It’s official, we are now legal residents of Panama! We went to Panama City last Wednesday, spent a bit of time at immigration, and left with our official residency cards.
I wrote a post about our application process HERE, which we did in December 16th. On February 15th our lawyer told us that our residency was ready (two months – very fast).
It can happen that there is actually some problem so rather than call us to Panama City for nothing, our lawyer requested that we send our passports and temporary cards to him by Uno Express. He took them to immigration to verify that there were no problems to be ironed out and everything was good to go.
On the 25th (after I returned from a short trip) we touched base and he told me that yes, everything was ready and we only needed to come to Panama City. We met on Wednesday morning, March 4th, at immigration. When we arrived there was a line around the building. We waited for maybe 30-45 minutes, and then waited in another long line inside where you request a number for the department you need. It worked out that our lawyer made it through the outside line just before we got to the desk at the head of the inside line, so when we got our number we were all together and ready to proceed to the next step.
There was almost no waiting for photos. I was asked to sign an electronic pad and then look at the camera, and then it was Joel’s turn to do the same. After his photo was taken my card was put in my hand, and then his was handed to him. That was it. We were done! Except for waiting in lines the process took only a few minutes. It is still sinking in that we are legal now. We have our permanent cards which are good “indefinitely” (it says so right on the cards!)
I cannot thank our lawyer, Marcos Kraemer, enough. The whole process went smoothly and he gave us all the information we needed at every step of the way. So many of our friends have been tripped up because they didn’t know or have some important thing. This can cause delays, increased costs, and of course a lot of frustration. I feel so fortunate that everything went smoothly and we were so well taken care of.
If you need a lawyer, I highly recommend Marcos. His website is HERE. He may look like a young guy but he is very competent and experienced. He may show up in jeans and a polo shirt, but he doesn’t want to look like a lawyer with a briefcase who may have computers and documents worth stealing. He carries files in plain folders. If he has passports they are kept elsewhere apart from folders and documents to keep them extra safe. He has done this enough times to know where any possible hiccup may happen and he works hard to make everything go smoothly.
An aside, about the short trip I mentioned. Marcos recommended that I not travel since at that time I had only copies of my passport and temporary residency card. I went to Santiago on the bus which meant I had to pass through the check point at Guabala where they always check your ID’s. This time though, both ways, the officials didn’t even get on the bus. On our way to Panama City it was the same, but on the way back the officials were not only carefully checking documents, they were looking in backpacks and personal belongings! But, we had our brand new residency cards to show them. They looked, smiled, nodded, and went on. Yeah! It feels really good to be legal. And, it also felt good to pay $10.60 for the bus ticket, instead of the usual $15.25.
Soy Chiricana (my friends say that now I am Chiricana – a person from Chiriqui Province). Esto es bueno :)