What started out as a confusing exercise was completed on October 17. To apply, you must follow a lot of specific requirements. For people of a ‘mature’ age, the income requirement is pretty easy. Just a copy of Social Security or life-time pension proof. We also needed our marriage certificate and our FBI report.
The FBI report turned out to be the hardest part. Not because either of us have any criminal record or have living assumed lives but, as people get older sometimes their fingerprints begin to disappear. The fingerprint tech in Coral Springs said it is actually very common for doctors, nurses and teachers to lose their prints because we wash our hands so frequently. The first attempt last January was not successful. By the time I tried again in March, we made a trip to Panama which disqualifies the original report. After your prints have been rejected twice, the FBI will use your original print from your first driver’s license. They only need one readable print. Because of our trip to Panama, David’s prints were no longer valid and he also had to begin again.
Our prints were accepted and our FBI report was delivered to us in May. Plenty of time to get all of our paperwork apostatized at the Panamanian Consulate. We also had to bring our marriage certificate and proof of income to the Consulate for their official stamps.
With those papers in hand, we met with our attorney, Erik Quintero, right here in Boquete. All legal documents must be in Spanish, so all of our apostatized documents went to a translator. Once that was completed, we met with Erik in David. He ran from office to office as we sat in the lobby of the Immigration Office. After about 2 hours we got called in for our photo. The photo machines in Panama take square pictures that have to fit into a rectangular spot. To accomplish this, they take a square picture and then stretch the photo to fit into the rectangle. Everyone gets a loooong face on ID cards. We also got our multiple entry visas pasted into our passports. A few minutes more and we had our temporary pensionado visas. That was on July 1.
It’s very important to get a multiple entry visa when getting your temporary card. If for any reason you need to leave Panama, there is a $2000 fine to re-enter if your pensionado process has begun. You will also have to leave Panama every 90 days to keep your US driver’s license valid. Once you get your permanent pensionado and Panamanian driver’s license, that won’t be necessary.
A really cool thing about having a pensionado card – after landing at PTY, the passport control line for tourists was longer than I have ever seen. Probably 1 1/2 – 2 hours. With our cards we went to the Resident’s line, about 5 minutes!
We had just gotten to Guatemala, when Erik emailed us to let us know that our permanent cards were ready for pick-up! We arranged to stay 1 night in Panama City which saved us a special trip to the City from Boquete. Eric’s driver took us to the US Embassy to get our US driver’s licenses stamped and then off to Immigration. Another elongated photo and our cards were done. Start to finish = 13 weeks! Woot! Woot!!