Institutions in charge of magration issues

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Ministry of Public Security


Official name: Republic of Panama

Capital: Panama City

Nationality: name: Panamanian(s); adjective: Panamanian

Official language: The official language of the Republic of Panama is Spanish, though many Panamanians are bilingual (English/Spanish).

Weather: Panama´s weather is tropical and the temperature is usually stable throughout the year. It is generally cool at night. The average temperature is 27° C / 80.6° F. The country has two seasons: rainy and dry. The former lasts from May thru December with rains that allow for warm sunlight to shine through most of the day. During the dry season that lasts from mid-December thru April, also called “summer”, the pleasant Trade Winds blow permanently.

Borders: 555 Km. total; Colombia 225 Km., Costa Rica 330 Km.

Shores: 2,490 Km.

Geographic limits: to the North with the Caribbean Sea; to the South, the Pacific Ocean; to the East the Republic of Colombia; and to the West, the Republic of Costa Rica.

Territorial sea: 200 nautical miles

Population (Census 2000): 2, 839,177

Population density: 81 per square mile

Distribution by Age (%): 0-14 years 37.0%, 15-59 years 56.3%, 60+ years 6.7%

Ethnic groups: 70% are mestizo, 10% white, 12% mulatto and 8% indigenous.

Literacy rate: 90%


Local time: GMT-5

Taxes: All purchases in Panama with the exception of medicines, food and school utensils, are taxed at a 5% in the form of a Property Transfer Tax (ITBM, in Spanish).

Currency: Panama’s official currency is the Balboa (Balboas -- plural); 1 balboa = 100 cents. However, the circulating currency is the American dollar, with the exchange rate of 1 Balboa = 1 Dollar.

Electric current: 120V and 240V

Tips: Tips are not included in restaurant prices. It is usual to tip 10-15% of the total consumption.

Driver´s license: Visitors can drive with a foreign license for up to 90 days. Passport must be exhibited if requested.


Commerce: 9:30 a.m. to 19:00 hours throughout the day. Shops are also open on Sundays from 9:30 to 19:00 hours.

Banks: 8:30 a.m. to 14:30 hours. Automatic cashiers are available for users night and day.

Public offices: 8:30 a.m. to 16:30 hours

Constitution: October 11, 1972; reforms adopted in April 1983.

Religions: more than 93% are Roman Catholic, 6% Protestant. The National Constitution establishes "the profession of all religions and cults is free, with no other limitation than the respect for christian morality and public order ".

Independence: Panama became independent from Spain on November 28, 1821 and separated from Colombia on November 3, 1903.

National holidays: January 1 –New Year, January 9 –Martyrs Day, March 4 –Carnival Tuesday, April 18 –Good Friday, May 1 –Labor Day, October 12 –Race Day, November 3 –Panama´s separation from Colombia, November 10 –First Independence Shout, November 28 –Panama´s independence from Spain, December 8 – Mother´s Day, December 25 –Christmas.

Government: Constitutional democracy, centralized republic

Political division: 9 provinces and 1 district; Bocas del Toro, Chiriquí, Coclé, Colón, Darién, Herrera, Los Santos, Panamá, Kuna Yala, Veraguas.Total Area: 78,200 square km (30,193 square miles)

Land area: 75,990 square Km. (29,340 square miles)

Legal system: based on a civil law system, judicial review of Congress acts by the Supreme Court of Justice; acceptance of foreign tribunals´ jurisdiction with some reservations

Executive Branch: President (Mr. Martín Torrijos Espino), two Vice-Presidents, Cabinet

Legislative Branch: Congress

Judicial Branch: Supreme Court of Justice

Economic profile: Panama is a service-oriented country with the Colon Free Zone, the Panama Canal, and Business Tourism as its most important economic activities. The country´s manufacturing exports are relatively insignificant compared to the income that the service sector provides to the economy. The Panamanian economy grew 3.2% in real terms in 1999. This performance is characterized by the growth of activities associated with the external sector, such as the banana export recovery and the port services, and those related to the internal economy such as grains and cereals, manufacture of construction materials, refineries, telecommunications, computer services, and banking services. The Panamanian government has also invested in infrastructure, roads, and cooperated with private sector investment in the North and South corridor that has contributed to the dynamism of the Panamanian economy. In this regard, the export of goods and services contributed to produce 5.9% growth in nominal terms. The tourist activity has increased compared to previous years. A government policy is to turn this activity into one of the main activities within the domestic economy, by means of a sustainable management of Panamanian abundant tourist resources. Panama has a good environment for foreign investment. There are several factors that are attractive to business people such as the Panama Canal, the Colon Free Zone, The Panama Canal Authority, the Processing Zones, and the use of the american dollar as legal currency.


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