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How to get the Permanent resident card in Panama

The Permanent Resident Card, often referred to as the Panamanian Cédula, is a vital document for Canadians and Americans seeking to establish a new life in Panama.

This card is not just a form of identification; it’s a key to becoming a full-fledged member of the Panamanian community, offering a range of benefits from employment to property ownership.

What is the Permanent Resident Identity Card?

The Permanent Resident Card, synonymous with the Panamanian Cédula, is a crucial document for anyone looking to settle permanently in Panama. The ‘E’ in the Cédula indicates ‘Extranjero,’ meaning foreigner, signifying that the holder is a non-Panamanian permanent resident. This card is essential for those who wish to fully immerse themselves in the Panamanian way of life, as it allows for uninterrupted living, working, and even participation in some forms of local governance.

In comparison to other forms of residency, such as temporary visas, the Permanent Resident Card offers a more stable and long-term solution for those seeking to make Panama their new home. While temporary visas might be suitable for short-term stays or specific purposes like tourism or business, they lack the permanence and full range of benefits that come with the Panamanian Cédula. 

Temporary residents often face regular renewals and restrictions in terms of employment and property ownership, which are not issues for holders of the Permanent Resident Card. 

Requirements for getting an Identity card ID in Panama

To acquire the Permanent Resident Card in Panama, applicants must meet several essential requirements, reflecting their preparedness for a long-term commitment to living in Panama. These include:

  • Valid Passport: A valid passport with a minimum of six months’ validity is a fundamental requirement for the Permanent Resident Card application. This is the primary form of identification and proof of nationality.
  • Temporary Residency Visa: Holding a temporary residency visa is mandatory before applying for the Permanent Resident Card. This visa, valid for one year and renewable annually, indicates an initial commitment to living in Panama.
  • Certificate of Good Conduct: Applicants need a recent certificate of good conduct from local police or authorities in their home country. This certificate must not be older than six months.
  • Economic Solvency: Under Law #16 of June 30, 1960, Panama offers international investors the chance to obtain legal residency, and potentially citizenship, through investment. The Panama Self Solvency Visa provides three investment options to qualify for residency:
    • Investment in Panama: Invest a minimum of $300,000 USD in a three-year fixed deposit at any bank in Panama.
    • Real Estate Investment in Panama: Invest a minimum of $300,000 USD in titled real estate property in Panama.
  • Complete Application: A thorough and complete application is crucial, encompassing all the necessary documents and information as per Panamanian immigration laws.

This requirement aligns with the government’s initiative to attract foreign investment and bolster economic growth. The options of bank deposit or real estate investment provide flexibility for applicants, allowing them to choose the path that best fits their financial plans and goals in Panama.

Demonstrating economic solvency through investment is a significant part of the Permanent Resident Card application process. It not only ensures applicants’ financial independence but also contributes to Panama’s economy. 

Panamanian permanent resident card illustration

Application Process E-Cedula  in Panama.

It’s crucial to understand the distinction between various residency visas and the E-Cédula (Permanent Resident ID Card). These are separate entities, each with its own set of requirements and processes.

Permanent Residency Visas

The Permanent Resident Card is linked to specific visa processes, each tailored to different applicant circumstances. Some of the common visa categories that lead to permanent residency include:

  • Friendly Nations Visa
  • Panama – Italy Treaty Visa
  • Retirees & Pensioner Visa
  • Golden Visa

The E-Cédula Process

Once you have obtained permanent residency through one of these visa categories, you can apply for the E-Cédula. The E-Cédula is a national identification card for permanent residents, signifying a deeper integration into Panamanian society.

  1. Ensure Permanent Residency: Have a valid Permanent Residency Card through one of the visa categories.
  2. Gather Documentation: Collect necessary requirements documents like the cédula note, copies of the Permanent Resident Card, and passport copies.
  3. Apply at the Electoral Tribunal: Visit the Electoral Tribunal in Panama City with an appointment, and apply for the E-Cédula.
  4. Receive the E-Cédula: Wait for the processing, which usually takes 7 to 15 days.

Fees and Processing Time:

  • Application Fee: Submit your application with a fee of $1,000.
  • Overall Process Time: The process from visa application to receiving the E-Cédula typically spans around six months.

Practical Tips:

  • Legal Assistance: Consult with us for expert legal guidance.
  • Preparation: Ensure all documents are clear, and adhere to appointment schedules and dress codes.

As NDM Law Firm, we’re committed to assisting expats in Panama obtaining their Permanent Resident Card in Panama. Our expertise simplifies the process, ensuring compliance with all requirements, from valid passports and temporary visas to economic solvency. 

Request your E-cedula with a legal expert

Ask a lawyer

We understand the nuances of Panamanian immigration law and are ready to guide you every step of the way. You’ll find a section addressing frequently asked questions from our clients about the residency process, providing clarity and insights to help you prepare for this process 


Meaning of Letters in Panamanian ID Cards (Cédulas)
  • Province Key Number: The number at the start of the cedula, representing the province where the citizen was born.
  • No Letters: For Panamanians by birth. Only the province key number followed by the volume and seat number in the civil registry.
  • E: Identifies foreigners legally domiciled in Panama.
  • N: Identifies Naturalized Panamanians.
  • PE: Identifies Panamanians over 18 years old born abroad and adopted by Panamanian nationals.
  • PI: Identifies the indigenous population of Panama.
I’ve Lost my Panamanian Identity Card (Cedula), now what?

Report the loss to the Electoral Tribunal or police. Apply for a replacement by providing a report and identification documents. A Permanent Resident Card holder must ensure their residency status is current.

How to get the E-cedula in Panama?

Obtain legal residency, gather necessary documents, and apply at the Electoral Tribunal. The process for a Permanent Resident Card holder may vary slightly based on their residency category.

Difference Between Permanent Residency by Residency Visas and E Cedula in Panama

The Permanent Residency obtained through various visa processes is a prerequisite for the E Cedula. While residency visas grant legal status to live in Panama indefinitely, the E Cedula serves as an official ID for those with permanent residency. It’s not a residency status by itself but a form of identification for those who have already secured permanent residency.

Do All Panama Expats Need an E Cedula?

Not all expats in Panama require an E Cedula. While it’s essential for those with permanent residency, other immigration processes like the Pensionado Visa allow expats to reside in Panama indefinitely without necessarily obtaining an E Cedula. The need for an E Cedula depends on the specific residency status and intentions in Panama.

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