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Panama - Driving Licenses
The license will be issued for the same length of time as your visa up to a maximum of 4 years. Those who are on short visa for one year will receive a one year license, but those who are in the country long term will get a four year license which is then renewable. There is no requirement for those who currently have a license issued in another country to take a driving test. The license is simply transferred.
In order to get the Panamanian license you need to take along your residency card and a photocopy, the license which has been issued in your home country, the current fee for a Panama license and copies of the blood type test or medical test if applicable. Your current license needs to be authenticated by the consulate of your home country and then validated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The blood type is information that needs to be included on the license and only those who are aged 70 and above need to undergo a medical.
Blood type information cannot be given verbally, even if you are aware of it. You need to have a proper lab test carried out and obtain a certificate which states your blood type. It should be noted that there will be a charge for this test and the certificate. The cost will vary depending upon the lab that you use.
There are several places where you can get a driver’s license issued. One of the main ones is located in the Albrook area of Panama City. Another is the Traffic Department located in Juan Diaz near the airport. The process is not excessively lengthy but you should allow 2-3 hours for your new license to be issued providing there are no issues that need to be resolved.
You do not need to have a lawyer guide you through this process but you can if you feel you need the help. It is a good idea to have someone with you who can speak fluent Spanish in case there are any points that need to be clarified when you are with the licensing department.
It is important to ensure that you have all the correct paperwork with you when you go to have the license renewed, particularly the consulate signature and the validation. The Panamanian authorities will simply turn you away if you do not have everything with you, so getting a license can take longer than necessary.
Your home license is not taken from you and will still be valid in your home country. Those who do not have a driver’s license from their home country will be required to take a practical and written test in Panama. The written test will require a good knowledge of Spanish so it is recommended that if you are unsure of your skills with the language then it is a good idea to take some lessons first.
The cost of a license is around $25 and this does not include any fees which are charged by the consulate and ministry for validating your original license. The fee for a license which is valid for less than three months is less than $6.
There are some organizations that will handle this for you if you provide them with the relevant documentation. This may sound like a hassle-free option and it is ideal if you are busy, but it is often better to deal with these matters yourself. If there are any issues then you will know straightaway and can resolve them, whereas a representative would have to wait for you, so the license will be delayed.
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