Tourists visiting Panama may drive with a valid driver’s license from their home country for a period of 90 days. Residents must apply for a Panamanian driver’s license. When you become a temporary or permanent resident, you can immediately apply for a driver’s license in Panama. Note – you should wait until AFTER you have your Panamanian cedula to apply for a drivers license. The license will be valid for 4 years. The Panama government has a contract with a private company called SERTRACEN, to examine candidates’ applications and issue driver’s licenses.
In this article we’ll explain the steps to getting a Panama drivers license.
Steps to Get a Driver’s License in Panama
- Certify your home country driver’s license in Panama at the Embassy or Consulate of the Country where the license was issued.
- Authenticate the Certification of the Embassy in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- Obtain a health certificate attesting to your blood type. (If your license shows the blood type, this test will not be necessary).
- Book an appointment at the SERTACEN office.
Step 1) Certify your Home Country Driver’s License
All U.S. citizens are required to go to the U.S. Embassy and visit the American Citizen Services (ACS) office to request an affidavit. You can make an appointment here. There is a standard form for requesting a Panama driver’s license. Steps of Americans:
- Schedule appointment online.
- On the date of the appointment, you should bring your valid U.S. driver’s license and a copy of both sides. Expired driver’s license will not be accepted by the Panamanian authorities. Consular regulations require us to charge $1.00 each for photocopies we must make in connection with affidavits.
- Upon arrival to the Embassy, please go to the Cashier window, to request an affidavit form, which you should fully complete. Please DO NOT sign the form. We have a standard affidavit form available for this purpose.
- The fee for this notarial service is $100.00 ($50 for each signature of the Consular Officer). The current service requires taking an oath on an affidavit and certifying a true copy of the driver’s license.
- Visit the SERTRACEN ’s webpage to review the additional requirements to complete the license homologation process.
Citizens from other countries must contact their nearest embassy or consulate. The embassy will be able to provide a certification or affidavit similar to the one provided by the U.S. embassy.
Step 2) Authenticate the Certification at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Once you have the drovers license certification from your embassy, you can take that to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In Spanish this organization is called the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores or MIRE. The MFA office will authenticate the affidavit you received from your country’s embassy or consulate along with the copy of your original foreign driver’s license. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs offices was once located at Edison Plaza on Ave. Ricardo Alfaro (also known as Tumba Muerto) but is currently occupying San Felipe, Calle 3, Palacio Bolívar in the vicinity of the international airport.
Step 3) Do Blood Type Test
If your home country drivers license does not state your blood type, you will need to do a blood type test and obtain a health certificate attesting to your blood type. This blood test will done by one of the certified medical laboratories. The medical laboratory needs certified by Panama’s Transit Authority (ATTT). The website of the SERTRACEN has a web page listing all of the certified medical labs throughout Panama. There are 70+ certified labs in Panama City alone.
Step 4) Book Appointment at SERTACEN
After completing the first three steps, the next step is to book an appointment with SERTRACEN. You can book your Panama drivers license appointment here.
At the service center you will take an eye exam to determine whether you will be required to wear eye glasses or contact lenses. If you fail this test you must get a prescription and purchase eye wear before returning to retake the eye exam.
Upon passing the eye and hearing tests, you will be able to finally submit your application for your Panama driver’s license. Your photo will be taken and your residence address information will be requested. Your Panama drivers license will then be issued on the spot. It only takes an hour for the new Panama driver’s license (with photo) to be issued.
When you show up at the SERTRACEN service center for your appointment, be sure to bring the following documents:
- Original and copy of passport
- Original and copy of home country drivers license
- Original and copy of Panama temporary or permanent resident card
- medical report proving your blood type
- notarized affidavit from the Embassy
- authenticated MFA documents
- Cash. You are required to pay a US$40 fee for applying for a Panama driver’s license, but bring extra cash just in case.
Can I Get A Panama Drivers License by Going to Driving School?
Getting a Panama Drivers license is not easy. There is so much bureaucracy involved in certifying and authenticating your drivers license. Many Panama residents, unwilling to wait for appointments at their Embassy, have chosen to simply go to a local Panamanian drivers school like a local Panamanian citizen would.
If Embassy appointment slots are unavailable in the upcoming months, you might consider attending drivers school for your Panamanian driver’s license. You can follow Sertracen’s guidance on how to obtain a driver’s license in Panama for the first time. The choice is yours!
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