After 2 1/2 years living in Panama with a Pensionado (permanent residence) visa, Mikkel and I finally decided it was time to take another and more final step to become “Panamanian” expats, Today we picked up our Cedulas, the national identification card for all Panamanians, children included. I guess you can say it’s like having a social security number for life. Ours is an E-Cedula (E for expatriate). But to Panamanians, it means we are now one of them, living here permanently; Panama is our home. We still can’t vote; we are still U.S. citizens. But now the Cedula number will never change, unlike our passport number which changes when we have to renew it. When we renew our Panamanian driver’s license and re-register our car, we will have to change the number on each document with the Cedula number, but then the number will remain the same forever.
A Cedula is not required to live here permanently. And we did have to pay extra when applying. You do not have to have an attorney to apply unlike when applying for the permanent visa. When we received our Pensionado, we thought our attorney had also applied for our E-Cedula. But that didn’t happen and after finding out what the fees would be, we just decided to wait. Our driver and friend in Panama City, Luis, said he could help us acquire one when we were ready, just as he had helped us acquire our driver’s license, and for a lot less cost. So in February, we contacted Luis and sent him the required documents so that he could make sure everything was ready. Then on March 10th, we went to the city. Luis met us early in the morning at the hotel we were staying and drove us to the Tribunal Electoral. There, because Luis seems to know a lot of people everywhere and how everything works, walked us through to each office where he already had all the paperwork prepared. All we had to do is sign one form after making sure all the information was correct, have our pictures taken, and then we were done. It only took less tha 1/2 hour; many others applying were left sitting waiting possibly for a few more hours as their documents were being reviewed. It is always good to have such a friend as Luis. I would have never known where to really go as far as which office in the very large Tribunal Electoral building or where the pictures were to be taken.
Today, we walked over to the Tribunal Electoral local office in Pedasi to pick up our actual Cedulas which were sent from Panama City. They were ready last week, but the offices were closed due to “Semana Santa” (Holy Week). For now on, if we need a duplicate, we only need to go to the local office. So it’s official now. We are card-carrying Panamanian expats.