October 8th, 2013 (InsideCostaRica.com) In recent weeks Inside Costa Rica has received numerous reports from so-called “perpetual tourists” attempting to renew their Costa Rican tourist visa by crossing land borders into Panama.
“Perpetual tourists” refers to those who either live in Costa Rica without official residency, or wish to stay in the country for a period of time beyond the 90 days permitted on a tourist visa. Perpetual tourists usually cross one of Costa Rica’s land borders – either with Nicaragua or Panama – every 90 days in order to receive a new 90-day tourist visa after a quick trip out of the country.
According to verified sources, Panamanian border officials are now requiring those entering that country to provide an airline ticket with its destination matching the country that issued the traveler’s passport. For example, a person carrying a United States passport is required to provide an airline ticket destined for the United States.
Previously, travelers were only required to produce an onward bus ticket.
In addition, travelers are being required to show $500 in cash or prove they have access to such funds.
Those who are unable to produce the requirements are denied entry into Panama at the border, leaving them in a sort of immigration limbo, having already “exited” Costa Rica.
One such individual, a Canadian citizen living in Costa Rica who wishes to only be identified as R.T., was one such person.
R.T., a perpetual tourist, recently attempted to enter Panama, unaware of the new measures. Unable to produce an airline ticket back to his home country of Canada, he was denied entry into Panama after exiting Costa Rica.
Unable to enter Panama, R.T. was forced to turn back to Costa Rica, which could not issue him another tourist visa as he was not “arriving” from Panama. Left in sort of “immigration limbo,” a Costa Rican immigration official gave R.T. a 1-day visa so that he could return back to his home in San José without being detained by immigration authorities en route.
Inside Costa Rica has received numerous reports from other travelers and perpetual tourists who have encountered the same situation, though there are no reports of any additional demands placed on those arriving to Panama by air, such as those traveling to Bocas del Toro on NatureAir (another popular option amongst “perpetual tourists”) or those arriving into Panama City on international flights.
For their part, there are no reports that Nicaraguan immigration authorities have changed their policies.
It should be noted that the new measures are on the part of Panamanian authorities, and do not reflect a change in the policies of Costa Rica’s immigration authorities.
While living as a “perpetual tourist” in Costa Rica is not necessarily illegal, authorities urge those who plan to live in Costa Rica to seek an applicable form of legal residency in the country.