Foreigners using their country’s driver’s license may legally drive a vehicle in Panama for up to 90 days. Once a foreigner obtains temporary or permanent residency in Panama he/she may request the homologation of his/her driver’s license and obtain a Panamanian driver’s license. To do so, it is not necessary to hand over your current driver’s license or take any kind of driving test. The Panamanian government contracts a private company called SERTRACEN for the processing of driver’s licenses nationwide. Only foreigners with residency status in Panama (either temporary or permanent) are eligible for a Panamanian driver’s license, foreigners with tourist status are not. Below we have summed up the steps to follow to obtain a Panamanian driver’s license for you.
1. Original and copy of your migration ID card (valid and legible).
2. Original and copy of your passport (valid and legible).
3. Your driver’s license (valid and legible).
4. Authenticated certification of the validity of your license.
5. Blood type: If your driver’s license does NOT show the blood type and RH factor, a certification issued by an authorized Panamanian laboratory must be submitted. The laboratory certification is valid for six (6) months, counted from the date of issuance of the document.
Names and surnames must be identical or coincide in all documents or requirements presented. All documentation provided must be in good condition and not damaged.
The first step is to contact the embassy or consulate of your country to request the certification of your driver’s license. The process varies from embassy to embassy, for this reason it is advisable to make an appointment in advance either by phone, online or by email in order to confirm the necessary documentation, how long it takes to issue the certification and the costs. U.S. citizens should approach the American Citizen Services at the U.S. Embassy in Panama City. There is a standard form (sworn affidavit) to request the driver’s license certification.
Keep in mind to verify that your name, personal information, driver’s license number, etc. are written correctly on the certification when you pick it up. In addition, the certification must contain the following information:
1. The term “certify” or “declare”,
2. Name of the officer in charge of validating the information,
3. Name of the applicant, identification number, number of the license to be validated; in addition to the date of issuance and expiration. If the license does not have an expiration date (indefinite) the certification must state so.
4. Place or country of issuance of the driver’s license.
5. Description of the different categories of vehicles,
6. Stamp and original signature of the officer issuing the certification.
7. Apart from the certification the consulate/embassy must issue an authenticated copy of both sides of your driver’s license (front and back), with original stamp and signature of the officer in charge of validating the information.
The certification and the authenticated copy issued by your Consulate/Embassy must be further authenticated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) in Panama City. The request for authentication by MINREX must be made through their web page https://sigob.mire.gob.pa/registrocorrespondencia/.
Once the application is completed, the respective department of MINREX will give you an appointment. The payment must be made at the Banco Nacional after receiving the confirmation by e-mail of the amount to be paid.
Contact us if you need further assistance for this step. Our firm will be happy to process the authentication for you.
Once the documentation described above has been completed, an appointment must be made at one of SERTRACEN’s branches. All license applications must be submitted in person by the applicant. The appointment must be requested online through the following web page: https://citas.sertracen.com.pa/Citas/public/cita.jsf .
On the day of the appointment you must present all documents to the officer in charge at the SERTRACEN office, your personal data (including emergency contact, organ donor or not etc.) and the photo for your new license will be taken, also an eye and hearing test must be performed. People who wear glasses can use them for the eye test.
The cost of the driver’s license is USD$40.00 (includes eye and hearing test). The driver’s license is valid for four (4) years. If you are a temporary resident in Panama and you do not have your permanent residency yet, your Panamanian driver’s license will have the same validity as your residency.
Licenses issued with age restrictions will not be approved, nor will international licenses. Licenses issued in one of the EU countries must comply with the new EU format.”Old” licenses (Papierführerschein) will not be accepted.
All drivers over seventy (70) years of age must opt for a driver’s license valid for two (2) years. They must also present a certificate of good physical and mental health from a Panamanian doctor specialized in internal medicine or geriatrics. The document must have the full name, passport number, stamp and original signature of the physician. The medical certification is valid for six (6) months from the date of issuance of the document.