Foreigners without I.D. to face fines
Last year, the immigration laws of the country suffered a drastic transformation and as a consequence from February 22, all foreigners w...
Last year, the immigration laws of the country suffered a drastic transformation and as a consequence from February 22, all foreigners who are visiting or living in Panama must carry at all times a valid I.D. It could a passport, copy of that document or in the case of residents their “cedula”, otherwise they will be fined $10.00.
The Immigration Department director, Clovis Sinisterra said that the authorities are not discriminating against foreigners, just trying to control the wave of illegal immigrants coming from different parts of the world, looking for a better life in Panama.
According to Sinisterra last year four million foreigners entered the country, some as tourists who overstayed their visas. Others entered illegally, and some came under false pretences. However the great majority were bona fide visitors who came to spend their holidays in Panama.
The director said that the Panamanian law is very specific with regards to identification and even nationals have to carry their “cedulas” at all times.
The problem with tourists being fined for not carrying passports came to light last weekend, when four foreigners who were staying at the Decameron Resort in Farallon, were detained by the police and when they failed to produce an identification were fined $10 each, although they were wearing the bracelets from the resort.
The president of the PanamaHotel Association of (Asociacion Panameña de Hoteles), Jorge Loaiza said that it is ridiculous to ask tourists to carry passports at all times especially when they are being warned about the growing insecurity problem in Panama.
“If a foreigner, who is not carrying his passport can prove that he is registered in a hotel, that should be sufficient for the authorities,” said Loaiza.
However, Sinisterra thinks differently, because over the last year there have been cases where illegal immigrants enter the country as tourists, stay in low cost hotels, find jobs in different businesses, although they do not have the right to be in the country in the first place. < t
The only way the authorities will know if they are legal is by examining their passport, that will show their entry date and their visa.
Observers in the tourism industry feel that the attitude of the Immigration Department towards foreigners not carrying their passports at all times will deter tourists visiting the country, who will prefer other destinations that have lest Draconian laws.
Sinisterra insisted that the immigration problem is a serious one that has to be tackled. There are illegal immigrants coming from Colombia, China, Venezuela, Pakistan, Afghanistan and even South Africa and something has to be done before it is too late.
The only advice he is giving to visitors is to carry at least a copy of their passport at all times, because that it is the only way genuine tourists can be identified by the authorities.