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Registration on Arrival

Panama - Registration on Arrival

When you first move to Panama you will need to register at the local immigration department. This is the same if you want to apply for an immigrant visa for a long stay, make an application for a temporary visa or have your tourist visa extended. The Spanish term for this is ‘filiacion’, which translates literally as ‘signing up’. By registering you can be informed of any changes in immigration law and you can be sure that you always have the legal right to be in the country. If you do not register you are not able to make applications for other types of visas and as a result will not be eligible for the cedula ID card.

In order to register you will need to take with you a copy of the page of your passport which has all your personal details, such as your signature, your full name, date of birth and photograph. You will need to complete an immigration form which is in Spanish but you may get help from your lawyer or other representative to complete this. In addition you will need to provide 2 passport photographs.

You are able to take someone with you to the immigration department to help if needed and it is advised that you arrive as early as you can in the morning to avoid delays (as the day goes on the department gets much busier). If you have had legal help with your registration documents most lawyers will be happy to accompany you to the Immigration department.

When you have been in the country for a short while you will be expected to apply for an ID card (cedula). All expats, regardless of age, who have the legal right to live in Panama must have an ID card and it is needed to carry out a number of transactions, although when you have only been in the country for a short time most organizations will accept your passport as proof of ID.

The cedula has a magnetic strip on the card as security and it can only be issued when you have a letter from the immigration department which states that you are a permanent resident. You will need to go along to your nearest Civil Registry office and apply in person for the card. ID numbers are given and the number will indicate if you are a naturalized Panamanian citizen or a foreign national who simply has the right to live in the country. A naturalized Panamanian will have an ID which begins with the letter ‘N’, while foreign nationals will have an ID beginning with ‘E’.

The following information is included on the card: the card number, your full name as stated in the Civil Registry, your sex, place and date of birth, your signature, a copy of the signature of the director of the Civil Registry, a photograph of you, your status as a domestic or foreign resident and the date that the card has been issued as well as the date that it expires.

It is a good idea to register with your embassy when you arrive in Panama, so that they have an idea of how many of their countrymen are in Panama and have a record of how to contact you if there is an emergency. Some embassies will have this facility online but others will not and it may just be a case of making a phone call to give them your details when you arrive. The UK embassy in Panama, for example, has an online system for registration. The procedure takes only a few minutes and by using the system you can simply update your travel details at any time so that embassies all over the world know where you are supposed to be at any one time. The information that you provide is only passed on to local authorities if there has been an accident or disaster and your identity needs to be verified.

Useful Resources

US Embassy in Panama

British Embassy in Panama

Read more about this country

Expat Health Insurance Partners

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