I'm wondering if anybody went to Costa Rica recently. If so, were you able to return to Panama the same day or did you have to spend three days in Costa Rica? We are getting conflicting information. A friend told us that he heard rumors that everybody had to stay for three days, while our attorney told us that that rule was only enforced at the Colombian border, but not at the Costa Rican border. We need to leave the country to get our passports stamped (waiting for our permanent carnets) and would like to know what to expect. Any info is much appreciated!

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Well, your attorney is a bit behind in his news.

You do have to stay 3 days in Costa Rica. Go to Golfito and enjoy it for a few days.

You have to have your $500 cash or your most recent bank/cc statements and a ticket (not a reservation) to your country of origin... If you are a US citizen, buy your ticket with Spirit on the morning of your return to Panama, and once you cross cancel the ticket, you will get a full refund if you cancel within 24 hrs. 

When we came to Panama and applied for our Pensionado status, we did not have to worry about crossing the boarder I wonder how long people wait to decide to get their resident cards?
We applied for our permanent visa as soon as we arrived in Panama in December and received the temporary ones the end of January. This has nothing to do with the visa, just the driver's license. We were advised to wait to get our Panamanian licenses until we have the permanent visas, but that can be another 3-4 months, and you can only drive with your US license for 3 months. So, once you leave the country and get a new stamp in your passport, you're good to go for another 3 months. We went to Costa Rica in March, got stamped and now it's getting close to the 3 months again.
check with the officer when exiting Panama, showing your temp immigration ID may allow you back in the same day.
That's what we did in March. Everything was done in just a few hours. It is probably different if you only have your tourist visa and don't have your temporary carnet that's good for a year.
Things got tougher because of the migrants but with a valid carnet should be easier
It all depends on the officer at the window. Good luck

I did it differently to get a local drivers license. Went to the driving school next to Sertacen in Chiriqui shopping mall. Showed my Dutch passport, paid 120 box for the driving lessons, that I did not have to do.The school applied for the exam at Sertacen. 2.1/2 weeks later I got a call for the test. You need a blood test that you can get at 1 hundred yards from Sertacen. Bring a car, hearing, vision test at Sertacen. Then 10 questions on the computer in Spanish, one is allowed a tranlator. Parking and short driving. 3 hours later the license for 40 box.

But you need to be a resident to apply as I understood from the driving licensing laws
I guess the rules have changed since we got here in 2013.

We did it twice. We are not giving any advise. First time July 2016. They stamped us out and wrote the time at the stamp. In out of Costa Rica customs no problem. But checking in at Panama customs they said that we had to stay 6 hours. After 5 hours we fixed it. January 2016 we all did it within 1 hour and 15 minutes. Showed our Dutch passport and no questions, just stamped in. We stamped out with a male officer and stamping in with another officer. It all depends. But be prepared to have all documents required.I speak fluent Spanish and present my passport we a smile. 

Check with a good lawyer, but once you have applied for a permanent resident visa (Pensionado, Friendly Nations, etc.) and have received your temporary visa, you are no longer on a "tourist visa".  You are then on a "resident" visa which requires you to get your Panamanian drivers license within 30 days from the date your temporary visa was issued.  The Costa Rica border runs are for expats in Panama on a "tourist visa" which is good for 6 months which allows you to drive in Panama for 90 days with a valid US drivers license from your home state; hence the border runs every 3 months.   NOTE:  If you leave Panama on a temporary visa you must have a MULTI ENTRANCE visa stamp in your passport, OR, you could be subject to a $2,000 fine!  The fine is disclosed in the small print on the reverse side of your temporary visa.  Hope this helps!

Richard,

You are exactly correct. Sounds like the poster was miss-informed. Once you have a temporary 1 year visa you are a resident of Panama and are required to get a Panamanian drivers license. This also means you do not have to make border crossings ever 90 days. You can cross the border if you wish but you better make sure your lawyer has secured multi-entry visa's. They will be stamped in your passport and expiration should coincide with the expiration of your temporary residency visa.

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