmembers in transit; and temporary residents are those who arrive to the Panamanian territory by reason of labor, politics, culture, humanity, religion, among others.
According to the new law, permanent residents are those entering Panama by economic or investment purposes, or due to special “politics” of the Government, and the foreigners under protection will be classified as refugees, asylees, stateless and accepted due to humanitarian reasons.
The resident permit that the country shall grant to the temporary resident will be valid for six years, “unless different validity is provided under special laws”.
For becoming a permanent resident in Panama, the new law grants a provisional resident permit valid for two years and an identity document with the same validity term that will be replaced by the permanent documents, “provided that the interested parties fulfill the requirements provided by the law and regulations”.
The new law creates the “Registry of Foreigners” (Registro de Extranjería) which shall process all the documentation of foreigners applying for “the migrant categories of temporary or permanent resident… who shall be registered with a permanent numeric identification”.
It also provides for a support unit for victims of human trafficking, who will “receive a migratory treatment of protection, until the authorities define or solve their situation”.
Migration Trust Fund is also created. Its patrimony will consist of the resources existing in the funds and deposits of repatriation, the warranty deposits by foreigners who failed compliance of the rules for stay, and the bequests or donations received.
“The category of non resident foreigners includes tourists, seafarers, passengers and crewmembers in transit”