Shopping Visas for Cubans for the Colon Free Zone Reactivated

The Deputy Director of Migration, María Isabel Saravia, clarified that it was not a new visa category. (Wikimedia)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 12, 2021 — Businessmen from the Colón Free Zone and representatives of the National Migration Service of Panama reached an agreement to resume the granting of tourism shopping visas to citizens of Cuba and the Dominican Republic. In a meeting on July 8, with local media gathered, they highlighted as an objective the economic reactivation of the shopping plaza.

The Deputy Director of Migration, María Isabel Saravia, clarified that it was not a new visa category. The provision is included in the Administrative Procedure Resolution adapted to the reality of the Colón Free Zone. In it, a person who demonstrates economic solvency to enter the country and take care of their own expenses is established as a possible visa applicant.

At the meeting, the manager of the free zone, Giovanni Ferrari, affirmed that the goal “is to reach figures in the tens of thousands with buyers from the Caribbean islands that positively impact the finances of the companies in the free zone and the city of Colón.”

The new agreement, he added, seeks to meet the requests of citizens with restricted nationality, and that could be extended to other countries in the future, “analyzing case by case, according to their specifics.”

For her part, Saravia said that to access the visitor’s card, applicants must present a plane ticket at the respective consulates once the visa is approved. According to the law, they will not be able to enter Panama with “dependents” and the document includes multiple entries as established by the immigration scheme of “entry-purchase-exit from the country.”

The tourism card, known as a “shopping card” among Cubans, simplified the procedures to enter the country for nationals of the Island. Created in October 2018, the document allowed the arrival and stay in Panama for up to 30 days by citizens, the self-employed or artisans.

In mid-2019, the Migration Service of Panama temporarily suspended the issuance of the visa, alleging irregularities detected by the Government in the allocation and use of this procedure. On March 16, it issued an order permanently eliminating the tourist card.

On that occasion, the Panamanian Administration declared that from that moment on, both Cubans and Dominicans had to apply for a Tourist Visa before “the Panamanian Consulate of their country of origin or residence, or through a legal representative at the headquarters of the National Migration Service,” complying with current regulations.

Before being eliminated, the “shopping card” had cost 20 dollars in Cuba and could also be requested by Cuban citizens who had previously traveled to Panama or to a third country and who did not have a stamped visa.

The ease of entering Panamanian territory allowed many Cubans to increase their personal wealth by importing all kinds of merchandise that they later sold in Cuba on the black market.

In 2018, 57,251 Cubans visited Panama, and by mid-2019, more than 17,000 Cubans had arrived there, leaving Panamanian merchants in the Colón Free Zone a profit of more than 100 million dollars, according to figures for those years provided by the authorities of that commercial center.

Translated by Tomás  A.


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