This post is also available in: Spanish
By: Staff at Panama Offshore Legal Services
E-Mail: email@example.com || Phone: (507) 227 – 6645
As a foreigner, you can drive vehicles in Panama using your current driver’s license for up to 90 days. Then you must obtain a Panama driver’s license. Expats who become temporary residents must immediately apply for a Panama driver’s license even if it is less than 90 days.
The Panamanian government contracts with a private company called SERTRACEN to examine applicants and issue the driver’s licenses.
U.S. Citizens are required to go to the U.S. Embassy and visit the American Citizen Services (ACS) office to request an affidavit for a Panama driver’s license. The Consular cashier will charge $50, which includes a public notary to authenticate the signature on the affidavit.
Citizens of other countries must contact their nearest embassy or consulate to obtain the forms necessary to apply for a Panama driver’s license. This will also include an affidavit similar to the one provided by the U.S. Embassy.
Panama’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), located on Avenue Ricardo J. Alfaro (also called Tumba Muerto), will authenticate the embassy’s affidavit and a copy of the original driver’s license.
Blood Type: If the original driver’s license doesn’t list the driver’s blood type, you will have to go to a certified medical laboratory. The SERTRACEN website lists every certified medical laboratory. There are 65 of them in Panama City. Their website link is: Sertracen.com.pa
Don’t forget your documents
Police officers will ask for passports when they see a foreign driver’s license and will be mostly interested in the page showing the date the person entered Panama.
While some travelers opt to carry their passport, others make do with carrying color copies of their photo, information page and immigration entry-date page. According to an attorney from Panama Offshore Legal Services, “Police officers who see these three pages understand the need to protect the original passport from being lost or stolen.”
What to bring to SERTRACEN
Bring your proof-of-blood-type medical report, your passport, original driver’s license, residency immigration documents (if applicable), and the notarized affidavit and MFA documents to a SERTRACEN service center listed on their website. Their phone number is Tel. 315 – 6500. The fee for applying for a Panama driver’s license is $40 USD.
At the service center, you will take an eye exam and a hearing test. After passing these two exams, your photo will be taken along with your home address information. It only takes an hour for the new Panama driver’s license (with photo) to be issued. The Panama driver’s license is valid for four years.
Relocating to Panama requires more than a Panama driver’s license. Contact a Panama law firm specializing in Relocation.