I'm an Indian citizen on a US H1B visa. I was traveling with an American citizen friend from LIM (Lima) on my way back to San Francisco, with a day-long layover in Panama City (PTY)

Immigration at PTY was straightforward. Both our passports were stamped. However, right after my passport was stamped, another officer came by, took my passport, and told me to follow him.

We walked for 5 minutes to the other side of the terminal. He knocked on a door , handed my passport to someone in an office, and asked me to wait for 5 minutes, and left.

3-4 minutes later, the man whom he handed the passport to came out and gave me the passport back, no questions asked. We were free to go into the country.

What was that all about? Why did they take my passport?

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    Don't overthink it. Maybe your name, photo or birthdate matched someone who is wanted, but was obviously not you. Maybe they never seen an Indian passport before, or have new employees in training. Maybe they had a bet that whoever brings first the passport in the name of their uncle gets free beer today. There could be plenty of reasons. – George Y. Aug 1 '17 at 5:29
  • "Maybe they never seen an Indian passport before, or have new employees in training." - I'd put money on either of these. – Johns-305 Aug 1 '17 at 16:27
  • (1/2) Me and my wife, travelling on an India passport, visited Panama for a week in November last year for vacation. We entered through PTY. The immigration lady was very unprofessional, she was chatting with some random airport personnel about the money they owed for some biscuits they bought...while doing our immigration! The Visa requirements stated that we need at least 1 year validity on US, Canada, Schengen Visa, hence we showed her our Canada tourist visa which is valid till 2025, however she was more interested in our US H1-B visa which was expiring in less than a year. – Mohit Jul 19 '18 at 16:12
  • (2/2) She said to her colleague (in Spanish), "I feel more comfortable after I see this (pointing to the US Visa)". After stamping, the same thing happened to us. Our passports were taken by someone for "additional processing" into another room. We were made to wait 10 minutes, before they returned back the passports. Also, all conversation was in Spanish, and since we speak the language we had no problems, but someone else in our position might not be that lucky. Going back to the US was very smooth though, the officer did not check anything on our passports. – Mohit Jul 19 '18 at 16:13