Passport Requirement Question for Panama

I received a question from a Chiriquí Chatter reader that many of you will be interested in.

Here was the question:

As you are probably aware, the police now seem to have check stations on seemingly all the roads in/out of David all the time checking drivers license, car registrations, etc. The one on the road to Las Olas also routinely includes a DUI breath analyzer. One of the things that has also surfaced in the last couple of days is that the police at the stations are ‘jacking up’ people who are not carrying their passport (and not just the driver)- saying ‘no,no’ copies are not good enough.

When I got here 4 years ago I was told (and am certian I saw it in print ) that Americans did not have to carry the passport itself, just a copy of the ‘cover page’ and the page with the current stamp. Was that really the policy? Has there been a change in the policy or is this just the latest game?

Thanks (again)


I said I would get a current understanding from the U.S. Embassy. Here is the response I got today.

Thank you, Mr. Williams,

This is the information we have posted in our webpage related to acceptable identifications in Panama:

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Anyone not bearing identification at all times, including tourists from the United States, will be penalized by the Panamanian authorities. U.S. tourists need to provide an original, valid passport at entry in Panama. While in Panama, American tourists should carry either their original passport or an original, valid photo I.D. such as driver’s license with a photocopy of the bio-data page in their U.S. passport and a photocopy of the page in their passport that contains the entry stamp to Panama.

Please note that the information says …an I.D. ….“with” a photocopy of the bio-data…… The Panamanian authorities have the right to request proper identification to citizens in Panama when they deemed it necessary.


There you have it.

13 thoughts on “Passport Requirement Question for Panama

  1. we have always heard that when / if one is carrying a copy of the passport pages it is imperative to have applied a stamp by a Panamanian Notary to “legalize” the copy for unquestioned acceptance by the policeforce, etc. A quick, $5 piece of insurance.

  2. i had my passport, drivers license and a list of kin put on a color copy document and had it notarized. i never had to to use it but learned 1st hand that a bank won’t accept it.

    norm : ))~

  3. I renewed my passport here. The entrance stamp is in the old expired passport. My new passport has no stamps at all. Appears I will have to carry both. Another problem is my cedula ID number is the same as the one in the expired passport I will have problems when they see the cedula number and the number on the new passport do not match.

  4. I offered a colour copy of my passport at an inspection stop outside David. The official refused it. Fortunately, I also carried my real passport.

  5. Robin, the information from the Embassy says that you have to have two areas copied from the passport. Did you have them both and they were not accepted or just the front page.

    If anyone has done as the instructions say and it has not worked, I would like to know about it.

  6. When I get back down there, I’ll be offering a new service for ex-pats: full-color photo-accurate tattoos of your passport across your forehead.

    This, along with the remote-readable bio-chip implanted unobtrusively beneath the epidermis in your forearm, should ensure trouble-free travels anywhere in the world.

    Wecome to the future –aren’t you glad that life has become so simple?


  7. Thought I had read at sometime (and somewhere during the last year) for permanent residents, if you have a valid Pensionado Visa that is all you need to carry — perhaps a current drivers license as added insurance and I also carry a copy (not notarized) of my passport. We paid for new Pensionado Visas two years ago when our US passports expired and we renewed at the embassy — consequently our Pensionado Cards reflect the numbers of our current passports. So far we haven’t had any problem with police checks. Have we just been lucky!!

  8. Don’t know what the Panamanian authorities say or do, but Marion Clamp’s comments pretty much describe how it goes for American residents in Ecuador. You don’t need to carry your U.S. passport or even a copy, if you’ve got valid Ecuadorian visa (i.e., what’s known as a cedula, or sometimes, carnet) with you. The cedula/carnet is basically your national id card, which should be sufficient. I note that the Embassy email doesn’t mention the cedula/carnet scenario, but again, I think Marion’s got it right…

  9. I relieve the instructions provided ny the Embassy refers to temporary visitors, those that need to leave after a specific amount of time.

    Those who have a pensionado card are treated as residents of Panama and should not have am problem to my way of thinking.

    However, many U.S. Citizens fal in the first category.

  10. We have been stopped several times and had no problem showing a carnet and driving license. When my wife is in the car they never ask for her ID. Some times The police just wave us through. I assume we don’t fit whatever profile they are looking for.

    I am told the increased stops are due to an increase in illegals coming in to Panama. There are several Latinos from other countries have moved into our neighborhood this year.

  11. It all depends what idiot you may have checking for passports, they tend to take advantage of those who don’t speak Spanish very well, but if you clearly point out what you are talking about, they leave you alone. Once they ask for my drivers license and refused to accept, I said: according to Panamanian laws: I’m allow 90 days from the time I arrived in the country; police officer shut up, and let me go. Just familiarize yourself with the Panamanian laws, and quote it is need be.

  12. Don: Thanks so much for the clarification. Although some police may not follow the rules (or know them?), knowing the rules adds some peace of mind for me.

    I saw a poilce captain friend of mine yesterday and asked him about all the road blocks. According to him, the primary purpose is driven by Martinelli’s quest to stop drug trafficking. They have diverted time, money and LOTS of people to that effort.

    That explains the comparive absence of police around Cervantes Park. In the past I could look off the balcony of the Occidental any time of day and see a half dozen police of all varieties (bikes, motorcycles, cars and on foot). For the last couple of months it is not unusual to see none – and for extended periods of time. Mystery solved.

    I have friends who go to the border almost daily. For the last few days there have been two ADDITIONAl check points on the highway and they are stopping the buses as well (all the times I have been back-forth to the border over 4+ years, they have stopped my bus at the permanent check-point only once – and all the guard did was stick his head in and look around).

    BTW, on the roads to Boquete and to Las Olas they are doing DUI checks as well. My friend says it doesn’t make any difference what number you ‘blow’, you are going to have a problem – hassle at best. Word to the wise.

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