Yesterday I got an email from a friend who lives in Panama with a link to a site I don’t often visit primarily because the person, Don Winner, who seems, to me, to be a major shill for the real estate interests there. I will give him credit, though, he doesn’t sugar coat a lot about the bad side of Panama reporting on crimes and murder as well.
The link my friend provided led me to this story:
By Rodrigo Campos, AFP Writer- Ciudad de Panamá – Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli signed into law Wednesday a controversial measure requiring all visa applicants to pass a Spanish test before receiving residency documents. The new law, which will go into effect when it is published in the government´s Gaceta Oficial early next week, will likely affect thousands of visa applicants who come from non Spanish speaking countries. The new rules require everyone requesting a new or renovated visa, including those already approved for permanent residency status, to pass a state issued test and demonstrate the grammar and speaking abilities equivalent to that of a 5 year old. The test, which is similar to the aptitude test given to preschool children before admittance into elementary school, will be created and administered by the Ministry of Education in cooperation with the Immigration office. The test will be half written and half oral, and will cost $30. Under the new law all applicants for non tourist visas, regardless of country of origin, will be required to pass a Spanish test before being issued their residency permits. The law covers nearly all residency statuses, both permanent and temporary, with the lone exemption being given to foreigners living in Panama under refugee status. Those either failing the test or refusing to take it will have their visa status downgraded to the same regulations given to those carrying a tourist visa.
The new rules come at a time where the Central American country is seeing an influx of foreigners who are moving there for retirement and investment. Proponents of the law say that the new requirement will assure that people who decide to move to the country can assimilate with more ease. Opponents say the law can cripple the real estate and investment market, still recovering from the world recession, by discouraging retirees and investors from moving there. For a complete transcript of the entire law translated into English, please visit http://tinyurl.com/2ht3po.
Now, I actually think this is a great idea. When I read posts on some of the Yahoo Groups I subscribe to and people are asking where they can hook up with other gringos I always tell them they need to learn Spanish and try and integrate themselves into the culture as much as possible or stay in the States. Lots of gringos there.
I wouldn’t have a problem with having to do what this new law proposes, but I did write to my lawyer in Panama City and asked her if she had heard anything about this.
She wrote back in about an hour and said: “I found the article in a yahoo forum and at the end there’s a link that will take you to the definition of April’s Fool Day? Do you know of this day?”
WHAT A CLASSICALLY GREAT JOKE. And I fell for it hook, line and sinker.