About the Apostille or Authentication of Foreign Documents
Many legal processes in Panama require documents brought from abroad. This is the case of birth certificates, marriage certificates, criminal background checks, or bank account statements.
There are two options for legalizing your foreign documents for use in Panama. The first is the authentication process through the Panamanian Consulate in the issuing country, along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Panama. The second process is the apostille process for countries that are members of the Hague Convention.
Each process has its own set of details, and we explain them below.
Option 1 – Authentication Process
This process requires visiting the Panamanian Consulate in the country where the legal document is issued and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Panama.
In the authentication process, the foreign document’s signatures are verified and certified at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so that it becomes a valid document to use in Panama.
The process begins with the Panamanian Consulate in the issuing country. The consulate is responsible for verifying and certifying the document and the corresponding signatures. They will attach the consul’s signature to the document to certify its validity.
Next, the document must be brought to Panama. The Department of Authentication and Legalization in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs processes and authenticates all documents brought from abroad. This department verifies the information provided by the Panamanian Consulate abroad, as well as the consul’s signature, and then authorizes the foreign document for legal purposes in Panama.
It should be noted that the authentication process is valid for all issuing countries, whether they are part of the Hague Convention or not.
For example, Canada is not part of the Hague Convention. Because of this, documents from Canada must follow the authentication process to be valid in Panama. Conversely, even though the United States is a part of the Hague Convention, and documents from the United States could follow the authentication process, we recommend using the apostille process because it is easier and faster.
Certain countries do not have a Panamanian Consulate. In such case, the interested party should seek the consulate of a friendly country to Panama with representation both in the issuing country and in Panama.
For example, Panama does not have a Consulate in Kenya, but Colombia has a Consulate in both Kenya and Panama. A document from Kenya must be authenticated at both Consulates, and then continue the same process with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Panama.
Option 2 – Apostille Process
The apostille is an official certification that validates the origin of a public document and is issued in one nation to be used in another nation where both countries are part of the Hague Convention of 1961.
The apostille certifies that a competent authority has placed the signature and stamp on the document. This certification allows the document to have legal validity abroad. As a result, there is no need to follow the authentication process described in Option 1 with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Panama.
A local government authority must sign the foreign document or be authenticated before a public notary in the nation of origin, and then taken to the authorized office to do the Apostille Certification.
The apostille legalizes public documents that have been issued in another country, so that such documents can be used easily Panama. Once apostilled, the documents in question can be used freely in any of the Hague Convention’s member countries with no additional validations.
Please note that it is necessary for the countries involved in this type of procedure to be part of the Hague Convention, otherwise the apostille will not be useful.
Documents certified with apostille are divided into two main groups:
- Apostilles with no expiration: Found in documents that are legal permanently. For example, a university degree.
- Apostilles with expiration: Found in documents valid only for a limited time. In this case, the apostille expires when the document is not legally valid anymore. Such is the case of marriage certificates, which in some countries are valid for 90 days.
Do you want to start a legal process in Panama? Contact Us and we will gladly answer your questions. Kraemer & Kraemer works with cases in different areas of immigration, business, real estate, and taxes.