Important Panama IDs: Residency Card, e-Cedula, and Driver’s License

More and more people are choosing to visit, work, relocate or retire in Panama, so learn more about the different Panamanian IDs and which one is right for you. After all, Panama has it all as a travel destination – tropical climate, beautiful beaches, welcoming locals, a robust economy, and a business-friendly environment. Foreigners can choose from several options for permanent residency in Panama, with the Friendly Nations Visa and the Pensioners and Retirees Visa being among the most popular programs.

Regardless of the chosen Residency program, applicants will obtain the following IDs as part of their process.

Panama Temporary Residency Card

When the Panama permanent residency application is submitted, at the Panama Immigration Service, and the immigration officer confirms the application is complete and acceptable for processing, then applicants receive their temporary residency card. This card is usually valid for 6 months, while the Panama Immigration Service makes a decision on the application.

Panamanian temporary residency ID

Panamanian temporary residency ID

Panama Permanent Residency Card

Once the Panama Immigration Service approves the request for permanent residency, and the applicant obtains permanent resident status, he receives a Permanent Residency card. This card is identical to the temporary residency card shown above. However, the permanent residency card DOES NOT have an expiration date.

Panama E-Cedula

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The e-cedula is an OPTIONAL form of identification that provides an unique ID number which becomes the official proof of identity in Panama. Permanent residents are not required to obtain the e-cedula; however, it is highly recommended. This is because the e-cedula card is an accepted proof of identity anywhere in Panama, while the permanent residency card requires foreigners to carry their passport as a proof of ID. All Panamanians over the age of 18 are issued a cedula. The only difference between the cedula issued to those who are born in Panama and those who become permanent residents, is the e on the card’s ID number, which stands for extranjero – foreigner in Spanish.

When you have an e-cedula card, you can do your day-to-day tasks more easily – whether it be cashing your checks or paying for public transport. When in Panama, an e-cedula card is all you need to carry.

Panamanian E-Cedula

Panamanian E-Cedula

Panama Driver’s License

If you plan to relocate to or retire in Panama, chances are, you may need to to drive a car. If you are in Panama on a tourist visa, your home country’s license is only valid for the first 90 days you are in the country. If you leave the country, this 90-day threshold resets upon your return to Panama.

Once a foreigner receives a temporary residency ID, he is no longer considered a tourist and must obtain a Panamanian driver´s license.

Panamanian Driver’s License

Panamanian Driver’s License

To receive the Panamanian driver´s license, a permanent resident needs to authenticate his foreign driver´s license at his country’s consulate in Panama, and then have it certified at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He will also need a blood test to verify his blood type, unless his foreign driver’s license already includes blood type information. Once the required documents are ready, the permanent resident can request a Panamanian driver’s license at any Sertracen office.

Doubts or questions? We’re here to help!

Becoming a legal resident is an important part of the expat experience in Panama. Before you make a decision, take some time to meet with an immigration lawyer and discuss permanent residency requirements and documentation. Contact Kraemer & Kraemer today, and we’ll walk you through the process step by step.

Published May 17th, 2019, as Commentary on Immigration by Johana Sum