Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you’ve most likely navigated the new waters of giving birth in a country that’s not your own. As if that wasn’t enough to figure out, on top of adjusting to life with a new baby, you now have all the legal paperwork to wade through! Stop a minute and treat yourself to some dark chocolate!! (Why? It relieves stress! Not that any part of this process is stressful…hehe…All right, now that your seratonin is flowing, let’s continue.)
The good news is that many have gone before you! (Thank you Angel Miller for first documenting this 7 years ago when I was navigating these waters.) Here I’ve tried to break it down into phases. I suggest reading through all the steps first, and getting a head start on documenting your evidence of physical presence in the U.S. for Phase III. (U.S. citizen parents must document their physical presence in the U.S. for a certain number of years. If you are currently living in Panama, it might take awhile to receive official school or university transcripts, tax forms, etc. Click the link for more details on this requirement Affidavit of U.S. Physical Presence of Parent/s)
Once you read through and have everything ready, you should be able to have all your Panamanian and U.S. papers in just three outings. “Should” being the key-word here, hehe, but be sure and give yourself plenty of time if you have plans to travel. If you would like a printable version of this info, click on the Print PDF button at the bottom of this post.
Phase I – Copia Integra & Cedula*
Go to the Registro Civil – Calle 33 and Avenida Cuba (open M-F, from 0700-1500)
Things to take along:
- Parent’s passports and 2 copies
- Registro Nacicmiento (The paper they gave you from the hospital when you registered your baby at birth.)
Go first to the Information desk:
- Give them paper from the hospital
- Request for a Copia Integra (you need this for the US paperwork)
- Go stand in the line they direct you to
At the window:
- $2.50 for the birth certificate (You’ll get it right away.)
- $10 for the copia integra (You come and pick it up in about 1 week.)
- $5 for the cedula* (if you wish to get it now, but you need to bring your child. We got a cedula for our first child, but didn’t bother with the other two. We realized that their passports were all we ever needed/used, and both expired in five years anyway). For the cedula: you give them one copy of carnets and passports and they will call you in for the photo. The cedula is ready around 3 days later.)
Phase II – Panamanian Passport
Baby must be present!! This must be done with both parents, unless a power of attorney is given.
(To save trips, pick up the copia integra first thing, then head over to the passport office, as you must enter before 1 p.m. The passport process takes about 2 hours and you wait while they do it.)
From the Registro Civil, walk past the Embassy of Spain to Avenida 1a Sur. Cross the street and walk following the direction of traffic, parallel to Parque Porras. The Passport Building is two blocks down. Go to the NEW Passport Office on Via Espana:
Enter the building and go to the clear booth straight ahead with:
- both parent’s passports and one copy of each (and power of attorney if only one parent is going)
- baby’s birth certificate and one copy
- $50 in cash
Wait in the chairs until they call you up to take your child’s picture at the left window. (Get ready for some laughs, and awkward poses. They insist on seeing both ears, but my sweet girl’s cheeks were so…ummm….chubby?…that it was near impossible. Not to mention the fact that you will be holding your baby up in the air against the background. hehe) Sit and wait some more until they call you back to give you the passport.
Phase III – U.S. Passport
Once you have the Copia Integra, you can apply for the CROBA (Consular Report of Birth Abroad), U.S. Passport, and Social Security Card at the same time. Check out this link to the embassy for all the current info about that process. Basically, you make an online appointment, gather these forms, and come ready to pay $205 in cash or credit ($100 for the CROBA and $105 for the first passport).
The website says the CROBA and passport will be ready in 5-6 weeks, but we have always received them much faster, in two weeks maximum. You can have the social security card mailed to either the embassy or an address in the states (We always opt for the address in the states, so can’t tell you how long that took.)
Phase IV – Requirements for other nationality (optional)
If one parent is not a U.S. citizen…check about requirements for that country.
For Colombia, all my husband needed to do was register them at the Colombian Embassy in Panama. No fees or appointment necessary, and I didn’t need to be there, but the child did need to be present. If they desire to live in Colombia, or get documents in the future, the process will be easy now that they are in the system.
Remember this is a record of our family’s experience, and procedures change unexpectedly! If you have recently gone through the process, please leave a comment to let us know your experience. Your input will help the next PanaMama navigate these uncharted waters better. Thanks!