Once you become permanent resident in Panama, the next step is to get your cedula.
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What is a Cedula?
The cedula is the identity card that fully identifies the person by providing the following information: the birth registration number that corresponds to the same as the certificate, the name(s), the surname(s), the place of birth, sex, photo, blood type, signature, issue and expiration date. When you obtaining a cedula you will receive a unique ID number which becomes your official proof of identity in Panama. The cedula is an extremely important document because you will be asked for your cedula number when opening bank account, drivers license, etc.
Is the Cedula Mandatory or Optional?
The cedula is optional for foreign permanent residents but mandatory for Panamanian citizens. All Panamanians over the age of 18 are issued a cedula. For foreign residents, the cedula is optional form of identification in the sense that you don’t explicitly need it to live in Panama as a permanent resident. However, getting a cedula is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and damn near mandatory because not having it will make your life difficult. Please note that the cedula is a prerequisite to register with the tax authorities in Panama and to apply for a personal tax number, so if you want to be a Panama tax resident you will need a cedula.
The cedula is more nationally recognized and respected than the permanent resident ID card. When you have a cedula, you will be able to complete your day-to-day tasks much more easily. The cedula facilitates many administrative, legal and business procedures. This is because the 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.
Who Can Apply for a Cedula?
Foreigners who hold permanent residence status in Panama can apply for a Panamanian E-Cédula) at the Civil Registry (Tribunal Electoral). The ‘e’ in e-cedula stands for ‘extranjero’, meaning foreigner in Spanish. You can apply for the cedula once you have received your permanent resident card.
Do I Need to Be Physically Present in Panama to Get the Cedula?
Yes, your presence is required to apply for the Cedula. An appointment at the Tribunal Electoral is required to verify the personal data of the applicant and to take a photo for the e-cedula. Your photo will be taken as part the process. The e-cedula is not printed immediately and will be available for pick-up after approximately two to three weeks.
A lawyer or individual with power of attorney may help you set up the appointments, but you need to show up personally to the appointment. The lawyer may also pick up the card when it is ready. You only need to be present on the day of the appointment.
How To Get a Cedula in Panama
Step 1: Get a Cedula Letter
When your Panama permanent residency process is finalized, you will receive a ‘cedula letter’. The cedula letter is valid for 2 years. It is highly recommended that you get your cedula before this letter expires. In case you don’t apply for the Cedula before the letter expires, you’ll need to request a new letter. To request a new cedula letter, you’ll need to put together a file and request it to Immigration Offices. Issuing new cedula letters can take anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks. Expires 2 years from issuance.
Step 2: Get an Appointment
Step 3: Bring the Required Documents to Cedula Application Appointment
- Original passport + two paper copies
- Original permanent resident ID card + paper two copies
- Original Panamanian driver’s license (if you have one)
- 100 USD cash to pay at the cashier for cedula.
Be sure to arrive on time for the appointment. The application process usually takes around an hour, but be prepared to wait. As for clothing, you should wear a shirt covering your shoulders, trousers or long skirt, and closed shoes. It is forbidden to wear a white shirt (don’t know why).