It is now "required" but not always enforced, that you should have a ticket showing you are leaving Panama upon arrival at Panamanian Immigration (at the various Costa Rica border.  So, how safe would it be to simply book a reservation on Copa (held for up to three days without paying) and take that reservation with you to show in case you are asked?  
I have in the past used a paid for ticket on United, that you CAN get refunded but only when cancelled within 24 hours.  
Copa won't refund a ticket without penalty as is shown here 

a href="https://www.copaair.com/en/web/pa/faq-reservations>">https://www.copaair.com/en/web/pa/faq-reservations>;

thoughts?

and be aware I am in process of getting a Pensionado to avoid this problem on-going, but i need to do a couple more crossings beforehand.

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Probably won't work unless ticket is paid. Rio Sereno required the ticket to paid, and they check. I used a paid ticket at Paso Canoas, so no problems. One variable is they have the time to check in Rio Sereno, maybe not in Paso unless you are the only one at the counter.

RS required ticket to be to your country of origin, contrary to Panama's own laws, which also allow onward passage.

Thank you, Floyd . Then the simplest solution is use united.com to buy a one way ticket to the US from Panama, take a copy of the completed transaction showing your Record Locator Code and it should be a breeze with immigration (in Panama) and then be certain you call United to cancel that ticket within 24 hours.   

Howard. One problem with your scenario is that Panama is requiring you to exit the country for 3 days. You must have a paid for ticket back to the country of origen when you re enter the country. They have on occasion asked me to see the ticket on exiting as well as entering at Paso Canoas. Why? I am not sure unless it is to discourage people from doing just what you suggest

You say you are in the process of getting a Pensionado.... does that mean you started the process? If you did then you should have a temporary visa until you get permanent  one....

I have been told, but not sure if it is correct, that having a reservation confirmation only will work. That would be the kind where payment is due within 24 hours.

Also been told that there are people at the border that will provide that service - no idea what that would cost.

Hope that helps.

If you have started the process of pensionado do NOT cross the border with out the 1 year temporary visa. It cost $50 and can be purchased at immigration in David. Your lawyer should know this. You don't have to buy the visa but if you leave the country without it then you might have to pay a lawyer to straighten it out when your PassPort goes Panama City . They process your application and when it is ready THEN they request your passport be sent to them Not before. So any visa stamps that appear after your application date usually causes problems. My lawyer told me once immigration has your paper work in David and then transfers it to Panama City you should not leave the country unless you have the Temp Visa. It works---I had to make a trip to Florida on the temp visa before my paper work was completed in Panama City and the visa kept me from starting over again on the time stamps. What they do is actually count the days you have been out of the country listed on the application and compare them to the PassPort from the time you turn in your paper work in David. This happened to a friend of mine. It cost her some time and money. And, another friend of mine had to visit the U.S. after his application was sent to Panama City and he had the temp visa. He didn't have probelms either when his passport was sent to Panama City for final approval because he had the temp visa also.

If you're 90 days or 180 days have expired before your passport is sent to Panama City that is a problem. So, the 1 year visa gives you more than enough time to get your pensionado.

Also, all USA airline companies have to totally refund if cancelled within 24hrs under the USA laws and NO fees charged. Cancellations and refunds are handled differently. For Costa Rica canellations work better. Other companies abroad usually charge a fee if you buy a refundable ticket. I did the American Airlines ticket by buying the ticket on the last day in Costa Rica. Then cancel as soon as I stamped back in Panama within hours of purchase of the ticket. Worked every time. American Airlines was really good with this. One reason is they do not hit your credit card for 24hrs and it is easier to cancel the purchase. I simply told them I changed my mind and they cancelled with no problems.

Also, I did the hop for two years until I was certain I wanted to live in Panama permenantly. I have the pensionado now.

Two years ago I could cross and be back within one hour. They are NOW enforcing rules that have been on the books for years. The law actually states "ONWARD" travel but at Paso Canoas land border the bus ticket won't work. The bus ticket actually worked for me on my original flight OUT of the U.S. because the airlines honor "ONWARD" travel when leaving the U.S. and they are responsible for this not the Panamanian Govt. Actually, it is the immigration officers call at the window.

The Panama exit window does not require proof of return ticket to your passport country. When you leave Panama you are considered an "ONWARD" traveler. It is not law. I have never been checked when leaving. They will tell you if you ask them what you need to return but it is not law to prove return ticket when leaving ONLY when entering. When you buy and print the American Airlines ticket it will say "PAID" on it. You don't get the actual ticket you get the reservations as paid.

I can't vouch for this as I have never used them, but you can rent a ticket that gets cancelled for you. www.flyonward.com

You've still got it wrong, Steve. I think what you mean is "thorough" and "Changuinola."  :')

I just got back from the border yesterday night. They didn't even check my Bank statement, just my airline tickets.

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