When an American wants to visit Panama all they need is a US Passport, no Visa is required. When a Panamanian wants to visit the US they will need time, money and the ability to make a US Consul agent agree to issue a Visa.
I went to Panama City to do the Visa process with a friend who wants to go to Miami and that the Royal Caribbean cruise back to Colon. We took the bus. Usually the bus trips are smooth, this time our bus to the capital broke down near Chiriqui and we waited an hour and one half in a fortunately air conditioned bus for a replacement bus. On our return trip we were not so lucky the air conditioning failed about two hours out of Santiago and we bathed in perspiration until arriving in Santiago where the driver fixed the bus.
As to the Visa process, these are the hoops a Panamanian must leap through.
1. You need Internet access
2. Start Here http://cdn.ustraveldocs.com/pa/index.html?firstTime=No
then follow these “easy steps”
For Nonimmigrant Visa applicants:
Determine your visa type by reading Common Nonimmigrant Visas. Each visa type explains the qualifications and application items. Choose the visa type that applies to your situation.
Once you have determined the correct visa type, you must pay the visa fee. The visa fee page lists the visa types and correlating visa fee in US dollars and native currency. Pay $160 dollars for a Panamanian.
To pay your visa fee, read the Bank and Payment Options page. This page explains how to make your visa fee payment. You must keep your receipt number to book your visa appointment.
The next step is to complete the DS-160 form. Be sure to read the Guidelines for Completing the DS-160 Formcarefully. All information must be correct and accurate. Once the form is submitted, you cannot make any changes. If you need assistance, please consult an immigration lawyer or translator. The call center cannot help you complete your DS-160. You will need your DS-160 number to book your appointment.
You are almost ready to schedule your visa appointment!
Now you will need to create a profile in our system. Follow this link and click on New User.
Complete all fields and create a password. Once you are in the system, you will see your dashboard.
On the left-hand side, click on Schedule Appointment.
This will start the process for scheduling your appointment. For each applicant being scheduled you will need:
- The applicant’s passport number
- The receipt number from Citibank or Banco General. (Click here if you need help finding this number.)
- The ten (10) digit barcode number from the applicant’s DS-160 confirmation page
As you go through the process you will be able to select your visa type, enter personal data, add dependents, select your document delivery location, confirm visa payment and finally, schedule your appointment.
If your visa is approved, the visa will be sent to your designated location selected when you scheduled your appointment.
All the steps omitted having to print a copy of a applicant summary page and as we arrived for the appointment we had to leave the embassy again and go to a tent outside where for $5 an enterprising private contractor was happy to print the page and let us return.
Then first call for the interview, only about 15 minutes waiting for some basic questions and fingerprints and then waiting again for about 0ne and one half hours for a second interview. Who are you, why do you want to visit, do you have family, here, there. Do own a house, do you have money in the bank and more and more. Finally the officer makes a decision, no and they give you back you Panamanian passport and send you home less your fees and expenses. Yes and they keep your passport and send it to Boquete in five business days.
This the closest picture I could take of the massive US Embassy in Clayton. Parts of the embassy look like a fortified bunker.
We were successful because my friend has had Visas before and never abused them, I saw others leaving with their passports in their hands. Xenophobic America is making is hard for people to visit legally.